Improving Learning for the Children of Syrian Refugees

Pearson Syria 5

Syria’s ongoing civil war has displaced and disrupted the lives of millions of people, especially children. Save the Children and Pearson have joined forces to research and develop long-term solutions for the education issues facing Syria’s children. This is the first in a series of reports detailing work that will span the next several months.

Syria’s Refugee Children

Walk into nearly any classroom in Jordan and you’ll see schools overflowing with hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee children displaced by war. Jordan’s schools are overwhelmed—and so are the children inside those classrooms.

It’s an illustration of how Syria’s civil war has caused dramatic disruption in the education of an entire generation of children.

“Some classes have over 60 children,” says Teodora Berkova, Director of Social Innovation at Pearson. “Syrian kids are used to different curriculums, there’s bullying in class. Many of the kids are dealing with trauma from what they’ve lived through during the conflict in Syria.”

Teodora has just returned from Jordan with her team after they conducted four weeks of field work.

“We wanted to take a deeper look at the problems,” Teodora says, “to help improve the educational opportunities available to both the Syrian refugees and communities in Jordan.”

Mapping a Child’s ‘Social Ecology’

Teodora leads a unique collaboration between Pearson and Save the Children to improve learning for Syrian refugees in Jordan. It’s more than just a corporate program to support a good cause.

Pearson brings learning research expertise and innovation to the partnership. Save the Children has been serving children in conflict zones for decades. Both organizations are combining their expertise to look for solutions in what appears to be a long-term disruption in the education of Syria’s young people. This collaboration began late last year with an on-the-ground research process to take an in-depth look at life for refugee children.

“We started by getting as much information as possible about what’s happening every day in a refugee child’s life,” Teodora says.

They spoke with close to 30 families from Syria, Jordan and Iraq, spending five to six hours, several times a week, with 16 of these families.

“We went on errands with them,” Teodora says. “One family invited us to church. Another invited us over for dinner so we could cook together.”

Teodora says the team was looking at academic, psychological, and emotional needs: “From a research perspective, having so much face to face time to get to such a level of dialogue and observation is pretty amazing.”

“It’s not just the whole child,” Teodora says, “it’s the whole child in their social ecology.”


A Pilot Program

Teodora and a team of six other researchers are just starting to dig through and analyze their field notes. They’ll gather in the next few weeks to iron out takeaways from their research.

“There’s always the urge—for good reasons—to rush towards a quick solution in a project like this,” Teodora says. “For us, though, we really wanted to spend enough time in the field to understand the refugee context fully, so that whatever we develop is effective and relevant for the unique needs of kids facing these circumstances.”

As the region’s refugee crisis and its impact on child learning goes on, Teodora’s team is hoping to start piloting new learning ideas for Syrian refugees in 2016. Solutions could include programs aimed at preventing kids who are in school from dropping out, to digital solutions that provide access to learning for those who are currently out of school.

Look for more updates on the results of the research and how it’s being implemented by Pearson and Save the Children. For more information on this partnership, please visit our ‘Every Child Learning’ partnership webpage.


Pearson Syria 3