English language teaching response to Syria crisis

Now in its sixth year, the Syrian conflict has created the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time. Over 4.8 million Syrians are refugees in neighbouring countries, hundreds of thousands in Europe and 6.6 million people are displaced inside Syria. Through our language learning and teaching programmes in Jordan, the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey we have worked with over 120,000 Syrians and members of host communities since the start of the crisis. The British Council has had a presence in those countries affected since the 1940s, making us a trusted partner within host countries.

Language for Resilience

An early study into the impact of language learning in enhancing the resilience of refugees was launched by the British Council on Thursday 21 July. The Language for Resilience report examines the impact of language on refugees and host communities affected by the Syrian crisis, identifying the different ways that language skills enhance resilience. The authors carried out desk and field research in Jordan, the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey – interviewing teachers, ministry of education officials, children, parents, volunteers and non-governmental organisation (NGO) staff. The report provides suggestions for programme responses that address key needs.

Opportunities for partnership with the UK

The launch provided an opportunity for those from the international development and UK English language teaching and assessment sector to discuss possible responses for language provision within refugee communities displaced from Syria. Panellists joined from London and virtually from the British Council in Jordan, including those invited to represent UNHCR and the Syrian community.

In the opening address, Country Director, Joel Bubbers made clear that UK partnership will be essential

‘When it comes to addressing language, all of you in this room have the skills to make a difference. In the same way that the Higher Education sector needs arising from the Syrian crisis are forcing humanitarian actors, universities, policymakers and other tertiary education providers to find new means for collaboration and coordination, so the languages sector needs to explore the role that it can play in partnerships with professionals in protection, youth and gender, with education and technology providers and other foreign language experts, like Arabic, French and Turkish.’

As the Language for Resilience programme continues to take shape in 2017, the British Council will doubtless reach out to the UK for essential collaboration efforts in this area.