Supporting Refugee Education


Conflict has been an overarching burden in the lives of many refugee children now living in Australia. There are a number of additional barriers, as a result of adjustment into the schooling system, that contribute to the difficulties some children have excelling in the mainstream Australian schooling system.

For many refugee children in Australia, school acts as an important institution that assists in their resettlement and integration into mainstream Australian society. However, there are many barriers that this very institution creates. There is a significant level of responsibility bestowed on the education system to ensure that this system is supportive and inclusive of young refugees and their families.

Learning English is considered one of the first points of integration into Australian mainstream education systems and eventually the labour market for many newly settled refugees. Schools provide an opportunity for this step of integration through facilitating “access to language and social networks” which contributed towards establishing a new sense of belonging in their new community (Christie & Sidhu, 2002). For many refugee children, education is expected to play a dominant role in psychological, cultural and social adjustment.

“Children of refugee parents who are born in Australia can also be affected by generational family trauma, simply by being part of a family that is dislocated, grieving and mourning the loss of loved ones and homeland” says Dr. Monika Krajčovičová and Dr. Erika Novotná.

There are a number of barriers that prevent some children from feeling settled and included within the school environment. It is important that these issues are brought into the public discourse and important for policymakers and educators to acknowledge. Children are often experiencing a number of barriers including racism, exclusion, community attitudes, difficulties in the home as well as the burden of a previously disrupted education of educational associated barriers including attention and learning difficulties. Many children face ongoing challenges with mental health issues due to trauma including survivor’s guilt.

Most children will face particular challenges because of their age and experiences, be that experiences directly related to fleeing their home country or experiences due to ongoing trauma and challenges. Many will carry scars of war and displacement be this direct or indirectly, and almost all of these children will experience some level of physical and psychological effects of trauma. This may manifest in the form of language, literacy difficulties due limited prior education as well as issues associated with identity and belonging.

Psychosocial and emotional needs are important to consider and integrate into programs, both of which were outlined in the Dakar Education for All Framework led by UNESCO. According to the Victorian Multicultural Commission, schools have an integral role to play in supporting the increasing number of refugee families and their integration into the community.

Children who have experience early and intense traumatic events have an increased likelihood of being fearful and may have problems with authority figures, such as teachers and police. This is an important aspect that must be incorporated into the schooling system, and educators to have a in-depth understanding of these complications in that it significantly impacts the relationships formed within the classroom.

An understanding of the reasons for forced migration, and barriers that prevent social cohesion within the community are essential when constructing efforts to facilitated integration and acceptance into the community. It is essential that policymakers and educators are sensitive to these factors and foster a supportive and inclusive environment that aids the settlement of young refugees. It is important to remember that refugees bring with them a wealth of information, skills and resilience that can be highly beneficial for the community.

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