Refugee children’s prior educational experiences, not their academic aptitude, may be the most significant indicator of how they’ll perform in U.S. schools,.
Sarah Dryden-Peterson, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, found that refugee children—many of them English-language learners—spend a “disproportionate amount of their time learning languages,” which can contribute to falling behind in age-appropriate academic content.
“The histories of resettled refugee children are often hidden from their teachers and other school staff in the United States by factors such as language barriers, privacy concerns, cultural misunderstandings, and stereotypes,” she wrote.
Dryden-Peterson’s analysis drew on United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reports on educationquality and access along with field-based case studies on the educational experiences of refugee children in their countries of first asylum before arrival to the United States. The studies involved children originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, and Syria.
A version of this article appeared in the November 11, 2015 edition of Education Week as Refugees in School