RAS Highlighted in Recent Report

The success of the Refugee Action Support Program has been highlighted in the national OLT funded project Supporting school-university pathways for refugee students’ access and participation in tertiary education, a cross-institutional study carried out by the University of Western Sydney (UWS), Charles Sturt University (CSU) and the University of Canberra (UC). The following are excerpts from the report, by Naidoo et al:

One of the most successful programs originating in New South Wales is the award-winning Refugee Action Support (RAS) program, a program that assists refugee background students with homework and study assistance in secondary schools within western and south western Sydney (Ferfolja & Naidoo, 2010). Established in 2007, the RAS program began as a collaboration between the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation (ALNF), UWS and the NSW Department of Education and Training. Its success over the following years has seen the program expanded to further partnerships with CSU, The University of Sydney and UC (Ferfolja & Naidoo, 2010; ALNF, 2009).

The RAS program was mentioned by a number of refugee background students as being extremely beneficial to their learning and transition support.

The success of the program in demystifying the Australian educational system was evidenced in several of the interview responses, as well as through past studies that indicate over 80 percent of refugee background students were found to have improved ‘significantly’, ‘quite substantially’ or to an ‘outstanding degree’ (Report, 2008).

Additionally, as Ferfolja & Naidoo (2010) highlighted: …the effects of the RAS program can extend beyond the academic. The participant voices illustrate how RAS in these schools provides a vital context for the development and enrichment of cultural literacy. Moreover, it offers much needed social and emotional support to these young people who have been through so much instability in their relatively short lives (p.27). Thus, overall, students who participated consistently and continuously in RAS displayed a marked improvement in their academic skills and were able to participate more actively in classroom activities (Brace 2011).

According to the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA), a key factor impacting the study and employment opportunities of young refugee background students is educational transition (RCOA, 2010a). One means to overcome the ‘significant’ educational and economic barriers young refugee background students experience in this transition is through the implementation of specific interventions, strategies and opportunities (RCOA, 2010b, p. 14), such as school-university partnerships.

Research into the RAS program has shown that such school-university partnerships are able to ‘enhance the outcomes of multilingual, culturally or linguistically diverse or disadvantaged children’ by providing an environment where students are provided with opportunities to develop support networks, improve skills and realise their aspirations (Ferfolja & Naidoo, 2010, p. 8).

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