23 SES 02 B, Refugee Education
Whilst human movement within and across borders is not a new phenomenon, recent global events have led to an increase in forced migration. There are now more than 12,500,000 displaced children across the world (UNHCR, 2018). Young refugees have an entitlement to an ‘inclusive and equitable quality education’ in their resettlement context (UNESCO, 2015), and this has implications for national education system in destination countries. This paper builds on previous work which compared policy in two different resettlement contexts in Europe. Here we explore how working with a new theoretical framework with practitioners can contribute to the development of educational policy and practice for refugees in schools in resettlement contexts. The theoretical framing is grounded in empirical work in England and Sweden.
Three important principles underpin our work. First, a humanitarian issue of the scale of the global refugee ‘crisis’ demands socially just responses from resettlement destinations. Second, education is a fundamental means of integrating young refugees into their new context. Third, this education provision should be both inclusive and high quality thereby benefitting both newly arrived students and their peers in the resettlement context. This is especially important in societies where anti-immigration rhetoric and isolationist policies dominate public discourse.
The paper brings two theories together - ‘participatory parity’ (Fraser 2003) and ‘resumption of an ordinary life’ (Kohli 2014). The theory of participatory parity is drawn from feminist political philosophy, and means that justice requires social conditions such that all can participate and interact with one another as peers. This is a theory of social justice which works with the three components of recognition, redistribution and representation to ensure equitable access and inclusion. Fraser establishes a normative moral basis against which policies and practices can be measured. Kohli’s theory of resumption of an ordinary life addresses the reality that post resettlement, many refugee children feel ‘stuck’ despite reaching places of sanctuary after long journeys. Kohli theorises these journeys as movements that children on forced migration tracks make across the three dimensions of geography, time, and maturational and psychological alterations- transitions through the concepts of safety, belonging and success (Kohli 2011, 2014). While Kohli was working with the field of social work we bring his theory of resumption of ordinary life to our empirical work to establish a normativeoperational basis for judging policies and practices.
Ball explores how policies both change what we do and what we are (2015). In our wider project, we continually consider how practitioners in our study ‘do’ policy and how through dialogue about the theoretical framework they are provided with opportunities to consider policy enactment in their context.
For this presentation our focus is on the following questions:
- How useful is the theoretical framework we propose for practitioners in schools?
- How can this dialogue with school leaders and practitioners shape future educational policy and practice for refugee pupils?
The research draws on an ongoing project which compares the experiences of educational practitioners working to support young refugees resettling in Nottingham (England) and Helsingborg (Sweden). This initially involved virtual and face to face meetings and visits to schools in both locations over the period of an academic year. Since then the work has continued through online communications and video focus groups discussing how the same issue can be experienced in different contexts in order to learn more about the opportunities and challenges for schools seeking to provide access to quality and meaningful education for refugee pupils. The project draws on policy documents, interview data and field notes of meetings and observations of teachers and young people in each context. The first stage was to compare Swedish and English policy responses to new arrivals (McIntyre et al, 2018). The next stage, which we focus on in this presentation, was to work with head teachers and other practitioners through a series of interviews and focus groups to discuss the theoretical framing for the project and from that to negotiate some principles for future policy making and practice. This was supplemented by field notes of observations of the meetings and visits to the schools and discussions with some of the young new arrivals about their experiences of the concepts of ‘safety’, ‘belonging’ and ‘success’ (the three tenets of Kohli’s model of resumption of ordinary life).
This paper explores how the theoretical framework can be utilised with educational practitioners from Sweden and England. We show that the act of attending school marks the beginning of transitions for children with extraordinary experiences towards resuming ordinary meaningful lives in their new context. Given the trauma and experiences they have encountered, refugee children deserve an education of value which will help them become lifelong learners able to participate and contribute to their new societies and lead meaningful lives. We suggest that the theoretical understandings we offer in the paper offer a robust moral and operational approach to shape pedagogical principles for policy makers and practitioners working in resettlement communities across Europe. This is especially important at this moment in time when issues of global importance are changing and reshaping educational policies within and across borders in Europe.
Ball, S. 2015. What is policy? 21 years later: reflections on the possibilities of policy research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Policies of Education, 36: 3, 306-313. Fraser, N. 2003. “Social justice in the age of identity politics.” In Fraser, N. & Honneth, A. 2003. Redistribution or recognition? A political-philosophical exchange. Verso: London. pp. 7-109. Kohli, R. 2011. Working to Ensure Safety, Belonging and Success for Unaccompanied Asylum‐seeking Children. Child Abuse Review 20: 311–323. Kohli, R. 2014. Protecting asylum seeking children on the move. Revue Europeene des Migrations Internationales. 30 (1): 83-104. McIntyre, J., Neuhaus, S. & Blennow, K. 2018. Participatory parity in schooling and moves towards ordinariness: a comparison of refugee education policy and practice in England and Sweden. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2018.1515007 . UNESCO. (2015). Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the Implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4.Paris, UNESCO. UNHCR. (2018d). Figures at a Glance. Retrieved from https://www.unhcr.org/uk/figures-at-a-glance.html.
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