Neighbourbood-based blended learning for adolescent Syrian refugees
The Learning and Empowerment for Adolescent Refugees in their Neighbourhoods (LEARN) project sought to ensure 600 out-of-school refugee adolescent boys and girls—ages 11 to 18 and living in Gaziantep, Turkey—learn adaptive skills through Non-Formal Education (NFE). To address this problem, LEARN sought to teach relevant knowledge and skills through a NFE approach that combined a three-month tablet- and in-person-based learning model, complemented by community engagement and the dissemination of information on educational access and enrollment procedures. LEARN aimed to:
- Establish a pathway for out-of-school refugee adolescents toward enrollment in the national education system,
- Build the capacity of Syrian instructors to support the teaching of adolescents, and
- Increase the access of caregivers to education-related information and service providers.
The design of the project fills a significant gap, reaching vulnerable adolescents who are otherwise unable to engage in formal or non-formal education. The flexible design allows for instruction on a schedule when, and in a location where, students are available. Tablets can be used offline and in the student's own time, which is necessary to meet their scheduling needs and frequent lack of access to the Internet. After two cohorts of the LEARN project, end-line data and assessments show that learners made significant gains in mathematics, English, Arabic, and Turkish.
LEARN was effective at re-engaging out-of-school adolescents in learning and increasing their interest and willingness to re-enroll in formal education. In the future, LEARN should lead to some form of certification or preparation for a secondary program that can lead to certification (primary, secondary, or language). Students need a pathway following the short-term program, indicating that the program must differentiate for those who are going back to school and those who plan to stay in the workforce.
Blended learning programs—combining self-guided learning on tablets with teacher-guided learning—have been shown to be successful in many contexts, but research shows that this is due to increased and varied exposure to the content and not the structure of online or face-to-face learning in and of itself. This means that in order for students to be successful in a short-term blended learning program, they need to spend more time learning and focus learning on a few subjects. The tablets provide convenience, offline capability, and flexibility for the learners to complete their work in their own time. However, without clear content that is aligned with home visits and group sessions, students are unlikely to be able to learn enough to meet basic levels of competency.