There is an increasing interest in policy and research regarding the educational experiences of refugee and asylum-seeking children. In many countries across the globe these children constitute a growing segment of the student population. Like other student categories, refugee and asylum-seeking children have rights to an equal and meaningful education. Nevertheless, numerous research contributions have proven that these children are, from the outset, in a disadvantaged position that has been further exacerbated by poorly educated teachers, a lack of resources, the absence of appropriate support, exclusion, and isolation. There is far less evidence of positive examples. Three distinct perspectives have been widely discussed in the literature: a) inclusion and exclusion through organizational spaces; b) pedagogical practices and classroom-based interventions; and c) relations between schools and refugee and asylum-seeking parents. A review of the literature suggests that refugee and asylum-seeking students or, for that matter, other migrant students with poor socioeconomic status in a host country will never have equal educational opportunities unless their previous experiences are properly assessed, understood, and recognized and unless their first language is acknowledged as a vital vehicle for learning. Furthermore, scaffolding must be provided by language support teachers, and students must be granted access to inclusive spaces on the same terms as other non-migrant students. Finally, parents ought to be provided with platforms for active involvement and a tangible opportunity to advocate for their children’s educational rights.
Advances in different disciplinary traditions suggest that the classification of languages into standard and non-standard, official and popular, and school and home languages has more to do with power relations than factors intrinsic to language as such. Such classifications, in school space and beyond, articulate hierarchical relations constituted through interaction of class, race, and ethnicity in specific historic context. An examination of the process of classification of languages gives us important insights into the interrelation between social and learner identity of students in school and about discourses of power in general. Scholars from a political economic perspective have argued how identification and hierarchical positioning of languages as high and low status in school context contribute to the process of social reproduction of class based inequality through education. In recent years the reproduction framework has been challenged for being too rigidly framed on the grids of class while ignoring the gendered and ethnic identity of students that might influence and constitute the language practice of students. The approaches that view language use in school as an act of identity production have generated a number of interesting insights in this field, but these have also been subjected to criticism because of their tendency to essentialize social identities. Many of these have also been questioned for directly or indirectly employing a cultural deficit theory on the basis of class, race, or ethnicity. Such concerns necessitate a shift of focus toward examination of the process through which the very category of standard languages, considered appropriate for schooling, emerges. In this respect the work of Pierre Bourdieu is significant in highlighting the political economic context of how certain languages come to acquire higher value than the others. Another perspective emerges from critical studies of colonial encounters that relied on classification of languages as one of the techniques of modern governance. Investigations of such colonial pasts explicate how linguistic groups are imagined, identified, and classified in a society. Postcolonial scholars have argued that such colonial classificatory techniques continue to influence much of social science research today. Methods of research, particularly in the field of education, have been affected by these process to such an extent that our attempts at recovery of non-standard, multilingual speech forms are affected by the very process of investigation. Consequently, studying languages in the school context becomes a more complicated exercise as one is trapped in the very categories which one seeks to open up for investigation. The decolonization of school space, therefore, calls for a fresh methodological approach to undertake study of languages in the school context.
Ruth Mercado and Epifanio Espinosa
A specific comparative framework that incorporates an interpretive process dedicated to developing a more complex understanding of teaching knowledge incorporates the specific local contexts in which studies on teaching knowledge are conducted. Research on teaching knowledge within the region grew and diversified from the 1980s and 1990s. There are two key thematic contributions of this body of research: the nature of teaching knowledge and pedagogical approaches to teaching specific curricular content focusing on early literacy. Points of comparison between the different contributions of studies addressing teaching knowledge can be found. Additionally, institutional and social inequalities are manifested in schools and education in Latin American countries. Teaching knowledge, which teachers produce in and adapt to different social spaces (in other words, through practice), is crucial for fostering the development and learning of the students who attend school under the challenging conditions of the schools in these countries.