Surviving to Thriving: Post-secondary Education for Refugee Youth in Smaller Centres in Canada

The research investigates refugee youth’s aspirations for and access to post-secondary education in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The theoretical framework that underpins this study consists of segmented assimilation theory and the bioecological model of human development. A basic qualitative research approach was employed. Twenty refugee youths and three staff members from educational service providers participated in this study. Data were collected through one-on-one semi-structured interviews. Findings revealed that new life in Canada instilled hope into refugee youth as they aspired to get into university after high school. Refugee youth referred to their parents, support teachers and staff in high school, their friends, and university academic advisors as important people who helped them realize their educational goals. In addition, three educational programs were identified by refugee youth as helpful in preparing them for post-secondary education. Nonetheless, refugee youth’s access to post-secondary education was impeded by a number of barriers, including financial difficulties resulting from the repayment of transportation loans and a lack of target scholarships for refugee students pursuing post-secondary education, lack of information about post-secondary admission requirements, scholarships, and on-campus employment opportunities, negative peer influence from refugee students who were less motivated, limited communication with local peers, and fear of the unknown and the academic challenges they would face in post-secondary education. In addition, refugee youth aged 19 or over found it difficult to further their education due to the policy of high school age limits and a lack of appropriate adult educational programs geared to their needs. Recommendations were also offered to reduce these barriers such as eliminating transportation loans and offering targeted scholarships and bursaries to refugee youth; providing refugee youth with information and assistance they need to make informed decisions about their education and career; increasing the number of ESL teachers at the secondary level and continuing to offer ESL support for college and university refugee students; and optimizing language and academic support for refugee young adults with goals of pursuing post-secondary education.

Hua Que
Degree: PhD
Status: Completed (2020)
Supervisor: Dr. Xuemei Li
Department and University: Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland