Teaching L2 for students with a refugee/migrant background in Greece

Teachers’ perceptions about reception, integration and multicultural identities


  • Kostas Magos University of Thessaly
  • Giorgos Simopoulos UNICEF


refugee/migrant education, intercultural education, teaching L2


Refugee education has been an important challenge for the Greek educational system and for the teaching community. New supporting structures (i.e., Reception Facilities for Refugee Education [RFRE]), operating after the end of the regular school day, have been created to enable newcomers living in Refugee Accommodation Centers to learn (mainly) Greek as a second language before accessing the mainstream school program. On the other hand, refugee students living in urban locations are enrolled in mainstream classes with or without the support of parallel Reception Classes (RC). Most of the educators teaching refugee children, and particularly these working on RFREs, did not have any relevant previous experience or specialization and, at the same time, they received minimum support in training or professional development. 

This paper is based on a qualitative research focusing on perceptions, attitudes and practices of primary and secondary school teachers in relation to refugee students’ second language learning and integration into Greek public schools. Interviews were conducted with 60 teachers in RFREs, RCs, and mainstream classes, including Intercultural Schools. Despite the difficulties they faced, many teachers seemed to move towards a positive understanding of their students’ multiple identities, focusing not only on L2 acquisition and competency building, but also on empowerment and the development of a mutual intercultural understanding. Students’ resilience and efforts helped their teachers deal with stereotypes about identity and otherness and reformulate their assumptions about effective teaching practices. These experiences seemed to lead some of the educators to a deeper critical reflection; they also lead to the development of teachers’ intercultural competence and facilitated a “crossing borders” transformative process. 

Author Biographies

Kostas Magos, University of Thessaly

Kostas Magos is an Assistant Professor at the University of Thessaly in Volos, Greece. His scientific interests focus on the theory and practice of intercultural dimension in typical and non-typical education.

Giorgos Simopoulos, UNICEF

Giorgos Simopoulos is an Education Officer for the UNICEF Greece Country Office. He holds a PhD on intercultural adult education. He has worked for many years on refugee children education and his research interests focus on inclusive education, teaching Greek as a Second Language and teachers’ professional development.