The Transition of Refugee Youth to Mainstream Education in Australia.

Author: Amira Reindorf

Reindorf, Amira, 2015 The Transition of Refugee Youth to Mainstream Education in Australia., Flinders University, School of Social and Policy Studies

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Research on the transition of Sudanese refugee youth into mainstream schooling has been ongoing in Australia. However, most of the previous studies focus on Sudanese refugee youth who have migrated to Australia in their late teens with little or no English, and the social and psychological challenges they face in their transition into Australian mainstream schooling.

This study incorporated the experiences of seven South Sudanese refugee youth between the ages of 14 (early to late teens) and 20, and of three teachers with a professional responsibility for refugees’ transition to mainstream schooling. It aimed to explore students’ and teachers’ perspectives with the objectives of: 1) understanding the realities of refugees’ transition into mainstream schooling in the Australian State of Victoria; and 2) suggesting strategies to improve the transition process.

Participants were recruited through the ‘homework club’ at Spectrum MRC (Migrant Resources Centre) Victoria. Participating students were originally from South Sudan. Five were in middle school, one in high school and one at university. All three participating teachers were from Victorian high schools.

A qualitative phenomenological approach informed by post-colonial and neo-liberal theories was used to explore the students’ and teachers’ experiences. Semi-structured interviews were used as a data collection method. Content and thematic analyses were used to analyse the interview data.

The students highlighted the notion that the transitioning process can be less challenging if it is based on a more holistic approach in which all stakeholders engage with, and fully participate in it. While highlighting similar challenges to transitioning into mainstream schooling in Australia as those already identified in previous studies, participants in this research stressed that they were able to participate fully in a supportive learning environment by being proactive. They stressed the importance of not sitting passively but grabbing every opportunity provided to them by engaging in their learning and transitioning. Their attitude demonstrates resilience and resourcefulness.

The teachers highlighted language barriers, parental attitudes, parental education levels, and parent, student and school expectations as issues affecting refugee youth transition into mainstream education in Victoria’s schools. They also suggested the need for better training of teachers to provide the supportive learning environment required to assist refugee youth to transition more smoothly.

While these findings provide an interesting comparison with previous research, they cannot be generalized due to the small sample size. Further research is warranted to explore the findings with other refugee youth groups and teachers in Australia.

Keywords: Refugee youth in Australia, Educational transition and Refugee Youth, Reslilience and Refugees and Education in Australia and Refugee Youth.

Subject: Social Work thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2015
School: School of Social and Policy Studies
Supervisor: Dr Mubarak Rahamathulla