Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format



Doctor of Education




Tarc, Paul


Syrian refugee education in Lebanon faces several challenges from limited school access, language barriers, and undefined policies, to uncertain future citizenship status of refugee students under the larger conditions of state ‘fragility.’ This study examines how Syrian refugee education is enacted in two Lebanese public secondary schools operating in relation to national and transnational policies and norms. The theoretical frame used has three inter-related components. The first addresses (post) development education and fragility. The second addresses globalization and the evolving role of the state dealing with Syrian refugee education. The third considers citizenship education and its relation to refugees as noncitizens. The methodology used is a single vertical case study informed by the analysis of literature and policy, and an inductive analysis of school participant interviews. The vertical case study allows for a more fulsome understanding of how Syrian refugee education is enacted by including a cross-level, multi-stakeholder analysis. The key findings show that state fragility was an overarching condition and concern in the challenge to school Syrian refugee students. Different positioned actors all emphasized Syrian refugees’ ‘right to education’, and improving upon their access to quality schooling; however, these actors’ priorities and concerns were different. The ministry official focused on contextualizing refugee education processes and challenges within intersections of transnational and state policies, while teachers and administrators’ were more focused on daily concerns of students’ participation and the curriculum. Finally, the students were more focused on how their current schooling might lead them to a better future.

Keywords: refugee education, secondary education, fragile state, globalization, development education, citizenship education, vertical case study, policy, Lebanon

Summary for Lay Audience

After the start of the Syrian war, Lebanon hosted a large number of Syrian refugees. With around 500,000 school-aged Syrian refugees estimated for the school year 2016-2017, only 27% were enrolled in the formal schools out of which only 2% registered in the formal secondary school (UNICEF, 2017, as cited in Chopra & Adelman, 2017). This study focused on how Syrian refugee education was enacted in two state secondary schools for this small portion of refugee students who attended. Special attention was given to different educational actors at different levels and to the transnational, regional, and local policy interactions.

A single vertical case study (Vavrus & Bartlett, 2006) design was used to attend to the educational experiences of actors within a multi-level terrain. Within the vertical case study, three axes were used: horizontal (comparing the same phenomena in different locations), vertical (tracing how global, regional, and national polices inform school practices and each other), and transversal (integrating historical influence within the analysis). A thematic inductive approach was used to build up themes from semi-structured and open-ended participant interviews. The participants included a ministry official, administrators and teachers providing Syrian refugee education, and secondary Syrian refugee students.

A theoretical frame composed of three interrelated parts was utilized. The first addressed development education and fragility. The second addressed globalization and the changing role of the state dealing with refugee education. The third considered citizenship education and its relation to refugee education.

The findings reveal that state fragility influenced how each stakeholder prioritized many aspects of the enactment of Syrian refugee education. The ministry official’s main concern focused on contextualizing Syrian refugee education to the Lebanese local and conditions while attending to the international demands. The administrators and teachers were more focused on their day-to-day operations and curriculum. Finally, the students were trying to make the best use of their education to attain better future. While all stakeholders emphasize the human right aspect, there is still a need to attend to the funding gap, funding type, and policy-practice gap. However, hope for a better future remains a major element in Syrian refugee education.