Where Do I Belong? Examining the Inclusion and Exclusion of Syrian Refugees in Integrated Schools in Jordan
Elisheva Cohen

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Minnesota

Primary Discipline

In its 2012-2016 Education Strategy, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) overthrew decades of widespread educational practice, which segregated refugee students in their own schools with the home curriculum taught through mother-tongue instruction. Instead, the new strategy called for the integration of refugees into national school systems. To accommodate the educational needs of the 300,000 Syrian refugee children and youth living in Jordan, the government adopted the UNHCR Education Strategy and required that all education programs include both Syrians and Jordanians. While thousands of refugee students receive education in this integrated context, little is known about its effect on the lived experiences of schooling and how it shapes notions of inclusion and exclusion in the classroom. In this 12-month ethnographic study, I examine the process of cultural citizenship among Syrian refugee youth, what Ong (1996) refers to as the “dual process of self-making and being-made.” This study sheds light on the processes that shape young refugees’ notions of belonging as formed through the school, a key institution through which young refugees encounter the state and the dominant discourses that shape the parameters of membership in society. Understanding how daily practices of schooling construct notions of belonging and how student experience inclusion/exclusion in school is critical for providing a just and equitable education for refugees and migrants around the world that will foster a positive sense of belonging not only in schools, but in society at large.
About Elisheva Cohen
Elisheva Cohen is a PhD Candidate in Comparative and International Development Education at the University of Minnesota. Her research is situated at the intersection of anthropology of education, comparative education, and education in conflict and crisis, with a focus on refugee education. She is interested in non-formal education programs offered in times of conflict and reconstruction, and the ways in which education contributes to the development of civic practices, notions of citizenship and state-building. Her dissertation research, funded by a Fulbright Fellowship, employs ethnographic methods to examine the ways in which educational programs foster inclusive environments for Syrian refugees and country nationals in Jordan. Elisheva holds a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University and an M.A. in International Education and Development from Columbia University, Teachers College. She is from Boston, MA and currently lives with her husband in St. Paul, MN.

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