07 SES 03 A JS, Counteracting Discrimination in Schools and Minority Students’ Educational Experiences
Joint Paper Session NW 07 and NW 26
This presentation explores the educational background and experiences of Australian refugee background young people with limited prior schooling, from their arrival in Australia, through to post-school. It explores how educational disadvantage is experienced by this group. It identifies how pedagogy and policy must be responsive to the unique needs of this group, despite the increasing strictures of ‘educational accountabilities’ associated with national standardised testing, engagement with international testing programs, curriculum reform, school ranking and the marketization of the government school system (Lingard, Martino, Rezai-Rashti, and Sellar 2016). The presentation resonates in the European context: those seeking refuge in Europe come from the same source countries as refugee groups entering Australia. This research also complements recent European work (e.g. Nilsson and Bunar 2016; Pinson and Arnot 2010) focused on educational systemic responses to newly arrived refugee young people.
As a signatory to the UNHCR refugee resettlement program, Australia annually settles approximately 6,000 refugees, and has a long history of doing so (Karlsen 2016). This has significant consequence for Australian education services and of particular concern in this service provision, are those students entering schools with minimal prior education, from a range of African countries, and from Middle Eastern and Asian locations, who face enormous challenges, particularly if they have reached secondary school age and must engage with an English only curriculum, designed for students with at least 6 years of schooling. These students are manifoldly disadvantaged as they have not had the opportunity to learn to read or write in their first (spoken) language; they need to develop literacy in English for school but do not have oracy in English; they must do this at a much older and later stage of schooling than their age group peers.
Problematically, refugee background students with limited prior schooling are also hidden in poor statistical category definitions in national standardised testing practices because reporting of their performance is impacted by high performing English as an Additional Language (EAL) students also in the category, with results which skew the data upwards. Existing statistical processes fail to identify and measure these students who are essentially ‘invisibilised’ (Creagh 2015). The follow on effect washes down from policy to pedagogy undermining the provision of appropriate second language (L2) pedagogy for this group (Creagh 2014).
Drawing on two different studies and sources of data, I wish to focus on the education challenges being faced by educators and these young people of refugee background who resettle in Australia. The two sources of data include: survey data from Building a New Life in Australia (BNLA), an Australian longitudinal study of humanitarian migration; and qualitative reports from EAL teachers working with newly-arrived refugee background learners. Each of these sources offers complementary understandings of the educational experiences of newly arrived refugees. The former, a recent initiative of the Australian government, taps into the voices of the refugees themselves, and illuminates their lives before settling in Australia, including education attainment, their experiences of settlement, English language proficiency, and post arrival education pathways. The latter gives voice to experienced professionals who design and implement appropriate pedagogical responses to the specific learning needs of this newly arrived cohort of learners who are just beginning to develop literacy for the first time. Unpacking the complexity of the refugee educational experience, both pre and post arrival to Australia offers useful insight into ways in which policy and practice can alleviate the levels of disadvantage experienced by this group of young people. Such insight has global significance, and resonates in all nations who are grappling with settlement of displaced populations, as has occurred across Europe in recent years.
Creagh, S. (2014). A critical analysis of problems with the LBOTE category on the NAPLaN test. Australian Educational Researcher, 41(1), 1-23. Creagh, S. (2015). Australia’s most disadvantaged children invisible in official NAPLAN results [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://www.aare.edu.au/blog/?p=879 Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning: Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth: Heinnemann. Hammond, J., & Miller, J. (Eds.). (2015). Classrooms of possibility: Supporting at-risk EAL students. Newtown: PETAA. Karlsen, E. (2016). Refugee resettlement to Australia: what are the facts? Parliamentary Library Research Paper, Department of Parliamentary Services, Parliament of Australia. Retrieved from http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp1617/RefugeeResettlement 12 January 2017. Koser, K. (2016, June 27). Europe’s real refugee crisis: unaccompanied minors [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://blog.oup.com.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/2016/06/europe-refugee-crisis-minors/ Lingard, B., Martino, W., Rezai-Rashti, G., and Sellar, S. (2016). Introduction. In Lingard, B., Martino, W., Rezai-Rashti, G., and Sellar, S. Globalizing Educational Accountabilities (pp.1-18). New York: Routledge. Nilsson, J. and Bunar, N. 2016. Educational Responses to Newly Arrived Students in Sweden: Understanding the Structure and Influence of Post-Migration Ecology. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. 60 (4), 399-416. Pinson, H. and Arnot, M. (2010). Local Conceptualisations of the education of asylum-seeking and refugee students: from hostile to holistic models. International Journal of Inclusive Education. 14(3), 247-267. Pinson, H., Arnot, M., and Candappa, M. (2010). Education, Asylum and the ‘Non-Citizen’ Child: The Politics of Compassion and Belonging. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.
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