Borderless Education? The Unknowable Futures of Refugee Children
Sarah Dryden-Peterson

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

Comparative Education
Half of out-of-school children globally live in settings of armed conflict, and learning outcomes in these contexts are among the worst in the world. This books focuses on the educational experiences of refugee children and young people, drawing on a decade of field-based research in refugee contexts globally. The book argues that the education of refugees illuminates dilemmas at the crossroads of globalization. There are increasing global interactions around education through multilateralism, bilateral cooperation, global social movements, and formal and informal exchanges of information and ideas. And yet, educational institutions may be among the last to be significantly altered by globalization processes. In the goals they represent through structures and curriculum and how they define who belongs, both physically and vis-à-vis identity, education systems are inherently national. The book documents how current approaches to refugee education reflect national and global politics, but they are less attentive to the needs of refugee children for an unknowable and uncertain future. This book documents the failure of global structures of international development to make good on the right to education and the individual and societal futures this right might enable. It also explores spaces of possibility within the radical uncertainty that refugees face and examines the intervening structures that influence refugee children’s trajectories through uncertain presents and unknowable futures.
About Sarah Dryden-Peterson
Sarah Dryden-Peterson is an Associate Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her work focuses on the connections between education and community development. She examines issues such as the role of social institutions in immigrant/refugee integration, the connections between education and family livelihoods, and transnational institution-building. Her work is situated in conflict and post-conflict settings globally, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and with Diaspora communities. She is concerned with the interplay between local experiences of children, families, and teachers and the development and implementation of national and international policy. She works closely with national governments, United Nations agencies, and international and local NGOs. Her work has been published in Teachers College Record, Comparative Education Review, Theory and Research in Education, among other academic and public venues (

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