Unfolding transitions: A collaborative investigation of the education and career pathways of African youth from refugee backgrounds in South Australia

Author: Svetlana Michelle King

King, Svetlana Michelle, 2014 Unfolding transitions: A collaborative investigation of the education and career pathways of African youth from refugee backgrounds in South Australia, Flinders University, School of Education

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Abstract

Participation in, and access to, education and employment are key indicators of social inclusion and integration for refugees. Although the labour market integration of refugees has been a research focus, little is known about the experiences of African youth from refugee backgrounds as they make the post-school transition to education and employment in Australia. This study examined perspectives on the education and career pathways of African youth in metropolitan South Australia using an in-depth, qualitative, longitudinal case study approach. It sought to understand the education and career pathways of African youth from refugee backgrounds and identify factors and processes that influence these pathways over time. This study involved extensive collaboration with a Reference Group (comprising educators, service providers and researchers), and a group of African Community Mentors (comprising leaders and elders of South Australia's new and emerging African communities). These collaborative relationships were developed and maintained throughout the study. This research sought to identify factors and processes that influence the education and career pathways of African youth from refugee backgrounds over time. Multiple, semi-structured interviews were conducted over a 12-month period with: African youth (n = 14) who were either attending school, or had recently made the post-school transition at the time of data collection; secondary school staff (n = 7); Technical and Further Education (TAFE) staff (n = 4); university educators (n = 5); service providers (n = 3); and African community leaders and elders with service provision roles (n = 5). In addition, informal observations were conducted in the form of regular school visits and, where possible, student participants' school files were accessed and analysed. Six key influences were found to shape the education and career pathways of African youth: previous schooling; English language skills; Australian mainstream schooling challenges and support; family support; academic achievement; and post-school preparation. A series of recommendations were developed from participant interviews, and meetings with Reference Group members and African Community Mentors. From these recommendations, a professional development resource was developed for use in schools and pre-service teacher education courses. Together, the recommendations and the professional development resource are intended to contribute to our understanding of effective practice in supporting African youth from refugee backgrounds to make the post-school transition.

Keywords: refugee youth,African youth,education,employment,aspirations
Subject: Education thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2014
School: School of Education
Supervisor: Professor Larry Owens