Producing a Culture of Inclusion: Inclusive Refugee Education for Syrian Refugee Youth in Jordan

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Producing a Culture of Inclusion: Inclusive Refugee Education for Syrian Refugee Youth in Jordan

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In its 2012-2016 Global Education Strategy, the UNHCR introduced a new paradigm of refugee education that called for inclusive refugee education. In this model of schooling, refugees study the curriculum of the host country, from local teachers and, often, alongside local students. While this model of refugee education is upheld for its potential to provide high quality education for all students, limited research of this context shows refugees experience discrimination and harassment in these spaces (Bellino & Dryden-Peterson, 2018; Mendenhall, Russell, Buckner, 2017). Following the outbreak of conflict in Syria in 2011, over 650,000 Syrians sought safety and protection in Jordan. Over 80 percent of those refugees live in urban areas, and almost half of them are school-aged (UNHCR, 2019). To accommodate the educational needs of Syrian refugee children and youth, the Government of Jordan provides inclusive refugee education such that Syrian refugees attend Jordanian schools and learn the Jordanian curriculum from Jordanian teachers, often alongside Jordanian students. This dissertation draws on 12 months of ethnographic research to examine the processes and practices of inclusive refugee education and the cultural production of “inclusion” that occurs within the educational space of Forseh Tanieh, a non-formal educational program in Jordan. Through this dissertation I advance two arguments. First, I argue that inclusive refugee education holds potential to serve as a space to foster inclusion among refugee and national students. I suggest that the flexible and supportive conditions of non-formal education enable students and teachers to engage in an ongoing process of cultivating, navigating, and contesting inclusion of refugees. Second, I contend that despite its potential, inclusive refugee education is not immune to the social, cultural, political, and economic struggles taking place in society and that these struggles structure and constrain teachers’ and students’ understanding of and approaches to the production of inclusion. Based on my findings, I propose a theory of inclusion in the context of inclusive refugee education that conceptualizes it as an ongoing process that is continually being constructed, navigated, and negotiated by multiple education actors whose interactions in the classroom reflect unequal relations of power in wider Jordanian society.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2019. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisors: Roozben Shirazi, Frances Vavrus. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 302 pages.

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Cohen, Elisheva. (2019). Producing a Culture of Inclusion: Inclusive Refugee Education for Syrian Refugee Youth in Jordan. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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