Education for forced migrants: Resources for the practitioner

Most who have worked extensively in education agree that mode of delivery largely depends on the student profile. That profile isn’t limited to level of [insert language] or abilities in math, but extends to much more dynamic characteristics such as socioeconomic level, cultural background and past experiences. Through my experiences as an educational practitioner, I can attest that these characteristics become even more important when working with marginalized youth. In many cases, refugee children find themselves within this group, either because of unavailable/inadequate services that support these youth in their healing or because of systemic failures to devise integration strategies that both educate on host country values while respecting personal identity.

As a means of knowledge sharing, I’ve prepared a short list of literary resources that I found particularly useful while working on educational programming for forced migrants. Most of the following works do not conceptualize education as the practice of ‘educating’, but rather as an integrative and holistic approach that asks children to reflect on their past and current existence. They also promote the values that education should be reflexive, collaborative, and informed by student interest and needs.

 The Oxoxfordhandbookford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies (2014). Edited by Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Gil Loescher, Katy Long and Nando Sigona. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Although this handbook offers little information on educational projects or approaches for refugees, it’s an essential resource for educators that are new to the field of forced migration. Chapters in both “Part IV: Root causes of displacement” and “Part V: Lived experiences and representations of forced migration” are particularly noteworthy as they illustrate a vivid picture of the refugee experience and some of the challenges they may face.


Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970). Written by Paulo Freire. Continupedagogyoftheoppressedum International Publishing Group, 2011, New York.

One of the most referenced books on educational philosophy, this work by Freire is essential. A short but heavy read, Freire advances an approach to education that rejects the concept of ‘student as an empty vessel’ (banking model), underlining that personal identities, mutual understandings and shared cultural assets are central to learning for freedom. Throughout the book, Freire advances an empowerment model for education where “(…) those who have been completely marginalized are so radically transformed, they are no longer willing to be mere objects, responding to changes occurring around them; they are more likely to decide to take upon themselves the struggle to change the structures of society, which until now have served to oppress them” (33).

education-refugees-and-asylum-seekersEducation, Refugees and Asylum Seekers (2012). Edited by Lala Demirdjan. Continuum International Publishing Group, London.

A comprehensive resource advocating on why education has such a critical role in the discussion on forced migration, the highlight of this book is undoubtedly its rich bank of case studies. Notably, learnt lessons, observations and research in the implementation of educational programming for forced migrants in Thailand, England, United States and Palestine make up the bulk of this resource. The span of these case studies, spread across various socioeconomic contexts, makes this book versatile and useful to a wide audience of practitioners.

educatingtraumatizedchildrenEducating Traumatized Children (2013). Written by Bernd Ruf. Lindisfarne Books, Great Barrington.

Trauma is consistent with the reality of many fleeing war and conflict, and for those working with individuals having this profile, it is essential to understand it. Having decades of experience working with traumatized children, Ruf digs deep into the psychological process of suffering and how it affects the cognitive ability to learn. Throughout, he outlines an accessible framework for working with those who have not yet healed or are in the process of doing so.


supportingrefugeechildrenSupporting Refugee Children: Strategies for Educators (2011). Written by Jan Stewart. University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division, Toronto.

This book is the golden resource for educators working with refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs. The first section of Stewart’s book does a thorough and definitive summary of causes, processes and effects of forced migration. The second, and most useful for the classroom, is a brilliantly assembled collage of lesson plans divided into various character building outcomes: self-expression, personal awareness, resilience, and much more.

Other useful resources:

INEE Minimum Standards Handbook
Global Partnership for Education