Refugee education is “an acculturation process for refugees and an emotional and social preparation for host communities, as aligned with the host countries’ legitimate expressions of identity” (Waters & Leblanc, 2005, p. 129). Refugee education aims to establish a shared sense of mutual understanding and to orient refugees and locals to changes in their community’s social fabric. Given refugee education’s broad aims, a refugee education curriculum refers to a set of courses and themes that help guide the unavoidable social transformation process based on current social and political messages and local humanitarianism (Anwaruddin, 2017; Awada et al., 2018; Bajaj & Bartlett, 2017).

A refugee education curriculum is often assumed to be only for those who are displaced and deprived of formal education due to forced migration. However, educators should consider the needs of the locals interacting with refugees while designing a refugee education curriculum. A refugee education curriculum that includes themes and courses aiming to reduce the stress of social transformation is central to helping refugees live with dignity and prepare the host communities to live cooperatively with newcomers (Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2004). Given that, a refugee education curriculum can be defined broadly as themes and courses prepared based on frameworks, principles, and approaches commonly used to accommodate refugees and locals in shared social settings.

People and governments have developed systematic efforts to deal with the consequences of forced migration (Barnett, 2002). Both the locals and refugees use their resources to establish a ground for their educational framework by combining their formal and informal teachings. While each framework’s contents differ, these frameworks typically include precautions to minimize the unpredictable impact of forced migration. It can be designed as an independent or integrated curriculum (Awada et al., 2018; Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2004). Each refugee education curriculum, regardless of where it is implemented and its aim, often uses trauma recovery and social adaptation to empower, prepare, and orient refugees to their new conditions (Aylesworth, 1981; Crawford, 2017; Mortensen & Wagner, 1980; Nykiel-Herbert, 2010; Ryu & Tuvilla, 2018).

There are also similarities in refugee education curricula regarding the use of curriculum components and curriculum design principles during the planning and preparation stages. These principles include rapid response, using community resources, and capacity building (Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies, 2004). To design a curriculum, refugee and host communities use different approaches and combine the principles of refugee education curricula in various ways based on their political structures, cultural values, and social norms (Hattam & Every, 2010; Kagawa, 2005; Taylor & Sidhu, 2012).

Refugee education curricula from different countries often use one of two refugee protection frameworks: The Western Refugee Protection Framework and the Middle Eastern Refugee Protection Framework (Chimni, 1998; Erden, 2017; Stevens, 2015). The Western Refugee Protection Framework uses legal instruments such as the 1951 and 1967 Refugee Convention or national legal documents to regulate refugee assistance. The Middle Eastern Refugee Protection framework relies on people’s accumulated experiences and social bonds to regulate refugee assistance.

These frameworks define the rationale of refugee education curriculum. Curricula designed based on the Western Refugee Protection Model, referred to as the positivist models hereafter, are the pioneering refugee education curricula, and these have resulted in formulating the principles of the typical refugee education curriculum. They are procedural and systematic. Exemplary refugee education curricula based on the Western Refugee Protection Model are mostly observed in developed countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Curricula based on the Middle Eastern Refugee Protection Framework, referred to as socio-constructivist models hereafter, are used in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, due to the absence of international frameworks and/or limited access to the international funds. These curricula vary from region to region in the places where they are implemented.