Stigma, stereotypes and support: the 3S in navigating complex journeys from Intensive English Centres to higher education for students from refugee backgrounds in Australia
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This study examined the experiences of students from refugee backgrounds (SfRBs) as they transitioned from Intensive English Centres (IECs) based at metropolitan high schools in Western Australia (WA) into higher education. Focus group discussions revealed that SfRBs were highly motivated and held aspirations for completion of tertiary study. Enabling factors included a supportive IEC environment, social and family support and tailored university enabling courses. However, students also faced barriers such as competing priorities, learning difficulties remaining undiagnosed and standardised testing. Individual in-depth interviews with key informants provided context and policy perspectives, such as the impact of settlement service policy changes on the provision of adequate services. There is limited literature on the experiences of students transitioning from IECs through the Australian education system. The findings of this study help to critically understand the unique experiences of young people from refugee backgrounds navigating the WA education system and reiterate the need for inclusive and supportive policies. Recommendations for universities and future research include the development of culturally appropriate tools to identify learning difficulties in SfRBs, and capturing the knowledge and capacity of IEC educators.
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