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Sociology in Education and Science Laboratory on the ID Conference

In the middle of October 2019, a big conference took place: the ID Conference, dedicated to the subjects of migration and diversity. Sociology in Education and Science Laboratory has organized a whole section on this conference - a section on «Migration, inequality, and identity», as well as presented works by Daniel Alexandrov and Svetlana Savelieva. 
What topics were discussed in this section, why we need to talk about migration, and why it’s important to look at both theoretical and practical sides of it - you can read in new material.

There were three sessions in the «Migration, inequality, and identity» section, all of them dedicated to migrant children adaptation. Two sections were research-focused, as presenters featuring Dmitriy Poletayev, Center for Migration Studies, Michail Vandyshev, Ural Federal University, Elena Omelchenko, Moscow State University of Psychology and Pedagogy, as well as Svetlana Savelieva and Daniel Alexandrov who presented the results of Sociology in Education and Science Laboratory’s research. Accessibility of education to migrants’ children was discussed, bringing attention to currently existing problems in schools and support programs regarding this question. 

The third session was dedicated to the practical work with migrant children. Representatives of the Saint Petersburg campus of Red Cross, Youth Center of ANO «Deti Peterburga», «Pereletniye deti» program in Moscow, and «Takie zhe deti» center in Moscow shared their experience: practitioners helping migrants and refugees talked about their projects and interesting cases they’ve encountered, and the hardships of their work. 

The laboratory made an effort to gather a diverse group of presenters for the conference: scientists and practitioners from across all regions of Russia. That helped to organize a lively discussion of the differences in everyone’s practices, observations, and insights. Such sharing has enriched every participant’s understanding of the problem in question. 

The organizers and participants shared the topics that were discussed and the tendencies that revealed themselves throughout the conference: 

«All participants mentioned two key problems encountered by migrant children in Russian schools. First of all, because of the poor knowledge of Russian migrant children enter school 2, sometimes 4 years later than the rest. Considering that, they can’t build new social connections quickly. Reaching academic success is also much harder since they simply do not know the language they’re taught in. It doesn’t help that there are no governmental language adaptation programs in Russia for migrant children. Teachers in each respectable school have to take care of language adaptation, and few of them are qualified enough for that. 

Secondly, most schools avoid confronting the fact that they have migrant students. When asking about them, researchers often hear, «we don’t divide children into migrants and non-migrants. All children are the same to us». And though this answer seems tolerant, in fact, it means that no one is taking care of migrant children’s adaptation, no one is bothering to understand their specific problems, and everyone just expects these children to deal with it themselves and blend into an excepting society. But both in Russia and worldwide experience proves that this does not happen to all migrant children», shared Ksenia Tenisheva , section moderator and coordinator, junior research fellow in Sociology in Education and Science Laboratory. 

«In the last few years, schools became less accessible for migrant children: now parents have to prove that their stay in Russia is legal to enter a school. However, many families can’t do that. So, this rule leads to more disadvantages and lack of adaptation for incoming migrants. School is a basic institution for socialization and adaptation, for parents as well as for students, as they integrate through their children. According to the experts, for about half of migrant families, access to schools is problematic, and not all children get into schools. 

A base-level problem is learning Russian. On one hand, there is no unified governmental program that dictates how to teach Russian to foreign-language migrant children. In schools, this is determined by a teacher or a school community. On the other hand, no system currently prepares specialists in this field. Right now all we have are specialists that teach Russian as a foreign language. Those are a part of the USSR legacy, but while they are skilled in teaching adults, they are not so helpful in teaching children. 

At the conference were presented multiple projects that help migrant children. I’m glad such programs exist, they are much needed right now. One of them is funded by the private funds of a benefactor, and it’s the only thing that helps to pay for, for example, emergency medical assistance or transportation to an education center. But some help centers require one to confirm one’s legal status to use their services, which of course cuts off many people that need help. 

Once again, we see the necessity to develop and implement systematic measures of integration for migrant children», shared Svetlana Savelieva , participant of the conference, deputy head of Sociology in Education and Science Laboratory. 

Pavel Valedinskiy, a listener of the conference and a 4-grade Sociology and Social Informatics student shares his impression of the conference, «The conference went quite productively. I’m glad that such attention is being given to the problems of migrant children and their adaptation (I couldn’t attend other sessions, sadly). Experts in different fields presented their thoughts on the topic, shared which methods of analysis and data gathering they use and which conclusions they come to. For me, it was interesting to listen to the presentations of Daniel Alexandrov and Svetlana Savelieva, as I took part in gathering data for these works, so I finally got to see the results» 

The participants were content with how the conference went. Most colleagues knew each other by their publications and news on the Internet, but not everyone has met in person before. We hope that this meeting in person will lead to further cooperation: sharing insights and ideas, checking each other’s results. We hope this conference will expand the possibilities for the research of migration problems in Russia and will make clear the importance of implementing solutions for them.