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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Features of academic programs that are helping students from refugee backgrounds to succeed academically White, Julie Anne


The number of persons forcibly displaced worldwide has surged to levels higher than at any other point in history. In 2019 this population reached 79.5 million, with 26 million persons forced to flee across borders or state lines under the title or status of refugee (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR], 2020). Of these 26 million persons, 52 percent are children under the age of 18, with 7.1 million children of school age, and 3.7 million of these school aged children living in regions without access to schooling (UNHCR, 2019). In 2018, 28,076 new Canadian citizens arrived from refugee backgrounds, with 10,999 of these new entrants, under the age of 17 (Mendicino, 2019). In the present study, academic settings were viewed as offering a viable point of observation in seeking to gain insight and understanding into the academic experiences of students from refugee backgrounds. A qualitative meta-synthesis was used to systematically source, appraise, and analyze qualitative research findings to explore the academic successes of students from refugee backgrounds (Sandelowski & Barroso, 2007; Spradley, 1979). Findings from 16 qualitative research reports were thematically analyzed to highlight seven themes, 26 subthemes, and 90 features of academic programs that were shown to contribute to the academic success of refugee students. Thematic results generated from the meta-synthesis highlight the importance of: educator care and creativity; representation of student language, culture, and experience; and additional school supports. These factors were shown to provide cumulative support for student learning and success, in addition to fostering feelings of safety, connection, enjoyment, and engagement for students from refugee backgrounds.

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