This paper describes a qualitative inquiry into the experiences of Burmese refugee families with elementary schools in the U.S. and proposes a new perspective for serving the educational needs of refugee children. Data included in-depth interviews with 25 Burmese families in a midsize Midwestern city. Findings from the preliminary analysis demonstrated that due to their own limited school experiences, the parents did not know how they could advocate for their children’s schooling and use academic opportunities. While the parents appreciated and encouraged their children’s school learning, they lacked the resources to support their children in negotiating academic contexts. Moreover, the schools policies lacked innovation and resources to involve refugee parents. Finally, Burmese children’s diverse out of school learning contexts and unique needs went unnoticed in school contexts. These findings suggest that educators, community agencies and policy makers take a new perspective, advocacy for the whole family, so that the parents might provide a stronger leadership in children’s schooling. This could be accomplished in various ways: Advocacy for true bilingualism of refugee children, advocacy for family presence in school, support for community based academic learning and cultural responsiveness to the family goals for child growth.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/zeynep_isikercan/18/