Hanging in the balance: when refugee learners’ naturalization depends on their acquisition of cultural knowledge and English language proficiency

Hewagodage, Vineetha (2015) Hanging in the balance: when refugee learners’ naturalization depends on their acquisition of cultural knowledge and English language proficiency. [Thesis (PhD/Research)]

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This research investigated the educational, social, political and philosophical constructs of the Australian Citizenship Test (ACT) test, which were found to be problematic in design, and exclusionary in effect on African Refugee and Humanitarian Entrants (RHEs) from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB), who begin with limited or no print literacy skills in their first language (L1) and have limited literacy skills in English language (L2), yet these immigrants need Australian citizenship the most. It explored and interpreted the role of the ACT in determining the factors and conditions this subgroup perceived as affecting their integration into Australian society. In a case study approach, first, 30 English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers of the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP), from 15 institutions, participated in a survey. Second, in one regional area, ten teachers were interviewed, classroom observations were made, and students interviewed. Finally, eight NESB, RHEs were purposively selected to investigate their individual literacy difficulties, and their perceptions of the challenge of social integration. This subgroup of refugees was found to have such an impoverished knowledge of first language literacy skills and learning skills that they were unable to build sufficient literacy in a time frame that was conducive to the need for citizenship and its accompanying benefits. Being in this ‘catch-twenty-two’ situation and combined with their lack of empowerment through English literacy, contributed to feelings of frustration, and being overwhelmed and depressed. The findings indicated that this group with limited or no print literacy skills in L1 and no literacy skills in L2 faced a number of social exclusionary practices in their integration process. Key recommendations advised: (i) typical ESL pedagogical practices need to be more invitational for this group and better designed to take account of their literacy development within the context of their refugee life experiences and personal histories, and (ii) the initial curriculum needs to include (a) a deeper appreciation of their lack of preparedness to become proficient in the English language and be able to read and write, and (b) the language, cultural, social and emotional barriers that mitigate preparing for the ACT. Overall, these findings suggest there is an optimum time for awarding full citizenship rights, which point to the need for a different type of test or process, that can ensure such refugees ‘societal advantage’ rather than them being left ‘hanging in the balance.’

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Item Type: Thesis (PhD/Research)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Linguistics, Adult and Specialist Education
Supervisors: O'Neil, Shirley
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2015 01:49
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015 01:49
Uncontrolled Keywords: Australian Citizen Test, literacy, African refugees, language, literacy, citizenship
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2003 Language Studies > 200399 Language Studies not elsewhere classified
20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2002 Cultural Studies > 200299 Cultural Studies not elsewhere classified
URI: http://eprints.usq.edu.au/id/eprint/27724

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