Theses Doctoral

Refugee inclusion in national education systems: A comparative case study of policy context, social cohesion, and responsibility-sharing in Lebanon and Turkey

Pacifico, Arianna

Global forced displacement is on the rise with 32.5 million people currently living as refugees, about half of whom are school-aged children and youth. Within this context, refugee inclusion in host country education systems has emerged as a growing policy priority in an effort to improve education access and quality. However, there is limited research on the impacts of the policy shift and many challenges remain. Addressing this gap, this dissertation examines the internal and external influences on host country refugee education policy decisions, the ways refugee inclusion in national education systems interacts with social cohesion, and the role of the global aid system in facilitating the inclusion of refugees. Data for this comparative case study across Lebanon and Turkey are based on 47 semi-structured interviews with education actors engaged in the response to the Syrian crisis at the global, regional, national, and local levels to examine the assumptions, influences, processes, and practices of refugee inclusion in national education systems.

This dissertation is presented in three distinct papers. The first examines why policies of refugee inclusion were enacted, the timing of such reforms, and contextual reasons why reforms took the shape they did. Drawing on policy transfer scholarship, my findings reveal that some of the drivers to embrace global refugee policies include expectations for crisis resolution, calculation of political and economic risks and benefits, and the operational realities of their education systems. The second paper questions the logic that policies of inclusion necessarily support social cohesion and sustainable peace in refugee-hosting contexts. I apply the '4Rs' framework of Redistribution, Recognition, Representation, and Reconciliation (Novelli, Lopes Cardozo & Smith, 2017) to analyze the ways that education interventions in support of refugee inclusion have contributed to social tension in Lebanon and Turkey while providing and important opportunity to address longstanding issues of marginalization and exclusion beyond refugees.

The final paper builds on constructivist international relations theory to explore the relationship between the global refugee education policy agenda, the interests of donor states, and what that means for international responsibility-sharing, a foundational component of the refugee inclusion movement. I argue that there is a complex relationship between efforts to include refugees in national education systems and the national interests of donor countries including discouraging onward migration, promoting stability and social cohesion in neighboring regions, and reinforcing global hierarchies in the international system. Findings across the three papers contribute to theoretical and empirical debates around refugee education and humanitarian and development action. I conclude by pulling together themes that run through the dissertation and discussing theoretical and empirical contributions across the three papers.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Comparative and International Education
Thesis Advisors
Mendenhall, Mary
Russell, S. Garnett
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 24, 2023