Barriers and Facilitators for Academic Success and Social Integration of Refugee Students in Canadian and US K–12 Schools: A Meta-Synthesis


  • Max Antony-Newman Sheffield Hallam University
  • Sarfaroz Niyozov University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education



refugee education, immigration, meta-synthesis, culturally relevant pedagogy, K–12 education


Despite the status of Canada and the United States as major destinations for refugees worldwide, school-age refugee children in their K–12 schools continue to face significant challenges. To better understand barriers and facilitators for refugee students after resettlement, we carried out a meta-synthesis of 34 peer-reviewed articles that shed light on the educational experiences of refugee students in this geographic context. Our analysis shows that refugee students face such barriers as inappropriate grade placement, deficit thinking of teachers, language barriers, lack of trauma-specific counselling, and misunderstandings in family-school communication. Nevertheless, refugee students benefit from culturally relevant curriculum and pedagogy and the availability of cultural brokers and liaisons. The key theoretical and policy implication of this meta-synthesis is the need to shift the focus from the type of refugee programs (integrated or separate) to the presence of facilitating factors that enhance the academic success and social integration of refugee students.

Author Biographies

Max Antony-Newman, Sheffield Hallam University

Max Antony-Newman is an Assistant Professor in Education Studies at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. He is an educational researcher focusing on parental engagement, immigrant students, and linguistic minorities. He researched immigrant parental engagement, educational experiences of immigrant and refugee students, parental engagement policies, and the role of teacher education in preparing teachers for school-family collaborations. Dr. Antony-Newman’s research has been published in the British Journal of Sociology of Education, Curriculum Journal, Educational Review, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, and School Community Journal among others. In his work, Dr. Max Antony-Newman often applies Pierre Bourdieu’s thinking tools of habitus, field, and capital and conducts critical policy analysis to show how the identities of culturally and linguistically diverse students, teachers and parents together with social institutions shape the process of education.

Sarfaroz Niyozov, University of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education

Sarfaroz Niyozov is an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Pedagogy as well as Comparative, International and Development Education at OISE, University of Toronto. His areas of research are education in post-Soviet countries, educational reform in developing countries, policy borrowing and lending, and the experiences of teachers working with Muslim students in multicultural classrooms. Dr. Sarfaroz Niyozov has more than 70 publications, which include four co-edited books, one co-authored book, journal articles and book chapters. Sarfaroz Niyozov has been a member of the boards of scholarly societies such as the Comparative International Education Society (CIES) and the World Congress of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES). Dr. Sarfaroz Niyozov held numerous leadership positions, including the role of co-director of the Comparative, International and Development Education Centre (CIDEC) at OISE (2008-2013); editor of Curriculum Inquiry (2013-2015); Dean of the Institute for Educational Development, Aga Khan University (2015-2018); and Acting Associate Dean, Programs at OISE (2021-2022).


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How to Cite

Antony-Newman, M., & Niyozov, S. (2023). Barriers and Facilitators for Academic Success and Social Integration of Refugee Students in Canadian and US K–12 Schools: A Meta-Synthesis . Canadian Journal of Education/Revue Canadienne De l’éducation, 1.