In a new report released today, UniSA researchers found that refugee children were more likely to succeed at school (and later in life) if schools encouraged positive partnerships, embraced cross-cultural understandings, and empowered families to support their children.
Conducted by educational sociologist, UniSA’s Dr Hannah Soong, and funded by the Channel 7 Children’s Research Foundation, the research confirms the pivotal role of refugee parents in their child’s education and long-term success.
“Like many parents, refugee-background parents hope for a better life for their children and rightly see education as crucial step in this journey,” Dr Soong says.
“Yet despite the increasing focus on parent engagement in Australian education, little is known about the unique and powerful role that refugee parents have in their child’s education.
“Our research shows that refugee children are more likely to succeed in their education when their parents share and embrace their refugee story, and when their school empowers them to do so.
“By understanding the sacrifices that refugee parents have made helps children appreciate and connect with their parents’ refugee journeys, then they draw from these experiences to create a strong purpose and motivation to achieve themselves.
“When refugee parents share these contexts and understandings, they’re demonstrating respectful, caring, and reciprocal relationships which their children adopt as they grow up, positioning them well for success now and in the future.
“Similarly, when schools positively engage and connect with refugee families, they’re showing that they’re committed to building strong parent-school relationships. This is important as refugee families often find a new school environment overwhelming.
“Schools with bilingual staff stand out because they’re far more able to innovate and communicate with refugee families. This helps build trust and demonstrates a commitment to intercultural understanding and inclusivity.
“When a school creates a trusting and culturally sensitive learning environments, everyone benefits –children, families, the school, and the community.”
The team has also created a series of YouTube videos that contain the reflections of five young adult participants to provide a powerful platform to affirm and inspire younger students of refugee-background.
Dr Soong says she hopes that this research and video content will help create better cross-cultural understandings on all levels.
“Intercultural understanding is critical for refugee students ongoing engagement in education,” Dr Soong says. “For students, these sensitivities are expressed within their family, at school and across communities, making each touch point critical.
“By celebrating different cultures, schools and refugee families can create a strong sense of self-worth and pride, which builds a child’s sense of belonging and strengthens their academic success.”