New Report - Supporting Refugee Students in Canada

ESPMI Network

New Report | Supporting Refugee Students in Canada – Building on What We Have Learned in the Past 20 Years

In this report, the authors present the existing literature and policy on refugee students’ K-12 education, well-being, and resettlement in Canadian schools; synthesize the current knowledge in the field; identify gaps in the national literature and policy; and propose future research and policy development. Further research is required to not only understand refugee students’ psychological, social, and educational experiences in Canada, but also to harvest the strategies teachers, policy makers, refugee families, and communities utilize to ease the refugee student transition to Canadian schools.

Key Messages

Refugee students continue to experience socio-psychological challenges.

Teachers, resettlement officers, and policy makers often lack cross-cultural competences, a social justice focus, and transformative leadership skills when working with refugee students. Providing training and professional development opportunities for all stakeholders in education, creating settlement programs for immigrant families within and outside schools, and developing cross-sector partnerships would help refugee students overcome socio-psychological challenges in Canadian schools.

Well-being of a child is an important focus in practice and policy.

Schools can create safe spaces where refugee children can express their concerns and feelings and discuss shared experiences. Cross-cultural transformative leadership is a powerful approach to refugee students’ education, social integration, and wellbeing. Stakeholders in education should develop collaborative multi-level approaches based on trust, community, and mutuality.

Asset-based approach enhances Canadian educational system.

Provinces, which provide an asset-based approach and distinguish between immigrants and refugees, tend to have more relevant policies and guides for educators. Education is treated at the provincial, territorial, and jurisdictional level; therefore, it is important to mobilize educational policies and resources across provinces and territories. Provinces with little to no policies about refugee students can benefit from sharing resources with provinces who have more information and research. Moreover, refugee teachers’ pedagogies could benefit Canadian education.

There are gaps in Canadian refugee education literature and policy.

Canadian literature about K-12 migrant students’ learning and wellbeing explores the experiences of immigrant and/or English language learners, rather than the experiences of refugee students. Gaps also exist in Canadian educational policy; the references used in Canadian educational policy often come from other countries. This policy exchange provides knowledge about supporting refugee students outside Canada while informing Canadian provincial, national, and global policy development. Further research is required to fully understand the strategies teachers, policy makers, refugee families, and communities use to ease the refugee student transition in Canadian schools.

Read the full report.

Read the Policy Brief.


Snežana Ratković, Brock University
Dragana Kovačević, Sheridan College
Courtney A. Brewer, Western University
Claire Ellis, ESPMI Network
Neelofar Ahmed, Brock University
Janelle Baptiste-Brady, University of Toronto

The study is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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