23 SES 02 B, Refugee Education
This paper reports on research that investigated how education policy related to students from refugee backgrounds is made, by whom and what informs and drives this policy development. We will present our analysis and findings from Stage One of a larger investigation into how schools transcend and draw benefit from refugee students’ past experiences by creating the social and educational conditions that enhance their resilience. Specifically we focus on data from interviews with 11 senior policy-makers across the Catholic and state education sectors in two states of Australia.
Global responses to refugee resettlement have varied significantly internationally (Dryden-Peterson et al, 2017, Esses, Hamilton, Gaucher, 2017, Rutter, 2006). Resonating with these global trends, Australia’s policy responses to refugees have fluctuated over the past two decades with varying impacts across public policy arenas in general (Department of Social Services, 2017), and education in particular (Keddie, 2012; Uptin, Wright & Harwood, 2016). Research into the experiences of refugee students has traditionally focused on the problems and barriers to transition they face in Australian schools (Brown, Miller and Mitchell, 2006). While recent research has begun to recognize the assets that young refugee background students bring to school – from their value for education, to their strong desire to learn – these perspectives are still emerging and require further development (Uptin, Wright, & Harwood, 2016). Discourses of deficit permeate not only discussions about students from refugee backgrounds, but also their families, schools, teachers, and the ‘interventions’ that are designed to ‘fix’ them. The research eschews the pervasive deficit view of refugee students that is articulated in education policy protocols, processes and texts, school programs and practices that constructs and apprehends refugee students according to pathologies of trauma and deficits of language.
Fulcher (1989), in a comparative study of education policy-making, declared that policy is made at all levels, suggesting that in complex highly segmented systems policy is highly contested, variously interpreted and rewritten in practice across and within jurisdictions. Our analysis drew from Taylor, Henry, Lingard and Rizvi (1997) who suggest that policies in education have three main functions (1) to provide an account of cultural norms considered desirable by the state, (2) to institute a mechanism of accountability in order to measure student and teacher performance and (3) ‘marshalling and managing public calls for change, giving them form and direction’ (p. 3). Forming policies, however, is a complex and inconsistent practice that belies its assumed rationality and straightforwardness. Some policy analysts like Ball, et al. (2012) have disrupted the presumed linear and logical conception of policy development by exposing the complexity and ‘messiness’ of the process. Drawing on approaches from critical policy studies we investigate this messiness and complexity of policy development (Ball, 2010 & 2018; Ball, Maguire & Braun, 2012; Diem et al, 2014). Our research considers what and who drives the development of education policies (Rizvi and Lingard, 2010) in the arena of refugee education.
Our larger study comprises a range of methods including; a chronology and textual analysis of key federal and state policy statements relating to the education of students from refugee backgrounds, ‘walking tours’ of schools and interviews with school staff to explore policy enactment and student-led approaches to understand student experiences. To understand policy development processes, interviews were undertaken with senior policy-makers. Interview questions covered: • What Federal policies or programs have influenced your organisation’s responses to the education of refugees? • Which sections of your organization have responsibility for refugee education? • What programs, special arrangements or policies are in place for refugee students? • What are your perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of your organisation’s policies? Interviews were recorded and transcribed and the transcript were thematically analysed and coded.
Our findings reinforce notions that this is a troubled and troubling area within education policy making. Refugee education policy lies within a complicated matrix of policy drivers and this was reflected in the tensions, ambiguities and anxieties reported by the respondents. In the current era of shifts in forms of nationalism, largely in response to some of the most significant global movements of people in history, the tensions between the three functions of education policy identified by Taylor, Henry, Lingard and Rizvi (1997), particularly in policy areas such as refugee education, result in contestation and struggle between the priorities of these three functions of education policies.
Ball, S. J. (2010). New class inequalities in education: Why education policy may be looking in the wrong place! Education policy, civil society and social class. 30(3/4), 155-166. Ball, S. J. (2010). New voices, new knowledges and the new politics of education research: The gathering of a perfect storm? European Educational Research Journal, 9(2), 124-137. Ball, S. J. (2018) Commericalising education: profiting from reform!, Journal of Education Policy, 33:5, 587-589, DOI: 10.1080/02680939.2018.1467599 Ball, S.J., Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy: Policy enactments in secondary schools. London: Routledge. Brown, J., Miller, J., & Mitchell, J. (2006) Interrupted schooling and the acquisition of literacy: Experiences of Sudanese refugees in Victorian secondary schools. Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 29(2), 150–162. Department of Social Services. (2017). Settlement Report: Settlers by Calendar Year of Arrival by Migration Stream Humanitarian, arrival dates 1/1/12-1/1/17. Available at: http://www.immi.gov.au/settlement/srf/. Accessed 20/2/17. Diem, S., Young, M., Welton, A., Mansfield, K. & Lee, P.L. (2014) The intellectual landscape of critical policy analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 27(9), 1068-1090. Dryden-Peterson, S., Dahya, N. and Adelman, E., 2017. Pathways to Educational Success Among Refugees: Connecting Locally and Globally Situated Resources. American Educational Research Journal, 54(6), pp.1011-1047. Esses, V.M., Hamilton, L.K. and Gaucher, D., 2017. The global refugee crisis: Empirical evidence and policy implications for improving public attitudes and facilitating refugee resettlement. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), pp.78-123. Fulcher, G. (2015). Disabling policies?: A comparative approach to education policy and disability. London: Routledge. Keddie, A. (2012) Refugee education and justice issues of representation, redistribution and recognition. Cambridge Journal of Education, 42(2), 197-212. Rizvi, F. and Lingard, B. 2010. Globalizing education policy. London: Routledge. Rutter, J. (2006). Refugee children in the UK. United Kingdom: McGraw-Hill Education. Taylor, S., Rizvi, F., Lingard, B., & Henry, M. (1997) Educational policy and the politics of change. London: Routledge. Uptin, J., Wright, J., & Harwood, J. (2016) Finding education: stories of how young former refugees constituted strategic identities in order to access school. Race, Ethnicity and Education, 19(3), 598-617.
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