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Education and Cultural Navigation for Children in Refugee Resettlement Contexts  

Jieun Sung and Rachel Wahl

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over half of the 25.4 million refugees worldwide are children under the age of 18. Given the instability and precariousness that displaced persons may experience, the provision of education for these children is of significant concern. Interaction between the culture of the host society and the cultures of immigrants, including experiences related to education, is a key aspect of transitioning to a new national environment. These interactions may be particularly salient for displaced populations, considering the particular circumstances and life trajectories that are characteristic of refugees and generally not shared by other immigrant groups. Empirical research on refugee children’s education in resettlement countries highlights the significance of acculturative processes for experiences and outcomes of schooling, as well as the importance of educational settings in facilitating cultural interaction—that is, the interlocking and complementary nature of acculturation and education. Education and cultural navigation are linked in significant ways, such that even as education facilitates the cultural exposure and integration of newcomer individuals to a receiving society, acculturation itself is associated with adaptation to the school context and academic experiences. In other words, educational and acculturative processes can facilitate and reinforce each other. Additional research that examines more specifically processes of cultural navigation by refugee children in particular can further illuminate the factors that shape their experience of education in resettlement contexts.