Integrating Syrian refugee children in Turkey: The role of Turkish language skills – Gaziantep case study. (English)
This study explores the issues relating to the integration of Syrian refugee children aged between 11-14 years, into the Turkish school system, focusing specifically on the experiences of teachers involved in a secondary school in the city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey. Focus groups were held with the teachers who were experiencing an influx of Syrian refugee children into their classrooms. The data obtained from the teachers illustrate the significant challenges faced as a result of their lack of Turkish language competency, highlighting the importance of Turkish language in facilitating the integration of Syrian refugee children into the Turkish education system. It captures some of the solutions put forward by the teachers, as well as their assessment of the EU ‘Promoting Integration of Syrian Kids into the Turkish Education System’ (PIKTES) which was introduced specifically to address the language needs of Syrian refugee children and run from 2016–2018. Using Paolo Freire’s concept of ‘the pedagogy of the oppressed’ as a theoretical framework, the study argues that while enhancing Turkish language competency is crucial, focusing on language alone will not be sufficient nor effective in supporting the integration of Syrian students into school. Such programmes also need to consider the emotional wellbeing and mental health of Syrian refugee children, who have lived through the traumatic experiences of civil war and displacement. It recommends the importance of introducing parallel strategies that both acknowledge their perspectives within the classroom and enable their integration into the wider school community.