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Building a new life, one e-lesson at a time: refugees and online education

Short thesis

Developing countries receive approximately 82% (21.3 million) of the world’s refugees, and innovative e-learning solutions can play a key role in helping new arrivals settle into host communities. This panel debate will debate new technologies and policy approaches to making e-learning tools available to refugees, and the ethical and political issues that come with using e-learning platforms in vulnerable communities.

[Partnersession]

Description

Refugees often spend many years in transit, with restricted access to jobs and education. The internet and digital technology can provide a remedy to that, but often the basics are missing – be it appropriate bandwidth, the recognition of skills acquired online, or the right to work after completing training. E-learning has been around for almost a decade, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) from renowned universities such as MIT and Stanford available free online. The problem: refugees often lack the access or the means to take advantage of these opportunities. In response, new initiatives from the public and private sector are shifting the technological and social landscape in order to make e-learning more accessible to refugees and displaced people.

So what is new? Software companies such as TechChange Inc. have developed online learning courses and modules for low bandwidth settings without sacrificing interactive tools, so students can interact socially in the e-learning environment. Social enterprises offer digital educational services. Kiron Open Higher Education e.g. uses digital innovation to provide refugees with access to quality higher education. Kiron’s program consists of tailor-made curricula, a digital collaborative platform and an extensive range of supportive services.

But is education enough? Does education automatically lead to jobs or help refugees integrate into host communities? The German Development Institute will tackle these question in a panel with Ms Maren Kröger, senior official for tertiary education at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), who will debate these issues together with Ms Maronne Telku from TechChange Inc, Mr. Henner Kirchner, from the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit’s (GIZ) Jordan office, and Mr. Mohammad Moataz Ghannam, a student who started with Kiron Higher Open Education and has transferred to BAU Berlin.

The insights from the panel will feed directly into policy recommendations on education and migration for the G20 meeting in Argentina, where member states will focus on standards for e-learning in an increasingly mobile, digital world.

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