Refugee Education and Medium of Instruction: Tensions in Theory, Policy, and Practice

This chapter analyzes the under-explored issue of medium of instruction for refugees, focusing on South Sudanese refugees in Uganda and Burundian refugees in Tanzania as illustrative cases through which to explore language dynamics. Our review reveals a key tension in refugee education between the importance of home language instruction for literacy and learning and the inclusion of refugee learners in national school systems in host countries to facilitate school access and persistence. We argue that policies and practices reflecting these two divergent bodies of research have implications for refugees’ learning, identity development, and sense of belonging. We offer a framework for conceptualizing socially just policies and practices for refugees in national school systems, taking into account the benefits of both home language instruction and inclusion in national systems and considering political and financial feasibility. Our review has implications for policy, practice, and future research related to medium of instruction and refugee education.

Resource Info

Resource Type



Published by

Language Issues in Comparative Education

Authored by

C. Reddick and S. Dryden-Peterson



Geographic Focus

South Sudan