Haswell, Nicholas (Tampere University)

Pinto-Bello, Raquel (EPN)

Yli-Jokipii, Maija (Tampere University) 

Huion, Patricia (UCLL)


UNESCO’s Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2020 highlights a widespread lack of educational inclusion in countries around the world. Amidst the increasing cultural diversity in education systems caused by the ongoing refugee crisis and increased levels of migration throughout the world, many teachers do not adjust their teaching to students’ cultural diversity because they do not believe it possible or desirable. In the project EMERgenCeS (Erasmus+, KA2), we challenge that belief, advocating a Global Citizenship educational approach that focuses on, and combines, decolonising and culturally-responsive pedagogies. With this approach, we argue, teachers in multicultural settings have the potential to establish a “Third Space” in which to meet, and simultaneously include and be included by, their students and colleagues. Educational inclusion thus becomes a mutual, and mutually-beneficial, process, shared by both teachers and students. In this paper, we offer a theoretical outline of the approach and highlight the importance of teachers’ critical reflection on host countries’ past practices of colonialism and cultural subjugation practices, and acknowledgement of their continued influence on the sociocultural power relations of contemporary education systems. We briefly examine the histories of six European Union member states through a post-colonial lens to highlight the widespread and continued influence of the past on the present. The present refugee crisis, we argue, brings these often ignored or hidden legacies of the past to light. By participating in the process of critical reflection, teachers with a refugee background can play a vital role in establishing an educational “Third Space” in host countries, thus helping to create inclusive learning environments.




Yli-Jokipii, Maija (Tampere University)

Zavrtanik, Lucija (ASES)

Haswell, Nicholas (Tampere University)

Pinto-Bello, Raquel (UCLL)


In this paper we present some key results of our EU project EMERGenCeS Erasmus+ (KA204-060226) which aims to find best practices in helping teachers with refugee backgrounds integrate into European Union countries. We collected data about refugee-educational initiatives and media-reported success stories from seven EU countries, looking for factors in the data that help refugees make use of their previous knowledge and find meaningful careers in their host countries. The aim of this project is to contribute new perspectives to discussions about learning in refugee integration contexts. 

You´ll find it here
Elements of success: Finding good practices of integration for teachers with refugee backgrounds — Suomi (kieliverkosto.fi)




Pinto-Bello, Raquel (UCLL) 

Yli-Jokipii, Maija (Tampere University)

Haswell, Nicholas (Tampere University)

Huion, Patricia (UCLL) 


In this methodological paper we are approaching the question How can teachers with refugee backgrounds be better integrated into host-country education systems. The paper is part of the European Union-funded Erasmus+ project: EMERgenCeS: Merging Refugee-Educators Competencies and Skills (KA204-060226). We are also discussing the design and implementation of a key data collection tool used in the project. The aim for the data collection was to learn more about four key themes: 1) The challenges host country teachers (HCT) face when teaching refugee learners; 2) The solutions HCT’s see as necessary to overcome these challenge; 3) The educational roles teachers with refugee backgrounds (TRB) currently occupy in host countries; 4) 5 how TRB’s see these current roles as allowing them to help refugee learners. In this paper we are presenting both “whys” and “hows” of integration of teachers with refugee backgrounds into the host country educational systems.




Candeloro, Giulia (Kilowatt)

Yli-Jokipii, Maija (Tampere University)


In this paper we are discussing about the input that educators with refugee backgrounds can bring to the European educational systems. The discussion is based on the work of project EMERgenCeS (Erasmus+, KA2): By interviewing stakeholders we were trying to identify the current practices and state of the integration of refugee teachers in the receiving education system as well as look for space of improvement in this niche. The approach presented in this paper has been put into practice by diverse lines of work of EMERgenCes project, not as a solution, but as a mode through which to apply decolonizing pedagogy.




Codeia, Lorena (ICHB) 

Yli-Jokipii, Maija (Tampere University) 


Refugee integration is a dynamic, multifaceted and two-way process that requires efforts from all parties involved, including the willingness of refugees to adapt to the host society without renouncing their former cultural identity, as well as the mutual availability of host communities and public institutions to receive refugees and meet the needs of a diverse community.

Moreover, the local / national integration mechanism is complex and gradual, with three distinct but interconnected dimensions, namely legal, economic and socio-cultural, all of which are important for the capacity of integration refugees as full members of society. Social and economic rights oriented towards the integration process include freedom of movement, access to education and the labor market, access to aid and social assistance, including medical facilities, the possibility of acquiring and alienating property and the ability to travel with valid identity and travel documents. Thus, in order to make concrete recommendations and proposals for improving the refugee integration system, this paper aims to present in a general context the tools, policies and the process of refugee adaptation in the host states and, at the same time, to evaluate the existing integrative approaches to European national level.


Employ refugee teachers. Now! Teachers with a refugee background benefit European education

Publication by: (ESHA magazine) Magazine | ESHA 

Maija Yli-Jokipii, Tampere University

Henna Jousmäki, Tampere University

Patricia Huion, UC Leuven-Limburg

Nick Haswell, Tampere University

While the European Union grapples with a historically high numbers of asylum seekers of whom roughly a third are children (Eurostat, 2020), EU member states struggle to meet the UNESCO (2016) declaration according to which educational systems should provide a supportive, inclusive, and equitable learning environment for all learners. For students with refugee backgrounds in EU schools, a gap exists between educational needs and accessibility. Half of refugee children experience disrupted schooling (UNHCR, 2018) worldwide. Furthermore, host country teachers often find it difficult to connect with and include refugee learners (European Commission, 2019; UNESCO, 2020). 

Recognizing the challenges host country teachers face in understanding the complexities of forced displacement, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has, among others, developed educational packages that provide teachers with tools, strategies, and concepts to help them connect with refugee pupils. The most dominant question being asked in these packages is: how should a host country teacher teach refugee children? UNESCO, however, recommends that in the education of refugee learners, teachers who themselves have a refugee background are best placed for the job, or should at least play a role in their educational provision (see also Richardson et al., 2018). 

A key question thus arises: how can teachers with refugee backgrounds be better integrated into host-country education systems? To answer this question, a consortium of teachers, NGOs and social entrepreneurs from Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, Romania, and Slovenia have collaborated in the European Union-funded Erasmus+ project: EMERgenCeS: Merging Refugee-Educators Competencies and Skills (KA204-060226). Through the lenses of decolonizing and culturally-responsive pedagogies, the project has investigated good practices for refugee teacher integration, leading to the development of a teacher training module for refugee teachers.

Refugee education: decolonizing and culturally responsive perspectives 

The EMERgenCeS project draws on global citizenship framework combining both decolonizing and culturally-responsive educational approaches (see Haswell et al. 2021). The project recognizes modern European educational systems continuing to be influenced by historical colonial or imperial legacies in a variety of ways, which impacts refugee education through cultural and/or linguistic discrimination. Decolonising pedagogy aims to counter even the implicit colonial or imperial perspectives. Charles (2019: 733), among others, argues that the racial and cultural bias these colonial legacies produce give rise to “white” educational curricula which deprive non-white students of access to knowledge, role models or aspirations relevant to their identities. Additionally, as Battiste (2013: 24) notes, this bias may result not only in academic failure but also in students learning to distrust their own cultural knowledge, wisdom, and worldviews. 

As Richardson et al. (2018) have shown, students with diverse backgrounds feel more at ease and connected when teachers with refugee backgrounds are present. Thus, granting these teachers more prominent roles in the educational experiences of refugee students may lead towards a decolonisation of education. Moreover, as leading teachers, or in other in-class roles, such as assistant, tutor or mediator, teachers with a refugee background may offer emotional, linguistic, and academic support for refugee students who share the same native language and/or a similar type of background. 

Expanding the roles of teachers with a refugee background

As part of developing an understanding of good practices in relation to refugee teacher integration, we explored the educational roles host countries currently offer teachers with refugee backgrounds (TRBs), and how those roles allow assisting refugee learners.  Interviewing 12 TRBs from each of the participating countries, we asked about the roles they play in both formal and informal educational contexts in their host country, the challenges they face in those roles, and the benefits they think they bring to the educational lives of refugee students. 

Currently, the formal roles that TRBs occupy in their host countries included that of autonomous teacher but also various other roles, some of which were pedagogical ones, e.g. co-teacher; practical ones, e.g. special needs assistant, crafts support; socio-cultural, e.g. intercultural mediator; and, finally, roles of an expert, e.g., policy-maker, invited guest for staff or board meetings. Moreover, 5 out of 12 said they were volunteers. Sometimes teachers occupied more than one role simultaneously, and among them were, further, positions in informal education, such as community school teaching, syllabus content development, and social entrepreneurship.

However, TRBs come across an array of challenges when (working towards) working in education in their host countries. In addition to general, structural hindrances – learning the target language, applying for recognition for one’s professional qualification(s) gained in one’s country of origin, and navigating the asylum system as a whole (see Yli-Jokipii et. al. 2021), two types of challenges reoccurred in relation to educational roles in the host countries: (1) the difficulty in gaining knowledge about host country education systems, and (2) the difficulty in gaining access to schools and establishing professional networks. 

The former links with challenges in language acquisition and in the complexities of the asylum process overall. Here, we see a lack of knowledge and simultaneously a lack of strategic guidance on the education system in the host countries. The latter challenge, on its behalf, resulted from a lack of networking possibilities where teachers with a refugee background could meet local school leaders and teaching staff. 

To address these issues, the respondents suggested

  • tailoring mentoring programmes for TRBs, including briefings about the educational system;
  • providing TRBs with opportunities to use the knowledge and competence they already have;
  • creating systemic procedures to help TRBs find the path to gain additional skills needed 

arranging networking possibilities with school actors as well as informal educational community gatherings;

  • increasing TRBs’ presence in schools through alternative positions (e.g. observer, assistant teacher, volunteer).

Teachers with a refugee background benefit European education systems

To assess the benefits of being involved in classrooms in European schools, TRB respondents were instructed to choose as many statements as they wished from a pre-set list of statements in a questionnaire as well as to add further options (‘Other’). Table 1 presents the statements and the number of responses to respective statements side by side. 

Table 1. Benefits of refugee teacher roles in host country education systems: Questionnaire statements and responses.

More cultural enrichment sharing cultural rituals/practices9
More pedagogical approaches8
More understanding among refugee teachers and refugee children8
More understanding among learners7
More understanding among parents of refugee children and the educational system7
The level of education goes up/changes positively6
More languages are spoken6
More understanding among learners about the different learning cultures6
Higher wellbeing among learners5
Other (reduction of social distancing intended as inequality)1
Other (helps integration of both refugee teachers and refugee students into host society). 1

In the sample, most teachers agreed that employing teachers with a refugee background into European classrooms grants a “better understanding” in many respects and among multiple parties. This is promising, as ‘understanding’ plays a crucial role in learning overall.

While involving TRBs into educational contexts in Europe is desirable for various reasons, careful consideration should be given to how this is carried out. While their presence does benefit the classroom independent of the exact position they work in, be it volunteer, assistant, or independent teachers, TRBs’ professional status should represent and exemplify equality and equity in society and the labour market through education. The message sent out this way to refugee learners is that they, too, can do this. They too can thrive. They – indeed, we all – are allowed to get involved and use our skills and competences.


Battiste, M.A. (2013). Decolonizing education: nourishing the learning spirit. Saskatoon: Purich Publishing.https://concordiauniversity.on.worldcat.org/oclc/856977069

Charles, M. (2019). Effective Teaching and Learning: Decolonizing the Curriculum. Journal of Black Studies, 50(8), 731–766. https://doi.org/10.1177/0021934719885631

European Commission/EACEA/Eurydice (2019). Integrating Students from Migrant Backgrounds into Schools in Europe: National Policies and Measures. Eurydice Report. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Eurostat (2020). Asylum statistics [web document]. Accessed from: https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Asylum_statistics#Citizenship_of_first-time_applicants:_largest_numbers_from_Syria.2C_Afghanistan_and_Venezuela

Haswell, N., Pinto-Bello, R., Yli-Jokipii, M. & Huion, P. A third space for inclusive classrooms: Global Citizenship education and teachers with refugee backgrounds. Submitted for review in Child & Youth Services.

Richardson, E., MacEwen, L., & Naylor, R. (2018). Teachers of refugees: a review of the literature. Education Development Trust. Accessed from: https://www.educationdevelopmenttrust.com/our-research-and-insights/research/teachers-of-refugees-a-review-of-the-literature

UNESCO (2016). Education 2030: Incheon Declaration and Framework for Action for the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. Accessed from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000245656

UNESCO (2020). Global Education Monitoring Report Summary 2020: Inclusion and education: All means all. Paris, UNESCO. Accessed from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000373721/PDF/373721eng.pdf.multi

UNHCR (2018). Turn the tide: refugee education in crisis, UNESCO. Accessed from: https://www.unhcr.org/turnthetide/

Yli-Jokipii, M., Zavrtanik, L., Haswell, N. & Pinto-Bello, R. (2021). Elements of success: Finding good practices of integration for teachers with refugee backgrounds. Kieli, koulutus ja yhteiskunta (’Language, education, and society’), 12(4). Available at: https://www.kieliverkosto.fi/fi/journals/kieli-koulutus-ja-yhteiskunta-syyskuu-2021/elements-of-success-finding-good-practices-of-integration-for-teachers-with-refugee-backgrounds.