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Early Childhood Education in the Middle Eastern Syrian Refugee Response Region

Tue, March 27, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 2nd Floor, Don Diego 1 Section C

Group Submission Type: Panel Session


The Syrian refugee crisis remains the largest humanitarian crisis in recent history, with millions of children and families displaced. An estimated 6 million children are affected, with nearly half of this number displaced (UNICEF, 2017). This panel focuses on ECD interventions being implemented in Jordan and Lebanon, which have some of the largest numbers of Syrian refugees.

Syrian families displaced by the conflict experienced high levels of stress and adversity, as emerging research shows, with substantially higher rates of PTSD and depressive symptoms among children (Sirin & Sirin, 2015). In early childhood, such experiences have been linked to lifelong harmful consequences, across domains of health, learning and socio-emotional well-being (Harvard Center on the Developing Child, 2016). Yet less than 1% of education-related humanitarian assistance goes to early childhood, and overall only a tiny fraction of humanitarian assistance for the Syrian refugee response has been devoted to ECD programs. At the same time, a global evidence base reviewed in the Lancet in 2011 and 2017 suggests that ECD programs are most impactful among the most disadvantaged and at-risk populations (Britto et al., 2017; Engle et al., 2011). This suggests that ECD programs are key to ensuring that a generation of human potential is not lost.

Researchers and practitioners from Lebanon and Jordan, working with the NGOs the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children and Sesame Workshop, will present data on currently implemented early education programs for Syrian refugees in refugee-camp, urban and peri-urban, and informal settlement contexts, with our discussant from UNICEF providing that organization’s perspective as well.

Scholars and practitioners from Sesame Workshop and Jordan Pioneers will present data from the formative phase of the new Sesame Seeds program for Syrian refugees as well as host communities. These efforts, in partnership with the IRC, build on Sesame Workshop’s prior programming in the UAE and Jordan.

The IRC will present data from the implementation of the preschool Learning in a Healing Classroom curriculum, currently implemented for over 3,000 children in the Bekaa Valley and Akar regions of Lebanon. Data from both assessments of observed classroom quality, which are used as one basis of coaching and professional development, and the International Development and Early Learning Assessment (IDELA) of early childhood skills, will be presented.

Save the Children will present data on their preschool approach for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which combines two curricula: Healing and Education through the Arts (HEART) and Emergent Literacy and Math (ELM). This initiative also uses the IDELA measure as child outcome well as the IDELA home environment tool, which will enable understanding of caregiver support for child learning in this context.

Ivelina Borisova of UNICEF will serve as discussant for this panel, providing the additional perspectives from UNICEF’s implementation of ECD programming in the Syrian refugee response.

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