ICT and the Education of Refugees
A Stocktaking of Innovative Approaches in the MENA region
More than 10 million school-age children have been forced out of school in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) due to armed conflict in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and other countries. Most are displaced internally but others have fled across borders to seek refuge. Displacement may have become a constant, perhaps permanent feature of the 21st century; if so, it is important to be prepared and develop a lasting capacity to deal with displacement wherever it occurs and enact policies that support and enable new ways to learn. As governments and international agencies struggle to ensure these children a safe learning environment and a good quality education, many look to information and communications technology (ICT) to provide at least part of the solution. The use of smartphones and other mobile devices, ubiquitous even among impoverished refugees, can provide a platform that educators can leverage to reach marginalized children and youth.
The purpose of this note is to provide a clear and concise snapshot of the role ICT has played, the promise it holds, the projects that are currently under preparation, and what more might be done. This is in no way a comprehensive assessment but rather an attempt to promote dialogue and inform programs. Among the main points are the following:
- The situation of refugees in MENA is highly diverse and ICT-supported interventions can be and must be correspondingly diverse: indeed, each intervention should be tailored to particular needs of particular groups and be integrated with an appropriate pedagogy.
- Technology can also aid parents and relief organizations, not only students and teachers.
- While UN agencies strive to integrate refugees into local school systems, the potential of small-scale private schooling, assisted by technology, should be explored.
- ICT can replace teachers and organized learning only in rare instances; but it can provide effective support to education, especially when supplemented with teacher training.
Many seek evidence that technology-assisted approaches are effective, but little has been gathered with respect to ICT in education generally, let alone in emergency situations. The current situation provides numerous opportunities to build the evidence base, even carry out randomized control trials, and thereby improve ICT interventions and bring them to scale. In the meantime, lacking a robust evidence base, researchers and practitioners have formulated design principles that can provide guidance.