04 SES 08 D, Fostering Inclusion in a Multicultural Context: Narratives and dilemmas
The Syrian conflict became a humanitarian crisis and as a result, millions of people had to flee Syria. The first country they immigrated to the North was Turkey because of its familiarity and cultural ties. Presently, there are more than three million four hundred asylum-seekers live in Turkey (Directorate General of Migration Management, 2017). While less than one-tenth of them live in the camps (Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, 2018), others live in the city centers in very basic conditions. Kilis is a unique city that shelters more than one hundred thirty thousand Syrian population, which is as much as its native population. Because they are expected to return to their home to rebuild Syria when the conflict is over, they need to get an education.
Educating Syrian asylum-seekers is important for three reasons. Firstly, interrupted education can cause a generation gap (UNICEF, 2017). To prevent this, their education must continue. Secondly, without an education, they are at the peril of becoming radicalized. As Selcuk R. Sirin (2017) warned: “If we fail to educate Syrian students, there will be terrorist organizations like ISIS and other crime organizations such as prostitution gangs and organ mafias that wait to recruit the children” (p. 45). Thirdly, education is the means of asylum-seekers’ resettlement (Christie & Sidhu, 2002) and social inclusion of Turkish culture. If they choose to stay in Turkey or other countries they need to be integrated into the host countries.
Temporary Education Centers were the sole option for Syrians before 2016. Amac and Yasar (2017) remarked that the curriculum was adapted from the Syrian and Libyan curriculum and the teachers were mostly Syrians in these centers. They also noted that the teachers lacked enough pedagogical skills to educate war-thorn children. A major shift was in 2016 that the Ministry of Education accepted Syrian children to public schools. In this educational inclusion approach, the children were registered to regular Turkish classrooms where they get an education with their Turkish peers from Turkish teachers for the first time.
Inclusive education aims to make provisions for “all children to be educated together” (Black-Hawkins, 2017, p. 17). Educating refugee students in inclusive classrooms has been researched well. Graham, Minhas, and Paxton (2016) summarized in their review that schools and educators should provide “inclusive and culturally safe school environments” (p. 12) so that the resettlement can be easier. Olagookun and White (2017) underscored the importance of inclusive education strategies for refugees’ challenges and support from school leaders. Similarly, Peterson, Durrant, Meehan, and Ali (2017) found that there was a need for inclusive classrooms for newly arrived asylum-seekers in the schools.
Recent refugee situation effected both Turkey and European countries that Syrian refugees are in search for better life opportunities in different countries and consequently, they reached Europe in various ways and became Europe’s issue too. If we better accommodate them, then we can prevent social and cultural problems. We need to share experiences so that the challenges of the resettlement process can be diminished for both refugees and host societies, and advance the research and our understanding of refugee education (Pastoor, 2016).
This study sought to understand the perceptions of school leaders about inclusive education for Syrian students. Because the issue is new in Turkish settings and the school leaders are the key to organize and manage the inclusion of Syrian kids, the literature lacks addressing the problem and there is a need to explore more about it. In this study, we were interested in what was going on in the schools through the eyes of school leaders whose schools had Syrian children.
The purpose of this basic qualitative study was to understand school leaders’ perceptions of inclusion of Syrian asylum-seekers’ children in the Turkish school system. At this stage in the research, the inclusion is defined as educating asylum-seekers’ children in regular Turkish classrooms with Turkish teachers. The following questions guided to collect and analyze the data: 1. How do school leaders see the inclusion of asylum-seekers’ children in the Turkish school system? 2. What challenges, if any, do they face during this inclusion process? 3. What should be done to improve the education of asylum-seekers’ children in inclusive classrooms? This study was guided by the interpretivist paradigm which assumes that “reality is socially constructed… there is no single, observable reality. Rather, there are multiple realities, or interpretations, of a single event” (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, p. 11). A qualitative design was chosen due to the nature of the topic. Qualitative studies try to understand “how people make sense of… the experiences they have in the world” (Merriam & Tisdell, 2016, p. 15). In this qualitative study, we were interested in understanding school leaders’ perceptions of inclusion of Syrians in the Turkish school system. We used two methods of data collection: Interviews and documents. Interviews were the primary source of data for this research. Interviewing is an effective way of collecting data because it allows researchers to discover what is “in and on someone else’s mind” (Patton, 2002, p. 341). After receiving the IRB permission, we conducted semi-structured, in-depth, and person-to-person interviews during the spring semester of 2017 in Kilis, Turkey. We used a purposive sampling method that the school leaders whose schools had Syrian asylum-seekers’ children were selected. Ten participants, nine male and one female voluntarily took part in the study. The interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed verbatim. In addition to interviews, we collected documents such as laws, regulations, and guidelines published by Ministry of Education related to the inclusion. As Merriam and Tisdell (2016) note documents provide rich data to understand the phenomenon under study. Each of us coded the data from the interviews and documents independently and then collectively to develop categories and conclude themes. To confirm the credibility of the findings, the participants were asked to approve if our interpretations from the interviews reflected what they said. We used documents to support the findings of the study.
This study sought to understand perceptions of school leaders whose schools had inclusive classrooms for Syrian asylum-seekers’ children. The data analyzed using content analysis method. According to the analysis, the following themes emerged. The first theme is a communication gap between Syrians and school staff. Dryden-Peterson (2015) noted language barrier is one of the most common problems of refugee students and similarly, the results of this study found that language barrier is still an important issue that school staff face while communicating with Syrian kids and their families. The school staff does not know any Arabic that is asylum-seekers’ language of speaking and the families do not know any Turkish so there is a “communication gap” that prevents an effective inclusion of students in the Turkish school system. Communicating with families is important because as McBrien (2005) summarized in her review, refugee adults can be “important links between schools and ethnic communities. To overcome prejudice and discrimination, refugee youth need support at the structural and personal levels” (pp. 355-356). The second theme is about perceiving inclusive education as an opportunity for both asylum-seekers and Turkish students. We think this is important because refugees have very limited opportunity to pursue their education in the countries of first asylum. Including Syrian refugees into Turkish classrooms can be a chance for making social and economic integration easier. Because inclusive classrooms are places where all parties come together and learn from each other, it can be the means of improving intercultural understanding, reducing negative perceptions of each other, and most importantly preventing “othering process” (Yasar, 2017).
Amaç, Z., & Yaşar, M. R. (2017, October). Temporary education centers for Syrian asylum-seekers: Opportunities and challenges. Paper presented at the International Symposium on the Middle East. Kilis, Turkey. Black-Hawkins, K. (2017). Understanding inclusive pedagogy: Learning with and from teachers. In V. Plows & B. Whitburn (Eds.), Inclusive education: Making sense of everyday practice. (pp. 13–28). Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense. Christie, P., & Sidhu, R. (2002). Responding to globalisation: Refugees and the challenges facing Australian schools. Mots Pluriel, 21 (May). Directorate General of Migration Management. (2017). Distribution by age and gender of registered Syrian refugees. Accessed on 25 December 2017 at http://www.goc.gov.tr/icerik6/gecici-koruma_363_378_4713_icerik Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency. (2018). Turkey’s response to Syria crisis. Accessed on 10 January 2018 at https://www.afad.gov.tr/en/2601/Turkey-Response-to-Syria-Crisis Dryden-Peterson, S. (2015). Refugee education in countries of first asylum: Breaking open the black box of pre-resettlement experiences. Theory and Research in Education, 14(2), 1–18. Graham, H. R., Minhas, R. S., & Paxton, G. (2016). Learning problems in children from refugee background: A systematic review. Pediatrics, 137(6), 1-15. McBrien, J. L. (2005). Educational needs and barriers for refugee students in the United States: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 75(3), 329-364. Merriam, S. B., & Tisdell, E. J. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. (4th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Olagookun, O., & White, J. (2017). Including students from refugee backgrounds in Australian schools. In V. Plows & B. Whitburn (Eds.), Inclusive education: Making sense of everyday practice. (pp. 95–105). Rotterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishers. Pastoor, L. D. W. (2016). Rethinking refugee education: Principles, policies and practice from a European perspective. In A. W. Wiseman (Ed.), Annual Review of comparative and international education. (pp. 107-116). Bingley, UK: Emerald. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research and evaluation methods (3rd ed). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. Peterson, A., Durrant, I., Meehan, C., &Ali, Z. (2017). Inclusive educational provision for newly-arrived unaccompanied asylum-seeking and refugee children: A study in a single school in Kent. Research Report. Canterbury Christ Church University. Sirin, S. R. (2017). Bir Türkiye Hayali. İstanbul, Turkey: Dogan Kitap. UNICEF. (2017). Over 40 percent of Syrian refugee children in Turkey missing out on education. Accessed on 15 May 2017 at https://www.unicef.org/files/Syria_2yr_Report.pdf Yasar, M. R. (2017). Perceptions about Syrian asylum-seekers in Kilis: Initial view of social autism and othering process. Kilis, Turkey: Kilis 7 Aralık University Publishing.
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