From homeland to home – Refugee Mentoring
Wednesday 3 July: 5:30pm – 7:00pm, poster session
Macquarie University, Australia
Australia, like other liberal democracies, supports the idea of social justice and equality and this includes ensuring equality of opportunity in education through the provision of widening participation (WP) programs. Young people from refugee backgrounds face a raft of complex challenges when entering the Australian education system, stemming from common experiences of disrupted prior education and trauma. Due to a range of factors including limited social and cultural capital, students from refugee backgrounds in most cases need additional guidance and encouragement to attend university. Learning, Education, Aspiration and Participation (LEAP)–Macquarie Mentoring (Refugee Mentoring) Program at Macquarie University in Sydney–is one of such initiatives. In this presentation, the authors who are involved in the evaluation of the program will present an overview of the LEAP program and provide evidence on how the program has made an impact on the academic aspirations of students from refugee backgrounds. From 2013-2016 a mixed method approach was used to evaluate the effectiveness of the LEAP program encompassing three focus groups with 12 mentees in each (n=36) and paper based surveys (n=724).
Key findings highlight that the LEAP program has increased awareness, confidence and motivation towards higher education and improved perception about university. After participating in LEAP, students are more aware of available courses and fields of study, subject and entry requirements, the various pathways to university, and the benefits of obtaining higher education qualifications. Confidence and motivation is also improving. Post LEAP participation, students perceive higher education as a more attainable goal. This has positive implications for students beyond the LEAP cohort: participants often encourage and inspire their peers and students in younger year levels to consider higher education. Greater motivation to complete year 12 and take a university pathway was also noted as a positive change for students involved with LEAP. Students are more willing to study and work harder to achieve their academic potential once they are aware of the value of a higher education qualification and how their school studies relate to their future aspirations. Results also suggest students are more ambitious in terms of their future educational and career prospects. More importantly, the program contributes to the development of educational and social capital for students as they develop confidence, awareness, motivation and a perception towards university that results in widening participation in higher education for students from refugee backgrounds.