EXECUTIVE SUMMARY – Extract
In the past two decades, Australian universities and schools have received increasing numbers of students from refugee backgrounds (SfRBs). These students have been from the Former Yugoslav Republic (Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo), West Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia), East and Central Africa (South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Congo) and now the Middle East (Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan) (Earnest et al., 2010; Taylor & Sidhu, 2012; Woods, 2009).
Approximately half of Australia’s refugee intake are aged between 15 and 19 years, an age when education is a priority (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 2017). Furthermore, there is a paucity of research that addresses the educational, social and cultural expectations and experiences of SfRBs in higher education, and transition, especially those who were educated and held status in their own countries and who are now looking to gain educational and economic capital in Australia. Given these factors, it is of local, national and international significance to explore SfRBs’ movements into the Australian higher education sector and to develop programs and strategies to support SfRBs to participate meaningfully and achieve meaningful success in their studies.
This project comprised three sub-projects undertaken by the three partner institutions: The University of Newcastle, Macquarie University and Curtin University. Each partner examined a different ‘pathway’ with three different ‘starting points’ from which SfRBs might commence their higher education journey. The University of Newcastle examined a technical and further education Adult Migrant English Program Tertiary Preparation Certificate, Macquarie University examined students at High Schools who attended the LEAP (Learning, Education, Aspiration and Participation) Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring) Program, and Curtin University examined the departure point of high-school-based intensive English centres. All three programs aim to enable SfRBs to enhance their English speaking and comprehension skills and prepare them for further high school and undergraduate study. Key areas of focus for this study include equity and higher education, transition and pathways, reclaiming ‘social capital’ through participation in higher education, and language and cultural barriers to meaningful participation for SfRBs.
SOURCE: Fagan, S., Baker, S., Irwin, E., Dantas, J., Gower, S., Singh, S. and Taiwo, M. (2018). (Re)Claiming social capital: improving language and cultural pathways for students from refugee backgrounds into Australian higher education. Department of Education and Training (Australia), University of Newcastle, Curtin University, Macquarie University.
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