This paper draws on research designed to provide an understanding of the Convention of the Right of the Child and policy strategies targeted to assist newly arrived refugee children in Ireland and Sweden. The study analyses the responses of these two European welfare states and the use of political strategies to support new refugee children’s right to education at a time of increased social, ethnic and religious conflict in the world. .
We utilise ‘Social Representations Theory’ as a useful theoretical starting point for understanding education policy processes targeting specific groups and communities. In line with Moscovici (2001), Chaib & Orfali (Eds.) (2000), Jodelet (2011, 2015), we argue that the analysis of social representations gives relevant knowledge about how groups and individuals construct, communicate and share different versions of the world. Social representations are values, norms and knowledge systems that enable individuals to orientate themselves in their social world (Moscovici, 1984, 2000, 2001). These representation systems function as common explanations of the real world constructed and shared by members of a social group and are communicated through words, media images, objects and behaviours. Social representations are socially shared practical knowledge that aims to inform social behaviours and communications and help individuals everyday transactions in a complex social world (Jodelet, 1989, 2011;2015) and deal with contradictions in relation to policies targeted for vulnerable groups (Gilly 1989).
Methodologically, key political documents regarding current national strategies implemented by Irish and Swedish national authorities were analysed. The documents were analysed by posing the following questions: • Which social representations of refugee children are present in the education policies/ suggested in these texts? • Which strategies to guaranteed refugee children’s ‘right to education’ are related to social representations? • What do the responses of Sweden and Ireland tell us about regarding the relationship between social representations and strategies? Further, in relation to these questions, the reading of the texts focused on a number of aspects, such as: Descriptions of newly arrived refugee children in the political texts; arguments to legitimise the introduction of strategies. The extent of education policy on education for refugee children is included in these arguments; the emphasis on ‘children’s rights’ and the underpinning of human rights law in the form of the European Convention on Human Rights to which both countries are a party; references to leading research on Children’s rights and on Newly arrived refugee children in these descriptions and arguments for strategies. The analysed documents are the following: • The European Convention on Human Rights, • The Convention of the Right of the Child • The European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights, • The European Social Charter and UN Human Rights Treaties • The Irish constitution (Ireland) • The Aliens Act 1935& The Aliens Order 1946 (Ireland) • The amended regulations implementing the EU Rights of Residence Directives (Ireland) • The Immigration Act 1999 (Ireland) • National Budget for Ireland and Sweden 2014-2016 • National School Acts and school regulation documents for Ireland and Sweden • Swedish School Inspectore report 2014:03 Education for newly arrived refugee pupils Quality Evaluation [Skolinspektionens rapport 2014:03 Utbildningen för nyanlända elever, Kvalitetsgranskning](Sweden) • The Swedish National Agency for Education documents target to newly arrived refugees pupils (Sweden)
This on-going research study demonstrates how social representations of child refugees can be used by political actors in leading education policy processes as an interpretation system to manage immediate political needs and to reconcile with European treaty obligations. Finally, the paper shows how education research focused on Children Rights can be used in the development of leading education policies targeted to assist vulnerable groups in Europe at a time of significant of global conflicts.
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