Education is the key to a better future for refugees

Guest post by Christina Melidou, Partnership Manager at FutureLearn

According to the UNHCR Stepping Up report, the number of refugees in higher education increased from 1% to 3% in 2018; a huge improvement but still nowhere near the global average of 37%. This disappointing figure is largely in line with statistics around primary and secondary education: 91% of children worldwide have access to primary education but the number drops to 63% for refugees and secondary education is only accessible to 24% of refugees compared to 84% for the rest of the population.

Displaced people will spend years away from home and some may never return. During this time, they will struggle to survive day-by-day so one might assume that education is not a priority. But without education, refugees will find it difficult to adjust either in their host countries or back home, their skills and potential will remain untapped and fewer jobs will be available to them. More importantly, for refugees, education is the surest road to recovering a sense of purpose and dignity after the trauma of displacement. UNHCR’s target is to see 15% of the eligible refugee population in higher education by 2030.

This is where the Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access (PADILEIA), a DfID-funded programme, comes in. Its mission is to increase access to higher education for refugees and disadvantaged host communities in Jordan and Lebanon, giving them transferable skills and essential tools to achieve sustainable development and make strategic choices for their future. There are various learning opportunities available through PADILEIA, some exclusively online and some blended. 

Specifically, learners can access:

  • Short online courses from King’s College London, delivered via FutureLearn. These courses are designed for Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon, but can be accessed by interested learners worldwide via any internet enabled device. Currently, there are courses in Basic and Intermediate English, English for Healthcare and an Introduction to Nursing but more courses in Digital Skills and Business will be launched in 2020.
  • Eight-month foundation courses delivered by Al al-Bayt University or the American University of Beirut at locations in Mafraq and Bekaa, respectively. These are for those impacted by the Syrian refugee crisis, who have a good level of English to be able to access the course. 
  • Kiron Study Programs in a range of topics including Computer Science and Business. These range from six-week short courses to a combination of modules leading to 24 months of study. Kiron courses are free for refugees worldwide, provided they have access to the internet and a good level of English to be able to understand the course.

The PADILEIA partnership is led by King’s College London (UK), working with the American University of Beirut (Lebanon), Al al-Bayt University (Jordan), Kiron Open Higher Education gGmbH (Germany) and FutureLearn (UK). All partners are committed to delivering a high-quality education experience for learners and are keen to understand their circumstances and support them as best they can.

In a world where nearly 1 person is forcibly displaced every 2 seconds as a result of conflict or persecution, we cannot afford to turn our eyes away from the plight of refugees. Education is what creates hope for their future, as well as the future of the communities that host them and the ones they will be called to rebuild. In the words of Nelson Mandela “The power of education extends beyond the development of skills we need for economic success. It can contribute to nation-building and reconciliation.”

“Before attending PADILEIA program, I was against online learning completely. I thought that it is nothing but a waste of time; however, after attending PADILEIA program I realized that I was completely wrong. Since we started practicing and learning online courses either in math, science or English I noticed the continuous improvements that I have got. In mathematics, the new websites and the explanation videos helped me a lot in my studying for PADILEIA and even for my school. In science, also the videos and the online tests that we do to test our knowledge after explaining the lessons. In English, the most thing that improved me is listening being a very effective way to learn and speak English. In general, the whole program is really good and very beneficial.”

Kotana Mashhadani, AUB Foundation Course 2018-2019