Moving Beyond English as a Requirement to"Fit In": Considering Refugee and Migrant Education in South Australia

Clemence Due, Damien Riggs

Abstract


This paper presents findings from research conducted in two primary schools in South Australia with New Arrivals Programs (NAPs). The paper draws upon two forms of data: questionnaires administered to teachers and ethnographic observations of children at play in the schoolyard. These data are used to examine two aspects of education for refugees and other migrants: (1) the assumption that English language acquisition is central to the “integration” of refugees and other newly arrived migrants (and both that integration is of key importance and that the work of integration must primarily be undertaken by refugees and other migrants, not the broader community); and (2) the impact of power differentials between NAP and non- NAP students in the use of playground spaces. We argue that the education provided to refugee and newly arrived migrant students in NAPs needs to move beyond treating English language acquisition as a requirement to “fit in,” and we call for schools with high populations of refugee and migrant students to consider how spatial relations in their schools may be negatively impacting these student populations. Finally, the paper calls for an approach to education that is situated in global contexts of colonization and power relations, and in which the terms for inclusion of NAP students are mutually negotiated, rather than predetermined.

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