„Moving in the dark“: Exploring representations of refugee youth through Icelandic public policy documents and teachers narratives

Eva Harðardóttir, Berglind Rós Magnúsdóttir


In spite of the fact that Iceland accepts fewer refugees then other European countries, the number of young refugees in Iceland has grown as a result of international and forced migration. While there is a growing body of Icelandic research on multicultural and inclusive education the focus has yet to concern itself with refugee youth and their educational or social challenges. Multiculturalism and matters of integration are increasingly being contested as refugee youth reception and education are perceived to be in a state of crisis. This study examined the forms of policy in place related to young refugees in Iceland and how it impacts their educational and social inclusion. Drawing on the field of critical education policy analysis, we analyzed official policy documents as well as narratives of fourteen lower and upper secondary teachers. Findings indicate that the current policies are limited in scope and emphasis equality on the basis of sameness and access to education rather than equity, social justice and quality of education. The policy, as it appears both in the form of texts and discourse, is shaped by neo-assimilative ideology that highlights individual responsibility for educational outcomes through choice policy, active participation and Icelandic language skills based on national discourse of inclusion. Teachers described themselves as “moving in the dark” without institutional policy guidance or support making it it difficult for them to make ethical and political choices that challenge the normative view of education and integration in what they describe as new and challenging situations.


Refugee youth; education policy; neo-assimilation; discourse analysis.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13177/irpa.a.2018.14.3.2


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