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SCHOOL OF Education



Student name: Saly Zora Student ID number: 16758009


Unit name: Diversity, Social Justice & Learning Unit number: 102083
Tutorial group: Wednesday Tutorial day and time: 12pm
Lecturer or Tutor name: Cathy


Title: Essay 1
Length: 2010 words Due date: 15/08/2016 Date submitted: 14/08/2016
Home campus (where you are enrolled): Penrith- Kingswood


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from the Lecturer / Tutor / Unit Coordinator for this unit.
No part of the assignment/product has been written/produced for me by any other person except
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signature: Saly Zora (I agree to all of the above)
Note: An examiner or lecturer / tutor has the right to not mark this assignment if the above declaration has
not been signed.
Chose one contemporary social justice issue currently being focused upon in
the media such as sexuality, gender, language, refugees or ethnicity and
discuss how Australian schools are meeting the challenge of equity and access
for minority groups.

It is vital for students to build professional relationship with their teachers and to have a
sense of belonging amongst their peers. Students need to feel equal in a diverse
environment which means no matter which ethnic group, race, class, gender or sexuality
they are they need to feel as though they are not discriminated against and that they are all
treated equally.
In this essay I will discuss how refugee students have been treated within the education
system and if they have been given adequate support in Australian schools to allow them to
succeed. Furthermore, I will outline if the curriculum is appropriately designed to foster
these students learning needs. Through the use of different theories such as critical race
theory, neoliberalism and functionalism I will distinguish how they play a role in the
education system and how it affects the teachings of refugee students. The concept of
whiteness and how it affects the educational system will also be discussed in this essay.
Finally, some case studies will be used to compare how different schools deal with refugee
students and what type of programs are used to assist these students in need.

According to Gale & Densmore, 2001 they argue that when it comes to practicing social
justice not everyone agrees about how students should be treated and what ‘playing fair’
means for teachers. Study shows that Indigenous people, migrants and refugees can
sometimes become scapegoats within the school system and can experience racism on
formal and informal levels (Mansouri & Jenkins, 2010, p. 96). The effect of racism has been
detrimental to many migrants & refugee students. Racial and cultural abuse may cause a
lack of interest to learn, anti-social behaviours, and the risk of early school leaving which
may lead to other problems in the future. A case study was conducted to show how a
particular school in South Western Sydney had used a number of teaching methods to cater
to migrants and refugees. Fairfield High School concentrated on refugee students which
necessitated professional learning activities that highlighted the special needs of the
students. The activities were a mixture of lessons and activities that allowed for successful
teaching of students (Brown & Krŭ steva, 2013, p.156).
Schools like Fairfield High School which have a diverse culture, offer students an
environment that allows them to engage in learning and more importantly they are within a
safe and acceptable institution.

Taylor & Sidhu, 2012 discuss that refugees have been neglected in the sense that education
policymakers have had more of a focus on migrants and multiculturalism rather than paying
attention to refugees. However, it is the responsibility of the schools to treat refugees
equally as every other student. Refugees who have come from a war torn country may
require more attention and assistance as they may be going through some psychological
issues. A UK study has shown that refugee children were often seen as ‘problems’ and that
there was inadequate resources and support for these students. The main issues in refugee
education that were identified within this study was delivering adequate language support,
understanding about refugee students’ experiences and meeting the students’ psycho-social
and emotional needs (Jones & Rutter, 1998). As there were inadequate resources to support
these students it could have come from a lack of knowledge and teachers not understanding
how to satisfy these students’ needs. Research shows that language is the main barrier for
refugee students and because language is a vital tool for intercultural relations it can lead to
the assertion of power and dominance by English speaking students on an informal level
such as racial name- calling and put downs or on a more formal platform via teachers and
administration who demonstrate racially & culturally insensitive teaching practices and this
can be the key element of ‘Critical Race Theory’ (Mansouri & Jenkins, 2010).

Critical Race Theory sees that racism is the norm within the school system and that racism
has ‘taken place because these attitudes and behaviours have become an ingrained part of
social interactions’ (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001, p.7). Refugees arriving to Australia have
come to seek a better life, a life that allows them to get a job and to have an education and
to be treated with equity and equality, but unfortunately that isn’t always the case.
Australia accepts thousands of refugees annually where majority come from war torn
countries such as Afghanistan & Iraq to name a few. These refugees are placed in an
educational institute that offers minimal support, an institute that has partial knowledge
about their situation and habitus. They often come here with little money, minimal to none
social support and a lack of knowledge of the language and culture which often impacts
employment and education. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus is defined as ‘durable set of
dispositions that people carry within them that shapes their attitudes, behaviours and
responses to given situations’ (Webb, Shirato & Danahar, 2003, p. 27) their habitus allows
them to believe if they are to succussed or fail, however, Mills (2005) argues that ‘it is an
educator’s pedagogy, practice and expectations that can afford opportunities for
development of a transformative habitus’.

Within society ‘whiteness’ is considered to be of privilege which can ‘reveal the hegemonic
power of a dominant group’ (Mansouri & Jenkins, 2010, p. 96). Whiteness has always been
defined as the dominant group throughout history. This perception of whiteness being the
dominant discourse has allowed for white teachers, which are the majority of teachers
within the Australian school system, to possess power in the classroom. We understand that
refugee students have little to no knowledge of the Australian schooling system and more
so they struggle with the language, they become an easy target within the school and are
often classified as ‘other’ because they don’t belong or perhaps fit in with the white
population. Schools are responsible for equal learning, thus refugee students and white
students should both be given the same amount of support and opportunities to succeed.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, statistics from the 2009 PISA test show that refugees
perform far worse compared to are non-refugee students (OECD education report highlights
refugee disadvantage: expert, 2016). This could be impacted by neoliberalism as it
standardises the curriculum and measures knowledge and competence based on testing
regimes such as the NAPLAN & PISA test.

Case studies that were conducted focused on schools that had refugee students, these
studies were done to examine how the schools and teachers dealt with educating refugee
students. Most of the results of these studies showed that the teachers had a lack of
knowledge as to how to teach refugees and some blamed the curriculum for not catering to
these students. Literature shows that ‘92% of teachers claimed the support measures were
inadequate to meet their immigrant students’ language needs’ (Brown & Krŭ steva, 2013, p.
204). Melbourne Declaration of Educational Goals for Young Australians outlines the
importance of “Targeted support to help disadvantaged young Australians to achieve better
educational outcomes” (MCEETYA, 2008). From the case study conducted it is evident that
refugees are not supported in all schools due to a lack of resources. Teachers need a holistic
understanding of these students in order to design lessons that will help the students build
personal skills to teach them honesty and resilience, furthermore the curriculum should
incorporate programs/ activities that are directed at refugee students in order to value their
work and understand the concept of learning and more importantly allow students to build
social skills that will help them later on in life.

Through research that was carried out it was confirmed that refugee students are
underprivileged and because there aren’t much resources to assist them in their studies this
is reflected in the PISA results. Ken Cruickshank, an Associate Professor of Education at
Sydney University quotes that “Segmentation of schools is the main contributor to the
increase of inequality in education results and disadvantaged schools with kids from, Arabic-
speaking backgrounds without the resources” (OECD education report highlights refugee
disadvantage: expert, 2016). There is a gap that exists between refugee students and non-
refugee students and it is the policymaker’s responsibility to provide a permanent solution
to close this gap. Inequality and marginalisation exists because of functionalism. Although
functionalism as Durkheim explains it as functions performed by the education system to
teach us set of norms and values so that everyone feels part of the same culture and there is
social solidarity, this maybe a positive outcome of functionalism, nonetheless, it does also
focus heavily on meritocracy. Meritocracy exists within our schools and awards merits to
those who put in the hard work, but how is one supposed to receive merit if the resources
that they need within the school’s limit to exist.

The department of education’s policy ‘Multicultural Education Policy’ was produced to assist
refugee students. The policy states ‘It commits schools to providing opportunities that
enable all students to achieve equitable education and social outcomes and participates
successfully in our culturally diverse society’ (Multicultural Education Policy, 2016). The
policy further entails that schools need to provide positive and harmonious learning
environments and to deliver a curriculum that satisfies the learning requirements for
refugee students and to set out programs to enable students to learn English. Programs
such as English as a Second Language (ESL) has been implemented in schools to provide
further development in their literacy skills and to increase their quality of life. The
introduction of ESL programs has benefited refugee students as it allows them learn English
and more importantly this allows them to have other opportunities such as gaining
employment or even continuing to tertiary studies. Furthermore, ESL allows refugee
students to partake in more difficult subjects. Within my KLA, biology and chemistry, these
two subjects require students to have good literacy skills for a chance to succussed and
programs like ESL are giving these refugee students the opportunity to do such subjects.

The NSW Department of Education who have set out the ‘Multicultural Education Policy’
have focused heavily on literacy and how to assist refugee students with their English. While
that’s all very positive and helpful for these students, it does however neglect other aspects
such as racism and bullying. While it is equal in one area, literacy, it fails to mention that
refugee students may be facing other issues. Effective pedagogy should be adopted by
teachers to assist in grasping the students’ situation and the hardship they faced, “teachers
who use culturally responsive pedagogy, use the cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and
performance styles of diverse students to make learning more appropriate and effective for
them” (Gay, 2000, p. 29). The ‘Multicultural Education Policy’ does not specify that these
students require other programs other than ESL to assist in their learning such as
counselling or any other academic support other than ESL. Refugee students need more
than just English help, they require to be in a safe and accepting environment as they are
vulnerable due their life experiences and the trauma they have endured.

Australian schools are meeting the challenge of equity and access for minority groups such
as refugees by trying to create appropriate programs for these students. There are a few
theories that are associated with the education system and how these theories link to
education. When refugees arrive to Australia they are faced with many problems but the
most significant is language. Not being able to speak English has been a major issue for
these students because they are not able to perform as well as other students especially in
the national tests. However, whilst there are some issues in schools that refugees face study
also show that equity exists in Australian schools for minority groups such as refugees and
programs such as ESL have been established to allow refugee students to perform in literacy
tasks. Nevertheless, the Australian curriculum has been designed to help teachers provide
the support and assistance the refugee students require, although there are limited
resources there are a hand full of schools that are trying to give these students an
opportunity to succeed.
Gale, T. & Densmore, K. (2000). Playing fair: Who gets what and why?.Just schooling.
Buckingham: Open University Press.

Mansouri, F. & Jenkins, L. (2010). Schools as Sites of Race Relations and Intercultural
Tension. Australian Journal of Teacher Education, 35(7).

Brown, E. & Krŭ steva, A (2013). Migrants and refugees: Equitable Education for Displaced
Populations. (2013) (p. 159, 204).

Taylor, S. & Sidhu, R. (2012). Supporting refugee students in schools: what constitutes
inclusive education?. International Journal Of Inclusive Education, 16(1), 39-56.

Rutter, J. & Jones, C. (1998). Refugee education. Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire, England:
Trentham Books.

Delgado, R. & Stefancic, J. (2012). Critical race theory. New York: New York University Press.

Webb, J., Shirato, T. & Danaher, G. (2003). Bourdieu and secondary schools. In
Understanding Bourdieu (p. 27). Sydney: Allen & Unwin.

Mills, C. (2008). Reproduction and transformation of inequalities in schooling: The

transformative potential of the theoretical constructs of Bourdieu. British Journal of
Sociology of Education, 29 (1), 79–89
OECD education report highlights refugee disadvantage: expert. (2016). News. Retrieved 14
August 2016, from

Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs

(MCEEYA, 2008). Melbourne declaration on educational goals for young Australians.
Retrieved from

Multicultural Education Policy. (2016). Retrieved 14 August 2016, from

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally responsive teaching. New York: Teachers College Press. (p. 29).