First published on the World Education Blog by the Global Education Monitoring Report
Samia was 10 when she left her home for the first time and became a refugee. She was just about to enter 5th grade. Forcefully displaced from her home country, she was unable to pursue her right to an education. Moving from one location to the next, caregivers and teachers at makeshift schools were unable to provide her with the needed resources and support to continue learning. More than 5 years later, Samia is 15 years old and yet to be provided with regular access to formal education. Samia is just one of millions of refugee children around the world.
Today, no part of the world is affected by migration and displacement more than the Arab States. Globally, out of every three displaced people, globally one is from the region. As the Arab States 2019 GEM Report released last week shows, this stark reality has had a tangible impact on the performance of regional education systems – especially when it comes to basic indicators such as enrollment.
Over the past thirty years, states across the region invested heavily in providing access to primary and secondary education (admittedly sometimes at the risk of quality provision). But many of the gains in enrollment have now been reversed – partly due to the refugee crisis. Unless regional and state actors come together with dedicated and innovative efforts the region risks losing out on all its previous investments in education – and most importantly resulting in a “lost generation”.
Our team at Edraak, an Arabic platform for open online education launched by the Queen Rania Foundation, is bringing international and regional entities together to explore how we can play a larger role in providing access to education for refugees and host communities. While initially, we launched the platform with a focus on higher education reaching almost 3 million learners, with the support from key partners like Google.org and the Jack Ma Foundation, we expanded into the K-12 space in 2017. Starting with teaching the foundational skills of mathematics and English language, today Edraak supports over 300,000 K-12 learners with the three functional uses: structured sequential learning material along predefined paths aligned with national curricula; student-centered inquiry-based learning that allows users to search for concepts or skills; and finally a mixture of the first two focused on remedial education. In early 2020, the platform aims to provide refugee and host community learners with access to free English placement tests that will place them into customized pathways towards mastering English – a key skill for the modern economy.
Our experience at Edraak has shown us that technology is no silver bullet but that it can nevertheless provide a necessary part of any global response to the ongoing challenge of educating both host and migrant populations. The scalability, speed, mobility and portability of technology-enhanced solutions promise powerful elements desirable in any education system. However, as it has been documented widely, there are large risks to working with education technology – especially if we forget to put education before the technology (even in well-resourced contexts). There are four key principles that must govern the leveraging of technology in similar situations.
Solve a defined problem first
Be mindful of access
Make migrant-friendly credentials
Make Arabic content, make it free and make it useful
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