Using Technology in Science Tasks: Reducing Language Barriers for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Funder: ESRC, Global Challenges Research Fund – £100,000

Principal Investigator: Dr. Yasmine El Masri

The foreign language of instruction and assessment (English or French) of mathematics and science constitutes a significant challenge of accessing quality education for underprivileged young people in Lebanon, including Syrian refugees, who are typically not proficient in these languages. The project aims to help addressing this issue with different stakeholders through:

  1. knowledge exchange with a local NGO, Lebanese Alternative Learning (LAL), providing educational support to underprivileged youth,
  2. capacity building and knowledge exchange with science teachers in schools serving deprived communities and
  3. working with underprivileged Lebanese and Syrian refugee students.

 

Capacity building workshops with teachers in Lebanon (Edutek – Chtaura, April 2017)

Dr Yasmine El Masri facilitated two workshops for science teachers on designing tasks and writing questions in science on the 22nd and 29th April in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. The workshops were organised in collaboration with Lebanese Alternative Learning (LAL) and were hosted by Edutek e-learning centre. LAL is a local NGO in Lebanon providing an open access online platform (Tabshoura) that offers interactive educational tasks aligned with the Lebanese curriculum to widen access to quality education for underprivileged youths and Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The workshops have been funded by an ESRC GCRF grant and aimed to build teacher capacity in schools hosting Syrian refugees (e.g. Don Bosco in Baalbek, Malala schools in Bekaa) and provide an opportunity for knowledge exchange between science teachers, the NGO and the researcher.

 

After a first session in which teachers were made aware of the various features that could increase cognitive demands of science tasks with a particular focus on language issues, teachers gathered a week later to provide feedback on interactive science tasks developed by the LAL NGO and suggested a list of guidelines for improving current tasks and developing new educational material. The event ended with participating teachers receiving Participation Certificates in recognition for their invaluable contribution.

 

Fieldwork in Lebanon

Fieldwork was conducted during the month of May with Year 6 students in three educational institutions (schools and learning centres) serving deprived communities in Lebanon, two of which hosting Syrian refugees. Dr El Masri investigated the extent to which interactive science tasks provided by a local NGO, Lebanese Alternative Learning, could promote science learning and decrease the language barrier many underprivileged students face.