Aslı İkizoğlu Erensü was supported AB H2020 19-04-2021

FASS Faculty Member Asli İkizoğlu Erensü was eligible to be supported under the call program “AB H2020 Marie Skłodowska Curie Action Individual Fellowships (MSCA-if) 2020”.

Her project title is "Learning the Language of Belonging: Barriers to Inclusion in Refugee Education". Public education creates places for children in the future of a society. This is what the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) intends by promoting the inclusion of refugee children into national education systems in countries of first asylum. However, everyday schooling experiences of refugee children exemplify that education presents less a magic portal to social inclusion than a site of continuous struggle over legitimate membership and equal opportunity.

In Turkey, educational policies towards refugees have undergone a shift that is consistent with the UNHCR strategy following Syrian refugee flows. According to 2019-2020 Ministry of National Education data, around 63% of school-age Syrian children are currently enrolled in formal education. While Turkey has strived to absorb increasing numbers of refugee students, a major point of criticism was the language barrier that students faced. Indeed, Turkey has recently begun ‘adaptation classes’, wherein refugee students are taught Turkish for a maximum of two semesters prior to joining regular classes at their academic level.

My proposed study aims to better understand the barriers to social inclusion in public schooling by examining how adaptation classes socialize refugee students and their caregivers. It is designed with the specific objective of turning the research process into an inclusive experience for its participants by building a university-community partnership and employing participatory action research (PAR) methods. In the first year, I will engage in participant observation in three adaptation classes (one each from primary, middle school and high school levels) and conduct interviews with teachers and students. Together with Sabanci University’s Civic Involvement Projects team, I also hope to organize a Conversation Club and enable regular contact between university students and refugee students. For the second year of research, a participatory action research is planned with the caregivers of refugee students. Here the aim is two-fold: One, to map out caregivers’ expectations from public education and their coping strategies with the problems they encounter in the process. Two, to facilitate refugee caregivers’ participation in public education as legitimate stakeholders by means of co-created research outputs.