04 SES 09 C, Supporting Refugee Students in Schools: Is it possible to create an inclusive environment?
In recent years, the world has witnessed an unprecedented global exodus of refugees, and one half of which are children. While Europe is grappling with the biggest child refugee crisis since the Second World War, refugee and migrant children are continuing their perilous journeys to the continent across the Mediterranean and other possible routes. With their arrival comes the need to find protection, assistance and durable solutions. Education is central to the process of rebuilding their lives, and the world has pledged its commitment to sustaining this notion. For instance, in 2015, announcing the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration, António Guterres, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees stated that:
when setting out the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration in 2015, we have a collective responsibility to ensure education plans take into account the needs of some of the most vulnerable children and youth in the world – refugees, internally displaced children, stateless children and children whose right to education has been compromised by war and insecurity. These children are the keys to a secure and sustainable future, and their education matters for us all.
However, educating asylum seeking and refugee children and young people has become one of the most complex challenges for refugee hosting nations in Europe. Their main aim is to uphold these children’s right to education in an inclusive education system that is non- discriminatory, effective and equitable. Although the strategy is well-intended and the benefits are many, the evidence suggests that integrated education practices tend to create significant scholastic obstacles and unsatisfactory learning environments for asylum seeking and refugee children.
The focus of this paper is to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the inclusive education system for refugee children in general, and young unaccompanied asylum seekers in particular. Moreover, it aims to bring the readers’ attention to this issue in order to initiate a scholarly discussion and debate about how to develop efficient and appropriate educational settings for this group.
The paper is based on a research project carried out in the UK with young unaccompanied asylum seekers, as well as professionals and experts whose work directly connects to refugee children’s education and well-being. Research question: Integration or segregation? What is the most appropriate education model for meeting the formal and vocational educational needs of young unaccompanied asylum seekers and refugees? Research method: The main study comprised in-depth semi-structured interviews to gather data from thirty-eight professionals and fifteen male and female young unaccompanied asylum seekers (aged 16 -24) in England and Scotland. The data analysis was based on the constant comparative method.
Results: A ‘one size fits all’ education model is inappropriate for these children. Although there are many challenges in delivering effective education services, in theory, the majority of professional participants supported an inclusive and integrated system of education for refugee children. However, the experts who represented the countries of origin of the young refugees in the study, disagreed with the approach of inclusive education and preferred segregated education settings. There appears to be an acute need for tailor-made and child-centred educational initiatives. The children and young people wished to be in inclusive settings, but many explained the challenges they had experienced in progressing their education in an integrated environment. Conclusion: There is a dearth of literature on this subject. Therefore, further research is needed to examine the topic comprehensively and thus develop appropriate educational strategies based on the current best evidence.
Life Long Learning Platform. (2016). Integrating refugees and migrants through education: Building bridges through divided societies [Position Paper]. LLLPlatform, Belgium. Retrieved 11 December, 2017 from http://lllplatform.eu/lll/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/LLL-Platform-Policy-Paper-Refugees-and-migrants-and-inclusive-education-Sept-2016.pdf OECD. (2015). Immigrant students at school: Easing the journey towards integration, OECD Publishing. Retrieved 23 March,2016 from http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/education/immigrant-students-at-school_9789264249509-en#page2 UNICEF. (2017). A child is a child: Protecting children on the move form violence, abuse and exploitation. Retrieved 15 January, 2018 from https://www.unicef.org/eapro/A_child_is_a_child_Executive_Summary_(web_version).pdf World Education Forum. (2015). Education 2030 Incheon Declaration: Towards inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all, Incheon, Republic of Korea, 19 -22 May 2015. Retrieved 18 January, 2018 from http://www.unesco.org/fileadmin/MULTIMEDIA/HQ/ED/ED/pdf/FFA_Complet_Web-ENG.pdf
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