IRC Healing Classrooms Retention Support Programming Improves Syrian Refugee Children's Learning in Lebanon
During school year 2016-2017, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) delivered Learning in a Healing Classroom after-school programming to support Syrian refugee children's learning outcomes and retention in Lebanese public schools. We found that access to Healing Classrooms programming significantly improved students' reading and math skills, as well as reduced the likelihood of interpreting interactions with peers as hostile in intent, after the first four months of program implementation. Local communities (J=87) in which Syrian refugee children lived with their families were assigned to one of three intervention groups in Cycle 1 of the 2016-2017 school year: a "No Retention Support" wait-list group (J=21), a HC Basic group (J=33) and a HC + Targeted SEL group (J=33). Children were assessed at three points in time: baseline (before the start of programming); midline (after the first 16-week cycle); and end-line (after the second 16-week cycle). We used this site randomized waitlist control design to answer causal questions.
Access to Healing Classrooms retention support programming significantly improved Syrian refugee students' Arabic reading and math skills after four months of implementation. Two randomized trials have now provided evidence that the IRC's Learning in a Healing Classroom model of social-emotional learning-infused teacher training and curriculum works across delivery modes and contexts to improve children's academic skills in crisis contexts. Syrian refugee children who are enrolled in Lebanese public schools and have access to Healing Classrooms programming, when compared to children who only have access to Lebanese public schools, are less likely to view interactions with peers as hostile in intent. Research in the United States has identified such hostile attribution bias as a common and debilitating consequence of exposure to violence and bullying, and a major risk factor for developing conduct problems and disruptive disorders. However, Healing Classrooms programming did not significantly improve children's mental health after the first program cycle. Additional analyses will be conducted to determine whether mental health symptoms improved after a full year of programming.