Engaging with the promises of education : African refugee students in Australian secondary schools

Dooley, Karen T. (2009) Engaging with the promises of education : African refugee students in Australian secondary schools. In Proceeding of The 2009 Asian-Pacific Forum on Sociology of Education : Social Change and Educational Reform, National University of Tainan, Taiwan, E-2.


The research reported in this paper investigated the engagement of students who arrived in Australian secondary schools as refugees from Africa. Enrolment of large cohorts of refugees from Africa is a relatively new phenomenon in the English-speaking West. The literature provides evidence that emotional engagement with the promises of schooling is strong for many of the young African refugees. Students envision successful professional careers as doctors, engineers, lawyers, and IT experts; they envision returning to their country as professionals able to help the people. The question investigated in this paper is: How does schooling in Australia impact on young African refugees’ education and career aspirations? Engagement is understood in Bourdieuian terms as dispositions to be and to become an educated person. This is a disposition which entails fundamental belief in the value of the stakes of schooling. The data analysed in the paper were produced in a study undertaken in the state of Queensland where 5000 of the 39 000 African refugees who have arrived in Australia since 2000 have settled. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with students and their parents and teachers after arrival in an intensive language school, and then after transition to a regular secondary school. The findings show both the durability and malleability of educational dispositions in conditions of dramatic social change occasioned by refugee experience. Engagement in the stakes of schooling is both built and eroded as students flee their homelands for countries of refuge. Previously unimaginable educational dreams are possible for some; but for others, long-held dreams become unattainable. The paper concludes with recommendations for better supporting young people through this re-shaping of self.

Impact and interest:

Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

523 since deposited on 29 Oct 2009
1 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 28341
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: No
Additional URLs:
Keywords: school engagement, African refugees, career aspirations
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > LOTE ESL and TESOL Curriculum and Pedagogy (excl. Maori) (130207)
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Office of Education Research
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2009 [please consult the author]
Deposited On: 29 Oct 2009 22:28
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2010 14:07

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page