Public education creates places for children in the future of a society. This is what the United Nations Refugee Agency intends by promoting the inclusion of refugee children into national education systems in countries of first asylum. However, everyday schooling experiences of refugee children exemplify that education presents less a magic portal to social inclusion than a site of continuous struggle over legitimate membership and equal opportunity. The proposed project aims to better understand the barriers to social inclusion in public schooling by examining how language preparatory classes socialize refugee students and their caregivers. While becoming proficient in the official language of the host country is understood to be a prerequisite for both educational and social inclusion, language learning is not a simple matter of an acquisition of a new skill. Rather, language learning constitutes a power-laden process, which introduces learners to broader social hierarchies. Accordingly, the proposed project seeks (i) to acquire new knowledge on how language preparatory classes frame conditions of social acceptance and how refugee communities respond to such educational measures, (ii) to contribute to the global discussion on barriers to social inclusion within refugee education while informing policymaking on a national scale in the country where it takes place, and (iii) to develop a collaborative and empowering research methodology when working with refugees. For this purpose, the study will employ a participatory action research methodology, which is based not only on inviting refugee caregivers to become active investigators of the study but also on developing a university-community partnership. The fellowship will support the researcher’s career development by expanding her methodological skills, improving her networking and cooperation skills, and building her capacity for higher social impact.
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