Educational expectations of Bhutanese refugee parents: have they been met post-settlement in Cairns, Far North Queensland

19 Nov 2014

Abstract: In the 1980s religious and ethnic persecution in Bhutan resulted in the exodus of around 100 000 Bhutanese of ethnic Nepali decent. Despite sometimes appalling conditions in the camps, the Bhutanese refugees saw education as a high priority and initiated programs that ensured their children were schooled (Caritas, 2013). Against this context, a qualitative case study was conducted to explores some of the Bhutanese refugee parents’ educational expectations prior to and post settlement in Cairns, Far North Queensland. Interviews were conducted with Bhutanese families and migrant settlement case workers. The study reveals that Bhutanese refugee parents held high expectation that their children would attend high school upon resettlement in Australia. The study also reveals that some Bhutanese refugee young people were denied enrolment to high school because of their age. The study identified the existence of cultural and intergenerational tensions with post-settlement educational expectations. The article discusses how the lack of knowledge and cultural differences between Australian and Bhutanese/Nepalese education systems, undoubtedly contributed to some parents’ educational expectations not being met. Finally the article recommends a greater level of transparency in the education enrolment process to mitigate potential misperceptions in enrolment eligibility.

Dr Philemon Chigeza is a lecturer in the School of Education, at James Cook University, Cairns.  
Debbie Lau is a Special Needs teacher in Brisbane and recently completed her Honours degree in Education at James Cook University, Cairns.

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