04 SES 01 A, The Wandering Wingless: Reconnecting Migration And Inclusion
Increasing cultural and religious diversity has always been a challenge for schools, especially in migrant- receiving countries. In culturally more homogenous societies, with the increase of immigration, teachers and school administrators face various challenges in meeting the needs of all students and creating a school environment where all students feel valued (Faas, Smith, & Darmody, 2018). Immigrant students are among the disadvantaged groups of learners as the immigrant ir families lack the necessary skills and resources to support their education (Dusi & Steinbach, 2016). From early stages of their life, disadvantaged pupils face different challenges which are translated into compromised learning trajectories, fewer employment opportunities, and lower income (Banerjee, 2016). In most European countries, students with a migrant background show lower educational performance and lower sense of well-being compared to their native-born counterparts. Therefore, EU policy initiatives have been targeting to address the needs of immigrant students for a smooth integration into the education system and through this into the society (European Commission, 2019).
The schools in Northern Cyprus face challenges due to increasing number of immigrant students. Cyprus’ geographic location and climate makes it a popular destination for refugees from Syria, failing states in Central Asia, and Turkey (Gokmenoglu & Komleksiz, 2019). The students have severe adaptation problems because of the living conditions of immigrants, adaptation challenges, socio-economic hardship and language barriers. Lack of adaptation programs for immigrants and an official immigration policy for integration and inclusion of the immigrants worsen these hardships and deepen the economic and cultural gap between native-born citizens and immigrants. (Ekeoglu, 2017; Vural, 2017).
There is a limited number of studies that have focused on the education of immigrant students in Northern Cyprus (Dolunay & Kececi, 2017; Gokmenoglu & Komleksiz, 2019). This paper addresses the need for a research study examining the education of immigrant students in Cyprus from a parental perspective by taking social, political, and educational context shaping experiences of this vulnerable group of learners into consideration. It is necessary to hear the voices of parents in order to understand what factors may facilitate or impede the education of immigrant students in Cyprus.
Fraser (2008) introduced three dimensions of social justice: economic redistribution, cultural recognition, and political representation. Fraser’s three-dimensional model informs social justice research in education and provides insights to better understand justice- related issues in formal education (Keddie, 2012). According to Fraser (2008), the failure of the economic dimension of social justice stems from the maldistribution of social and economic goods. In Fraser’s perspective (2005), the cultural recognition dimension deals with equal recognition of cultures in the society. In educational settings, circumstances of misrecognition are reflected in specific examples of inequitable treatment of marginalized groups and minority students. Fraser (2005) argued that political justice, which is associated with politics of framing and political voice, is a prerequisite for addressing cultural and economic injustices. Namely, political injustices occur when individuals or groups are denied equality in social interaction and decision-making processes. It is important to acknowledge different dimensions of social injustice as each dimension requires different policy development and interventions (Power & Taylor, 2013). Infrormed by Fraser’s (2005, 2008) social justice framework, this study aims to examine perceptions of immigrant parents regarding the education of their children. The following research questions guided the study:
1) What are the perceptions of parents regarding the role and importance of education in immigrant children’s lives?
2) How do the parents perceive the difficulties and challenges immigrant children face in their educational experience?
3) What are the perceptions of parents regarding the effectiveness of school and the teachers in meeting the needs of immigrant students?
Methods Participants Considering the density of Turkish immigrants in the region, the interviews were conducted with the parents of disadvantaged immigrant students who lived in the inner walls of old Nicosia. Turkish immigrants who had lower socioeconomic status participated in the study. The researchers opened a call for the volunteer participants via a charity foundation, which was located in the inner walls and served the people in need in Cyprus. The parents who applied for a financial support were invited to the study. Twelve parents (eleven mothers and a father) who immigrated from Turkey volunteered to participate in the study. Interviews were conducted in Turkish as it was the common language between the researchers and participants. However, most participants were not very fluent in Turkish as Arabic was their native language. Data Collection and Analysis As a part of a larger project examining the educational needs of disadvantaged students in Cyprus, semi-structured interviews with parents were conducted. The extensive review of the social justice and inclusion literature (Scheurich and Skrla, 2003; Sleeter, 2012; Karsli-Calamak and Kilinc (2019); Tillman and Scheurich, 2013) and Fraser’s (2005) social justice theory constituted the basis of the interview schedule. The interview questions were structured into ten domains including background questions like education level, employment status, marital status, family size, and health; questions about parental perceptions regarding children’s education and commitment to education; and questions about school-related issues like curriculum, school climate, school environment and neighborhood, parent-school relationship, and educational inequities. The researchers analyzed and interpreted the collected data by carrying out a content analysis (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). First, all interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Before coding the whole data, two interviews were coded by both researchers. The intercoder consistency was calculated, and reliability was ensured with a consistency rate over 90%. At the initial stage of the analysis, each interview was coded using an open coding method and categories and themes were generated in line with the emerging codes. In the second stage, researchers re-read and compared codes and categories to check the commonalities differences across the data set and emerged themes were refined. The naming of the categorizations came from the interview questions which were developed based on the related literature, participant responses or the researcher's interpretations, as suggested by Merriam (2009). Following the coding procedures, themes suggested by the whole data were combined and the findings were written up.
Expected Findings Preliminary analysis of the interviews reflected deep rooted injustices that shape the educational experiences of the students and place them in a disadvantaged position in the education system. Families’ engagement in their children’s education was limited due to a number of factors such as low level of education, language barriers and socio-economic status. Parents raised concerns about the availability of the material resources and access to educational resources. The responses of the parents exemplified educators’ inaction towards inclusivity. The school administrators and the teachers did not show enough efforts to accommodate the learning environment for the disadvantaged students. The teacher lacked the motivation, professional knowledge and efforts to perform inclusivity-oriented activities to support students’ academic engagement and achievement. Even if they acknowledged about special needs of the student, the teachers held the parents accountable. Prejudices the immigrant students faced in their school settings became obvious when the parents talked about lower expectations the teachers had for children. Despite the challenges they face at early ages, immigrant students showed strength and motivation to continue their education. All in all, it might be concluded from the preliminary findings that educational experiences of immigrant students are multidimensional, shaped by different actors. It was apparent that parents did their best to provide socio-emotional support to their children and create better educational opportunities for them. However, most of them felt inadequacy in their skills and capabilities to provide necessary opportunities to their children. In this sense, activities such as organizing school events, family education sessions and home visits may guide parents in their efforts to support their children’s education. Communicating with parents, ensuring their participation in decision making processes will also help them develop a sense of belonging in the school.
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