Understanding the school readiness of refugee children in Australia and Canada

Stream: Beyond the three E’s: country, community, family and individual factors associated with refugee integration
Date: Monday, 9 September 2019
Time: 3.40 pm – 5.00 pm


There are over 22 million refugees worldwide and over half are children (UNHCR, 2017). Developing our understanding of who is resilient, in what ways, and in what contexts is critical for informing how settlement countries around the world can effectively address the well-being of refugee children and meet their needs upon arriving in a new host country and over time. This is particularly true for Canada and Australia, who resettled the largest number of refugees in 2015 (with the exception of the US; UNHCR, 2016).

In this study we investigate the school readiness of children in Australia and Canada. We draw on two existing population-based datasets that include children who arrived in Canada or Australia as refugees and attended the first year of school between 2009 and 2018. Both datasets include individual-level, government-sourced socio-demographic and migration data that is linked to teacher-assessed measures of school readiness (Early Development Index or Australian Early Development Census). The Early Development Index captures five broad domains of developmental well-being: Emotional Maturity, Social Competence, Language & Cognitive Development, Communication & General Knowledge, and Physical Health & Well-being. We will describe the Canadian and Australian cohorts of refugee children, differences in developmental well-being across the five domains, and the key socio-demographic and migration factor predictors of developmental well-being within and across the two country contexts. The study contributes much-needed knowledge and attention to the school readiness of refugee children across country contexts.


Ben Edwards (Presenter), Australian National University
Associate Professor Ben Edwards is a Senior Fellow at the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods where he is focused on policy relevant research on child and youth development
Ben is Co-Editor of the Australian Journal of Social Issues.

He is an expert in longitudinal studies of child and youth development, linkage of administrative data to surveys and longitudinal studies of disadvantaged groups such as refugees.

Monique Gagne, University of British Columbia
Dr. Monique Gagné is a postdoctoral research fellow with the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia. Her research has been largely dedicated to understanding how migration and adaptation experiences impact the development of new young Canadians and their pathways through the school system. She worked for several years with Population Data BC, and has extensive knowledge and experience with using linked, administrative and population-based data.

Martin Guhn, University of British Columbia
Dr. Martin Guhn is Assistant Professor at the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), School of Population and Public Health, UBC, and member of the Canadian Council on the Social Determinants of Health. He has a PhD in Human Development (UBC), conducted a Michael Smith Foundation of Health Research postdoctoral fellowship in Population Health at HELP, and has a masters degree in Psychology and a bachelor degree in Music.

His interdisciplinary, applied research focuses on social, cultural, demographic, and socio-economic determinants of children’s and adolescents’ developmental health, wellbeing, and educational trajectories, drawing from HELP’s EDI and MDI research projects.