Cross-Cultural Assistants (CCA’s), Teaching Assistants (TA’s), and Roma Teaching Assistants (RTA) are designed to support the education and integration of ethnic/cultural minority children, children with migration experience and their families, as well as the whole school and broader local community. These roles differ primarily in terms of their formal aspects:
These roles constitute some of the most effective forms of support for education and integration of migrant children and children of minority cultural/ethnic backgrounds and their families.
The roles of TA’s and CCA’s are most often filled by individuals who have personal experience of migration. These roles involve extending support to children whose Polish language skills are not advanced enough for them to take full advantage of education in school (including migrant children, refugee children as well as children with Polish citizenship who have returned from abroad). Similarly, the role of RTA is filled by individuals who are Roma or who work closely with Roma communities. Their responsibilities include a range of activities to support the education and integration of Roma children and their families. Moreover, all of these roles also support not just individual children, but the school community as a whole (inc. teachers and parents) by fostering a safe, open and friendly environment based in mutual respect in diverse school communities and mitigating against stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination. The experience of schools and NGO’s that engage CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s shows that these roles positively impact on the experience of migrant, minority and Polish children alike, in terms of their social, psychological, emotional and educational well-being and success. They also meaningfully improve the quality of work for teachers, as well as the relations between schools and families and the broader local community of which those families are a part.
They also help counteract stereotypes and prejudices in local communities regarding ethnic, national and cultural minorities (i.e. xenophobia, antisemitism and Roma-phobia), skin color (racism), and religion (Islamophobia). Long-term engagement of CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s can thus foster cross-cultural dialogue and greater social integration in the local community. Moreover, engaging CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s in schools can empower migrants and minorities both through their work and by virtue of the fact that these roles are filled by individuals of the same cultural/national/ethnic/religious background as the children that they are tasked with supporting. These individuals can thus become local leaders.
It is now ten years since the laws that enable schools to hire TA’s with support from public funds and that formalize the possibility of engaging CCA’s in schools were introduced into the Act on Education. The time since the possibility of hiring RTA’s in school is even longer. In reality, though, a large number of schools still are not aware of these possibilities and so do not take any steps to implement them for the benefit of the children they enroll and the school communities as a whole. Similarly, local public authorities, which are charged with disbursing public funds for these roles are not always aware of the existing laws and, too often, reject school requests for funds based on lack of information about the benefits of CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s.
However, those schools that engaged CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s, emphasize that these roles are among the most effective forms of support for migrant and minority children, their families, as well as the school community as a whole. Despite this, the number of CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s currently working in schools remains disproportionately low compared to the existing need among schools that enroll migrant and minority children across Poland. This is due to the fact that many schools are unaware of the possibility of engaging CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s, that existing laws allow for schools to use public funds to hire TA’s and RTA’s, and/or that there are formal means for schools to engage CCA’s within the framework of cooperation with an NGO. Local public authorities also play a role in the low number of CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s, as they tend to refuse school requests for funding to hire TA’s, primarily due to lack information about the challenges that such roles are designed to address within the school and about the wide-ranging benefits of such a role.
The range of qualifications and the scope of responsibilities that are involved in the roles of CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s are remarkably wide (inc. interpersonal, cross-cultural communication, language, pedagogical skills). At the same time, there is currently no existing formal means of training or professional qualification system for CCA’s and TA’s. As a result of this, individuals working in these roles are often treated as among the lowest qualified staff in the school hierarchy, their contributions are not adequately respected or compensated.
Our aim is to disseminate information among schools and local public authorities about the possibility of engaging CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s as well as the benefits of doing so. Although the legal framework for these roles has existed for some time, many schools are not aware of these possibilities and relatively few schools have actually created such roles in their structures. Our aim is for CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s to be commonplace in the lived reality of migrant and minority children in schools throughout Poland and for these roles to function as the systemic solutions they were intended to be. In order for such a change to take place, schools and local public authorities need to be aware of the possibility of engaging CCA’s, TA’s and RTA’s as well as of the benefits that these roles have for schools and the migrant and minority children enrolled in them.
See also: Appeal for an active involvement of the Ministry of National Education, Voivodeship Education Superintendents, and school authorities in promoting the employment of teachers’ aides (cross-cultural assisntants) and Roma teaching assistants (2020)
The Coalition for strengthening the role of cross-cultural assistants (CCA’s) and Roma Teaching Assistants (RTA’s) was established in October 2019 on the initiative of the Foundation for Social Diversity (FRS). The Coalition works so that as many children as possible can benefit from the support of CCA’s and RTA’s:
The cooperation and synergy between Coalition organizations dealing with issues of cross-cultural and Roma teaching assistantships have made it possible to define common strategic goals that will systematically strengthen the role of CCA’s and RTA’s in the education system in Poland.
The Foundation for Social Diversity (FSD) is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to develop an open, diverse society by supporting intercultural dialogue and social integration, by challenging discrimination, increasing knowledge and developing tools that strengthen social integration and equality, as well as by empowering social minorities, migrants and migrant communities. The FSD is also engaged in critical analysis of the history of social diversity in Poland, so that past experiences can provide constructive insight into and inform the current debate about contemporary issues related to migration, equality and integration.
The FSD works toward a vision of society in which: