04 SES 08 E, Working With Refugee Students: New Directions And Some Reflections
In this presentation we will report findings from a study that is currently ongoing, but will focus on the German case study portion. The larger study also includes Lebanon. The project, led by Bernhard Streitwieser, is funded by a grant from the International Institute of Education (IIE)’s Platform for Education in Emergencies Response project (PEER) and the Catalyst Foundation.
Within the last five years, the global refugee population has increased by 65%. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are now 68.5 forcibly displaced people worldwide, 25.4 million among whom are refugees, half under the age of 18 (UNHCR, 2018). Among this population, UNHCR figures indicate that only 1% will ever manage to enter or reenter tertiary level studies. Although this figure is in some cases slightly higher in certain geographic contexts, it still falls far below the global average for tertiary educational attainment of 36% (UNHCR, 2017)
While securing shelter and safety is the primary concern of refugees following displacement, beginning or resuming education is often an immediate next step for successful adjustment into a new country (Ager & Strang, 2008). Returning to an educational routine can set a clear pathway back into society and serve as a powerful counterweight to the trauma of forced migration (Crea, 2016). With renewed educational perspectives, refugees have been found to be among the most resilient and ambitious learners (Mangan & Winter, 2017). These include learning a new language, having educational credentials evaluated and approved, navigating a new academic system, adjusting to a foreign society’s norms and expectations, renegotiating a new identity, and dealing with prolonged psychological stress caused by physical and emotional trauma (Joyce, Earnest, de Mori, & Silvagni, 2010; Stevenson & Willott, 2007; Zeus, 2011).
With conflicts boiling or open warfare raging in some settings, including Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, and Egypt, the migration of refugees and asylum seekers in many directions has intensified, including toward Europe (Juran and Broer 2017). For many refugees, their desired end destination is Germany for its social system and liberal immigration policies (Streitwieser, Miller-Idriss, and Wit 2017; Streitwieser & Brück, 2018). In 2015 alone, as many as 890,000 arrived in the country. Among this influx, 76.2% were males between the ages of 18-25 (BAMF, 2018). At first, Germany could only cope with processing and sheltering new arrivals, but over time it also began to direct them into retraining and educational and professional pathways.
To date, there has been insufficient research studying equitable access routes for refugees and displaced persons to enter into higher education. Also absent has been a full understanding of the specific constraints that shape their choices, or the opportunities and interventions that are available to them for advancing their education (Hatton, 2017; Streitwieser, et al., 2018). The main goal of this paper, therefore is to undertake a mapping of the pathways refugees traverse to move from non-formal education (NFE) into formal education (FE) in Europe. The data comes from a larger International Institute of Education (IIE) funded project currently being conducted by the authors within the PEER that also includes a case study on Lebanon. While the particular focus is on Germany, the study will also provide a wider mapping to the extent that doing so illuminates the case. The project will highlight existing NFE and FE initiatives and provide detailed examples to illustrate how they became established, which populations they serve, what challenges they have faced and overcome, what some outcomes have been, and how a better understanding of their efforts can provide the research and practitioner community with recommendations for current and future initiatives.
To place a parameter around our objectives, we identified definitions associated with FE and NFE. Based on this analysis, NFE is described as a mechanism of operation for learning, which does not produce formal qualifications recognized by relevant national educational authorities. In contrast, FE is organized to produce a specific trajectory towards the German HE system, to which key criteria needed for access is a recognized HE entrance qualification and the demonstration of verified language proficiency. This criteria for taking the language exam is attainable through participation in formalized educational programs that focus on language training and higher education. The next stage of the research project focused on identifying a broad range of initiatives on a nation-wide level. In the German case study, the focus of FE searches was naturally limited to German university institutions; however the search at the NFE level produced a more diversified result, and included for profit businesses (GmbH), often in the form of branches situated on a national level, as well as non-profit organizations at the local level. Charitable organizations and religious organizations were also among the institutions offering language training. The results of the search at the NFE level indicated that certain institutions in this NFE group also offered language training at the educational level necessary to take university entrance certificate tests. However, while they offered the prep classes, some of the NFE institutions identified were not recognized testing centers, and did not offer the final examinations. We then further specified our parameters to differentiate between those NF institutions that offer no testing facility, with those that do. Those language institutions that we discovered in our NFE search that offered the recognized language tests in addition to the necessary language classes were categorized as “FE/Hybrid” institutions. After building a broad base of 90 examples of formal, non-formal, and formal/hybrid institutions, we decided to highlight four particular cities (Berlin, Munster, Frankfurt, Rostock) within this group, not just for geographic spread but also to use each city as a case study to better illustrate the pathways to higher education access for refugee and asylum-seeking students. Furthermore, this approach enabled us to observe the interplay between different organizations more efficiently. Specifically, the selection of case study cities made it possible to identify and analyze in detail how FE, NFE and FE/Hybrid providers collaborate, and whether state or non-state entities facilitate the collaboration.
Since the authors are at an early stage of their research, no final conclusions are available yet. The proposed paper will share the mapping exercise that was conducted of the ‘landscape’ of interventions of NFE to FE, with a specific focus on student of refugee background’s pathway to HE in Germany. In this way it will further illuminate mechanisms and pathways into education at the tertiary level that may not yet be fully known to date. The proposed mapping will also seek to identify what characteristics NFE and FE programs have in common, how they differ, what strategies are in place to ease the transition process from one to the other, with a particular focus on which ones have worked for different populations or failed to work, and why. Furthermore, the study’s particular interest lays in the state and not-state actors that function as intermediaries between formal and non-formal actors. The first results show that these key agents play a crucial role in the interlinking between NFE and FE, without which the orderly and planned transition of students of refugee background has shown to be associated with more difficulties. The paper will conclude with recommendations for future refugee support programming underlining the importance of an intermediary agent that bridges the natural gap between NFE and FE providers.
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