Pam Christie & Ravinder Sidhu
The University of Queensland
|This paper explores issues relating to the education of refugee children in Australia within a framework of globalisation. We begin by outlining what we understand to be key dimensions of globalisation. We then move to a consideration of education for refugee children, and the rights to education set out in major international conventions. We argue that there are a number of key challenges to be addressed in policies for the provision of education for refugee children under the current conditions of globalisation in Australia.|
Globalisation is rapidly changing the nature of the world in which we live in economic, political and cultural ways. Without engaging in the political debates raging around globalisation, we will outline a few key points about what globalisation entails as a basis for talking about Australia and the provision of education for refugees.
The term 'globalisation' goes beyond 'nation' and 'international' to refer to movements that go around the globe. The word often used to give a sense of these movements is 'flow'. While flows of people and goods have taken place across history, it is the changed intensity and speed of such flows which present challenges for social relations in the current period. The increased speed and complexity of these flows is said to result in a compression of space and time as this definition by the Australian sociologist Waters (2001: 5) illustrates:
However, as we discuss in this paper, the extent to which these constraints recede or alternatively are augmented, is related to a complex and contingent cluster of political, social, historical and economic factors. Thus, the constraints of geography are more likely to recede for entrepreneurs seeking to cross borders, than for people fleeing violence. A globalisation framework offers the conceptual means to understand these flows and changes. It enables us to discern how some flows are perceived and experienced as smooth and benign, and others as turbulent and disruptive. More importantly, it reveals the extent to which notions of territoriality have formed social relations and, by extension, our ideas of humanness and human rights (Urry,1998). It is within this framework, we argue, that current flows of asylum seekers and refugees need to be understood.
In our everyday lives, we encounter cultural globalisation - clothes, music, food, screen images. These fashions flow globally, enabled by new communications technologies and the Internet. However, the flows and processes of cultural globalisation are not power-neutral. Some flows and exchanges between cultures and nations are easier to effect and to accept than others. For example, it is easier to watch a Hollywood movie than it is to assimilate indigenous perspectives of ecology into our lives. Likewise, notions of power also underwrite the meanings we attribute to flows of people. From 1846 to 1930, approximately 52 million people left Europe to settle in the United States, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand and Africa. Indeed, by the start of the twentieth century a quarter of Europe's population had left the Old World for the New World (Canclini, 2000: 44). These flows are generally regarded as 'natural' and unproblematic, while the present situation of flows in the reverse direction from the 'third world' or South/East to the 'first world' or North/West are perceived as threatening to notions of territorial integrity. Understanding how power relations underwrite cultural exchanges between the local and the global is complex but nonetheless crucial to our understanding of the consequences of globalisation. In discussing flows and exchanges between nations and cultures, our aim is not to reach back to an imagined past where pure and unsullied cultures were unencumbered by various interlopers. Cultural hybridity has a long history; indeed, it is arguable whether cultural purity has ever existed. However, notions of an imagined cultural purity and cultural integrity constitute a powerful means of galvanizing citizens to unite against 'outsiders', and as such represent an effective political instrument.
The compression of space may bring people into closer encounters with a wider range of cultures. However, this can intensify their anxieties about the eclipse of cultural particularities. Fear about losing 'an Australian identity' is one example. The end result could be a resurgent desire to form a distinctive and coherent identity. Fascism, racism and religious fundamentalisms are possible outcomes and it has become increasingly obvious that these developments pose challenges for the human rights agenda (Baumann, 1998:3; Hall, 1997: 21-26; Waters, 2001: 187-196). However, it is also possible that cultural contact may facilitate the development of a cosmopolitan sensibility and greater acceptance for difference.
Governments use a variety of political tactics and strategies, including the creative conceptualisations of space, in order to manage the risks and opportunities presented by globalisation. Thus, Australia assumes an Asian identity as a 'dialogue partner' of the Southeast Asian regional trading bloc, ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations). In this instance, Australia reconfigures its spatial identity in symbolic ways to further its economic interests. Another form of spatial reconfiguration takes place when the territorial spaces of Christmas Island, Ashmore Reef and Cocos and Keeling Islands are excised for the purposes of deterring applications for asylum.
Globalisation goes beyond culture and politics; crucially, it entails economic changes. Economic globalisation refers to accelerated flows across the world of goods, capital, labour, services, information and finance. There are movements of people for all sorts of reasons (e.g., work, travel, and asylum seeking). Assisted by new technologies, particularly information and communications technologies, many economic flows work in real time at a world level, so that differences of time and space are compressed and time may even be de-sequenced.
An important dimension of the current period of globalisation is that neo-liberal economic approaches are ascendant in the world. With the end of the Cold War, there are few states which do not have capitalist economies. And the particular form of capitalism that neo-liberal economics favour entails deregulating markets, reducing or changing the role of the state and, most importantly, reducing social expenditure, including expenditure on education. The nation-state is not necessarily weakened by globalisation. In most cases it is politically reconfigured so as to assert an identity that supports economic globalisation. In fact the global economy remains highly reliant on national systems and national governments to provide a range of facilities and services from transportation to banking and legal services and to regulate the labour market and industrial relations. Government assistance is also offered to support 'local' companies which are engaged in global competition (Amin & Thrift, 1997:150-151; see also Holton, 1998).
In their study of Education, Training and the Global Economy, David Ashton and Francis Green note that 'all the world's economies have been integrated within capitalism' (1996: 21). But they are not integrated equally. Both 'winners' and 'losers' are created by the integrated global economy. These winners and losers include not only individuals and communities but entire nations. Countries who are losers in globalisation are at risk of becoming 'rogue' nations within the geopolitical scene (Jones, 2000:31-36). The movements or flows of people from economically weaker, politically unstable countries which are often marked by civil violence, are highlighted in the work of Zolberg, Suhrke and Aguayo (1989), Appadurai (1996), Hammar et al. (1997) and Papastergiadis (2000). Failing to address uneven development, poor governance and the human rights agenda within countries has significant consequences for migration and economic and political stability. Nations on the losing side are also more likely to be involved in the global criminal economy and in many instances, have little political leverage in the geopolitical context.
The winners and losers of globalisation are also present within single countries. Gone are the days of stable labour markets with predictable career patterns. In their place is labour flexibility: contract work, part-time work, temporary work, self-employment, and continual occupational mobility. On the one side of this, there is individualised labour: what the development sociologist Manuel Castells, refers to as 'self-programmable labour...which has the built-in capacity to generate value through innovation and information, and that has the ability to reconstruct itself throughout the occupational career on the basis of this education and this information' (2001: 13). Examples of this group of people are financial analysts, computer software engineers, to which Castells adds football players and professional killers. The other side of this picture is labour with basic education, and unskilled labour. This labour has become devalued and there are increasing numbers of people in the informal sector, the survival sector, and the criminal economy sector.
For most people including those in the countries of the North/West, security is defined primarily as employment security. In the face of rising unemployment, issues of security, alienation and external threats are conflated, creating a discourse of resentment along the lines of 'them versus us' (McCarthy and Dimitriades, 2000). While caution should be exercised in drawing causal links between neoliberalism, the widening income gap in societies and antipathy towards refugees and asylum seekers, there are certainly indications that reception of the 'stranger', is influenced by social cohesion and a community's sense of identity and security.
Castells leaves us in no doubt about the importance of these changes and about the centrality of the network society in the new knowledge economy. His trilogy, The Information Age, explores these ideas. He argues that the world economy is linked in a comprehensive global structure based on new information technologies. Societies that are not linked are, in Castells' words, 'the black holes of the informational age'. Large areas of the world are 'increasingly irrelevant for the global information economy' (1996: 56). New patterns of relevance and marginalisation are developing around the global network economy.
Castells's theories may be criticised as structuralist, if not determinist. Certainly they are not in tune with postmodernist theories. That said, Castells offers a theory of global interconnectedness which we find powerful and persuasive. We conclude our discussion on globalisation with a summary of four key interrelated developments that Castells (1997) has associated with globalisation:
The rights of refugee children to education are clearly framed in major international conventions, the most well-known of which are the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) (see Appendix A). These address access to education at different levels and of different types as well as a values base in fundamental human rights and freedoms. They suggest, implicitly or explicitly, that children should not be penalised in relation to education for the views and actions of their parents. Other United Nations guidelines, such as the United Nations Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children (1996), the Revised Guidelines for Education Assistance to Refugees (1995), and Action to be Taken in an Emergency stress the importance of education for children as a priority, and stipulate that schooling be provided for children of refugees, asylum seekers and those in camps.
There can be little doubt that the rights of all children to education under all circumstances have been unambiguously stated again and again since World War Two. However, it cannot be assumed that statements of rights will be translated into actual provision of education, not only in the case of refugees. Statements of rights in this case are symbolic, rather than material policies.
In Australia there is no comprehensive Federal policy framework for the education of refugee and asylum seeker children. Instead, a complex system of visa categories fragments their rights to education. Children classified as refugees under the Humanitarian Program are entitled to full Federal funding, including funding for English As a Second Language (ESL) teaching. However, for asylum seekers on Temporary Protection Visas (TPVs) there is no allocated funding for language and special needs support. While State governments have tended to override the Federal approach by not discriminating between children in different visa categories who arrive at schools, this means either providing services at their own expense, or stretching Federal funding to cover unfunded as well as funded students. The educational needs of children in detention centres are an even more serious source of concern, with reports of inadequate provision, poor resources and excessive surveillance by detention centre staff. This situation is far from ideal and, arguably, runs against the spirit if not the principles of international conventions on children's rights.
A consistent theme to emerge from studies of refugee children is of highly differentiated educational backgrounds which are related, among other factors, to the level of provision of education in home and transit countries and language learning needs. Additionally, refugee children may have lost social networks and witnessed or experienced torture and trauma (Candappa, 2000; Rutter and Jones, 1998). For children who are asylum seekers or recipients of TPVs, the uncertainty of their circumstances is likely to affect their learning.
A number of impressive initiatives are already in place in Australia to assist the children of refugees and asylum seekers, including trauma counselling and programmes which link families and schools. Many of these inter-agency initiatives have been introduced through the commitment and vision of teachers, community workers, health professionals and non-government organizations. However, we would suggest the need for an over-arching education policy and funding agenda which acknowledges the complexity of the multiple systems involved in educating refugee children, if symbolic rights to education are to be translated into actual opportunities.
As a social institution, modern schooling has paradoxical effects. On the one hand, schools may provide access for children and youth to valued cultural and social capital. For refugees in particular, schooling may be a means to participate in a regular and stable framework of activities, to learn language and valued knowledge, to learn about civic life, to gain access to the labour market, and to build a new identity in a new place. On the other hand, schooling also produces and reproduces patterns of social and economic inequality. Experience shows that schooling alone cannot compensate for social disadvantage; however, lack of schooling almost certainly perpetuates disadvantage. Under these circumstances, the experience of refugee children - as with all children - is highly dependent on the particular schools and teachers to which they have access.
How, then, might the rights to education for refugee children be best addressed? We suggest that there are three major sets of issues which need to be considered in advocating for an educational policy framework to establish rights for refugee and asylum seeker children: the complexity of educational change; education, citizenship and difference; and the effects of neo-liberal globalisation on education. We suggest that a policy agenda for refugee education be formulated with these issues in mind.
|Complexity of educational change|
There is a growing literature which explores broad trends in school reform in English-speaking schooling systems (see, e.g., Fullan, 2000; Halsey et al., 1997; Leithwood et al., 1996; Louis and Miles, 1990). Decades of research and state action illustrate that schooling involves a complex array of activities, and impacting upon these to bring change is not easy to achieve. Governance systems are usually multi-level (national, state, region, district, local); there are multiple providers; funding is a mix of public and private; individual school organisation and leadership are significant mediators of policy; individual teachers often have greater effects on student outcomes than schools do; and students' background often has the greatest effect of all on performance. For education systems to guarantee the rights outlined above would require a range of intervention points: national and state policies; funding; school curricula; teacher professional development; targeted expenditure; special provision for disadvantaged groups; and so on. Needless to say, this is not in place in Australia for the education of children of refugees and asylum seekers.
What are the implications of this for an agenda for the education of refugee children? Firstly, we propose that the most appropriate approach would be the development of a broad policy framework within which local solutions are possible. This would enable specific issues to be identified in relation to specific needs of refugee and asylum seeker children; these could be targetted for action, and tracked through the system. Secondly, in all cases, it is essential to draw out implications across the wide agenda set out above - curriculum, teacher development, support services and so on--and to ensure that funding is secured for these. Unless the agenda is specifically analysed and interventions targetted and backed by funding, any proposed changes run the risk of not being implemented. Clearly, second language provision is a key issue to be targetted for policy action. Other initiatives of vital importance include trauma counselling, programmes which link families and schools, and links to outside-of-school support for children and families. As mentioned earlier, many of these inter-agency initiatives already take place to some extent. However, their funding and provision is often uncertain and is not secured by government policies.
In summary, we would suggest the need to develop an overall policy framework and funding agenda which acknowledges the complexity of the multiple systems involved in educating refugee children, if symbolic rights to education are to be translated into actual opportunities.
|Education, citizenship and difference|
Through complex cultural and social processes, educational institutions play a part in constructing notions of citizenship based on insiders and outsiders. In terms of nation-building, schools operate in paradoxical ways. On the one hand, they pave the entry of refugee children into the community by providing access to language and social networks. On the other hand, they propagate and normalise the essential myths on which nations are built and normalise ways of thinking about 'other' people and 'other' spaces.
That the origins of Australian statehood and national identity emerged from a terrain which excluded racial others has been well noted (Castles and Miller, 1998; Fiske, Hodge & Turner, 1987; Turner 1994). The discourse of a White Australia with its assumptions of ethnocultural superiority was not only hugely influential for the first fifty years of Australian statehood; it has also shown itself to be resilient by reappearing periodically in community attitudes. The federal elections of 2001 are a case in point, where both major political parties played up popular support for keeping asylum seekers out of Australia. In this case, the politics of insiders and outsiders was played out along the lines of race and religion, in a nationalist discourse of 'we will decide who comes to Australia' (see Mares, 2001).
Attempts by the state to construct a counter-discourse of multiculturalism in the 1970s, anti-racism in the 1980s and productive diversity in the 1990s have been largely symbolic and restricted to policy development. The 'revenue neutral' status of these policies has stilted their institutionalisation and teachers have received limited professional development to enact these policies in the classroom. We can conclude then, that schools have been oriented towards serving culturally and linguistically homogenous communities, that are spatially 'fixed'. The arrival of children from migrant or refugee backgrounds in schools often highlights the fixity of the institution's philosophies and practices. However, the historical and political terrain of education in Australia, coupled with significant demands on teachers to come to terms with new technologies and to deliver new educational outcomes, will present challenges to attempts to make schooling sensitive to the special needs of refugee children.
All of this has specific implications for an education agenda for refugee children. In this case, support for teacher professional development may play a crucial role. Research in Queensland schools (Education Queensland, 2001) indicates that while classrooms show relatively high levels of social supportiveness, they are not strong on recognition of difference. The research suggests that teachers may well acknowledge that there are cultural and ethnic differences among their students, but not know how to teach in ways that respond constructively to these differences. The research also suggests that teacher professional development has positive effects on students' intellectual and social outcomes. In the case of education for refugee children, intervention work with teachers could be directed towards an understanding of the dynamics of globalisation and people flows, an understanding of the complex life situations of refugee children, as well as curriculum and pedagogical approaches to dealing with difference at a classroom level (see also Rutter and Jones, 1998). Skilling trainee teachers with cross-cultural competencies is also a matter of priority.
|Effects of neo-liberal globalisation on education|
The research on educational reform mentioned earlier indicates that the current period of globalisation has foregrounded different sets of policies and discourses to those of the immediate post-World War Two period (during which the discourse of human rights framed recommendations for refugee education). Whereas the post-war period foregrounded equity and social justice, a market model now prevails, with different assumptions on key issues of funding, management, parent/ community relationships, and accountability measures.
Post-World War Two expansion of education was underpinned by notions that education was important for the 'common good', and that it played a crucial role in providing equal opportunities as a basis for the participation of all in a democratic and just society. Taking this further, under welfare state assumptions, education was viewed in social justice terms as a form of redistribution, whereby children in poverty would be supported in a more equitable manner and not disadvantaged educationally by their social circumstances (see Brown et al, 1997). In contrast, current market assumptions in education place equity and social justice in the background, and foreground individuals as responsible for developing their own opportunities (Taylor, Rizvi, Lingard and Henry, 1997). While education is regarded as crucial in a knowledge society, the state's responsibility is to be more minimalist in provision. Under complex funding arrangements, both state and private schools in Australia compete for students and state funding in market choice conditions. Assumptions of the welfare state no longer hold in Australia, and, as the work of Anna Yeatman (1990; 1993) points out, schools together with the public sector generally are governed by corporate mangerialist assumptions. Working for school change, to say nothing of equity, within this paradigm of effectiveness, efficiency and accountability poses real challenges for social reformers.
An alarming trend is that alongside the 'traditional' poverties and inequalities of class, race and gender, new marginalisations are emerging, relating to globalisation and new economic, social and spatial reconfigurations (see Luke, 2000; Brown et al, 1997). The face of disadvantage is changing and a new geography of poverty and unemployment is emerging. New and older marginalisations constitute what Brown et al have called 'a new political arithmetic' of poverty and disadvantage (1997, p 37). These shape the social and economic contexts in which schools operate. Redistributive funding is often difficult to secure in the current neo-liberal climate. Social inequalities are heightened at the very time when social justice discourses have been challenged by neo-liberal approaches.
What are the implications for refugee education? Firstly, it is important to recognise that the major international commitments to education for refugees were formulated within post-World War Two discourses which no longer hold sway under the current period of globalisation. The 1951 convention envisaged individuals fleeing from specific persecution, and assumed that nation states would provide for them in terms of prevailing discourses of the 'common good' and equal opportunities for all through education. However, the current flows of refugees and asylum seekers, often fleeing collapsed societies and economies and generalised civic violence and war, face a different set of assumptions, with state responsibility for education reduced in scope and provision, little redistributive funding, and growing inequalities. Under these conditions, simple appeals to rights under international conventions are not likely to achieve concrete results. More complex strategies are required.
In addition, we would argue that any initiatives to improve educational provision for refugee education must be woven into new discourses for mainstream curriculum change (as well as the targetted strategies outlined above). This has two dimensions. Firstly, there is a growing awareness by all of the Australian states that globalisation and the new knowledge economy require new approaches to curriculum and pedagogy. For example, Queensland State Education - 2010 (2000) provides a strategic framework for aligning systems change with a focus on teaching and learning. Its new curriculum approach, New Basics, is cross disciplinary and problem-centred. Unlike earlier initiatives which were largely framed in national terms, New Basics straddles the local, national and global. Its four curriculum organisers stress the importance of responsibility to self, society, humanity and the environment:
The New Basics is an example of a curriculum which is deliberately designed to deal with new student identities, new economies and workplaces, new technologies, diverse communities and complex cultures. Our argument is that it is crucial that refugee and asylum seeker children have access to new curricula, pedagogies and technologies on an equal basis to other children if they are to have equal access to new economies. In particular, children in detention centres are further disadvantaged if the education they are offered does not match these new approaches. The second dimension is that issues of refugees be woven into new curricula such as the New Basics, so that they are taught as part of changing mainstream assumptions about citizenship and diversity. We need to teach for both national and international participation. This requires that we develop a civic and ethical education which is framed in global terms and which recognises the interdependencies between issues like globalisation, economic competition and the human rights agenda, rather than viewing each of these areas as somehow discrete and unrelated to the broader education agenda. Importantly, it requires us to move beyond the theoretical dualisms of national versus global and to consider how both the national and global are linked in complex webs of interdependencies and power balances.
We started this paper with a discussion of how a conceptual framework of globalisation can be used to analyse issues related to the flows of refugee including the political responses of the nation-state. We then examined the social and economic contexts in which Australian education systems operate. We have argued that the current period of globalisation has a number of distinctive albeit complex features, and that these impact on educational provision by states in particular ways. It needs to be recognised that statements of rights to education for refugee children are no more than enabling frameworks, within which much implementation work needs to be done if they are to have substance beyond the symbolic. Providing equal rights in education involves working for a complex range of changes reaching from the bureaucracy to the school and classroom level. It requires engagement with multiple globalisations and not just a singular North/West and largely economic understanding of globalisation. This paper is intended as a contribution towards understanding the challenges of providing socially just schooling in current times.
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 This example of spatial reconfiguration was described by Professor Jean Pierre Fontaine, 'An historical perspectives: Mistakes from the past, challenges for the future, Refugee Convention: Where to from here? 6-9 December 2001, University of New South Wales.
Pam Christie is an Associate Professor in the School of Education at The University of Queensland and Visiting Professor at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, where she was formerly dean of education.
Ravinder Sidhu is a PhD candidate at the School of Education, University of Queensland. Her research interests are in the areas of globalization and comparative education.
|Paper presented at the International Conference "The Refugee Convention, Where to from Here?" convened by the Centre for Refugee Research (Sydney, December 2001).|