Dr Henry Kum presents on refugee experiences of learning and resilience at Thai conference

Today, we live in the world of diversity. School is a place where such diversity is manifested. Schools around the world enrol students who come from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, either as new immigrants or the long-term residence. Amidst such diversity “multicultural education” is significant. Although the origin, the impetus and challenges faced by Thailand and UK in implementing multicultural education are different, the sharing of knowledge by scholars from both countries will contribute to advancement and improvement of providing education for students from diverse cultures.

The Conference on Implementation and Challenges of Multicultural Education at Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand, held from 3-9 June, was funded by a Researcher Links workshop grant from the Newton Fund, the British Council, and Thailand Research Fund, and had keynote presentations and research papers from UK and Thai academics on different spaces through which multicultural education negotiates its implementation in schools in the UK and Thailand.

Dr Henry Kum’s presentation, ‘How do refugees become “expert learners”? Conceptualising experiences of exile as learning, resilience and culture’, explored the settlement of refugees in the context of a mediatised policy in which they are often portrayed as both an under-utilized resource and as a demanding challenge with respect to education, health services, and labour. He problematised the notion that contemporary refugee research contends that educationalists in host communities are not always fully aware of the potential emotional, social, cultural, and educational difficulties faced by refugees on resettlement. In opposition to these hegemonic discourses, the paper posited a response in terms of how and to what extent refugees might be regarded as already “being”, and also being able to “become”, expert learners.

The paper concluded that it is necessary to move beyond theories of motivation and learning, where negative personality traits and the myth of fixed abilities occupy a position of hegemony, to theories that draw upon socio-constructivist and existential experiences of identity, culture and learning in exile (Koyama, 2013).
The 5 day workshop concluded with school visits and opportunities to foster the international research collaboration and networks among participants. A journal series, edited book and funding application for further collaboration with Thai researchers was agreed on.


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