Special Issue - Refugee-background Students in the Context of Multilingual Policies and Practices


Guest editors:

Aleksandra Ita Olszewska, University of Oslo, Norway

Maria Coady, University of Florida, USA

Tuba Yilmaz, Necmettin Erbakan University, Turkey

Description of the Aim and Scope:

As forced displacement of people continues to transform the global demographic landscape, there are important implications for educational policies and practices, shaped by the socio-political context. More than half of refugees consist of children (UNHCR, 2021). In this volume, we refer to this population of children who attend school as “refugee-background students” (RBSs) (Shapiro et al., 2018). RBSs comprise forcibly-displaced children and youth who participate in education in their transitional and host contexts. As RBSs bring cultural and linguistic diversity to their host schools, there is a great need to examine policies, teacher preparation programs, and accommodations to meet RBSs’ needs, and ways that educators affirm those students’ multilingual identities and language practices.

This special issue seeks to examine and interrogate multilingual policies and practices surrounding the education of RBSs across the world. This volume invites submissions that (a) address critical issues including the socio-political framing of RBSs in education; and (b) investigate multilingual policies and practices that may describe successes and/or challenges for RBSs and the practices of educators who work with them. 

We particularly invite critically-framed papers (e.g., RefugeeCrit, linguicism) that document hostile environments for RBSs (Strekalova-Hughes et al., 2018) and ways they overcome those spaces. We also seek decolonizing, anti-racist, and creative approaches to scholarship (e.g., arts-based, participatory, humanizing, narrative) that ensure sensitivity to RBSs’ experienced trauma and backgrounds (Paris & Winn, 2014; Warriner & Bigelow, 2019). 

This special issue aims to address the following questions: 

  • How do educators negotiate and influence policies (“bottom up”, “top down” or horizontal) for RBSs? 
  • What are exemplary multilingual policies that affirm RBSs in the face of hostile social environments? 
  • How do stakeholders collaborate in terms of creating and implementing multilingual policies? 
  • What is the role of educators engaging with families to support the language and educational development of RBSs?


Refugee-background students, RefugeeCrit, multilingual education, multilingual policies and practices, teacher education, leadership 


Paris, D., & Winn, M. T. (Eds.) (2014). Humanizing research: Decolonizing qualitative inquiry with youth and communities. Sage. 

Shapiro, S., Farrelly, R., & Curry, M. J. (Eds.). (2018). Educating refugee-background students: Critical issues and dynamic contexts. Channel View Publications.

Strekalova-Hughes, E., Bakar, A., Nash, K. T., & Erdemir, E. (2018, April). Refugee critical race theory in education: An emerging ontological and epistemological lens. American Education Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting, New York, NY.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) (2021). Figures at a glance. https://www.unhcr.org/figures-at-a-glance.html

Warriner, D., & Bigelow, M. (Eds.) (2019). Critical reflections on research methods: Power and equity in complex multilingual contexts. Multilingual Matters.