A delegation led by Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares visited the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to witness the launch of 3 innovative educational programs aimed at empowering Syrian refugees, Jordanian children and youth, as well as teachers and government representatives. Dubai Cares’ AED 26,089,042 (USD 7,101,958) committed towards the three programs seeks to meet an entire spectrum of needs in pre-primary, primary and secondary levels among refugees and host communities in Jordan.
Increasing access to kindergartens (KGs) and supporting smooth transition to Grade 1
The delegation kicked off the field visit with program launch ceremony hosted at Um Farwah Primary School Bayder Wadi Alsaer, in the presence of Dr. Sami Al Salayteh; Secretary General of the Ministry of Education (MoE), Dr. Wafa Al Abdalat, Head of Education Department at MoE, Dr. Alia Al Arabiat, Head of Early Childhood Directorate at MoE, Sami Alshdeefat, Director of the Education Directorate, and Muna Abbas, Country Director, Plan International Jordan, and Dr. Tanjina Mirza, Chief Programs Officer, Plan International Canada. The delegation then headed to Al-Ara’ek, a community-based organization in Hay Nazzal – East Amman, where a tour of the facility took place before a meeting with teachers, children and their parents, as well as the local community committee.
The AED 5,884,792 (USD 1,601,958) program launched in partnership with Plan International Jordan, Plan International Canada, Lamsa World and Ustad Mobile, focuses on pre-primary education and seeks to provide Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) services for Syrian Refugee children as well as children from host communities. Over a period of two years, the program proposes a broad plan to ensure that 4,000 boys and girls, between the ages of 5 and 6, in 3 governorates in Jordan - including the Azraq Refugee Camp - are adequately prepared for Grade 1 formal education. The program also aims to increase access to kindergartens (KGs) by mobilizing and encouraging 2,000 parents to enroll their children, while supporting the expansion of KG classrooms to accommodate these new children. Furthermore, the program is set to support children who are already enrolled by improving the quality of established KGs through comprehensive teacher training programs and additional psychosocial support for the most vulnerable children. Finally, for children who have neither KG experience nor access to the KG program, 80 ‘School Readiness Programs’ will be established to offer them an accelerated learning program that aim to prepare them for a smooth transition to Grade 1. A total of 18 trainers and 160 teachers will be involved, reaching an additional 10,000 indirect beneficiaries within the community.
This program integrates an Educational Technology (EdTech) pilot associated with the Dubai Future Accelerators (DFA) program. In a bid to find ways of improving access to quality education for refugees through technology, Dubai Cares partnered with Ustad Mobile and Lamsa World, two UAE-based EdTech companies specialized in Education in Emergency (EiE), to design the most relevant technology solutions that holistically complement ECCD services. This solution will make use of existing mobile devices to support parents and children at home with structured development activities, as well as teachers with in-service training and learning material available from their mobile phone.
Highlighting the importance of the program, Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares and member of its Board of Directors, said: “Through this program, Dubai Cares aims to support quality preschool education and stimulate caregiving services for all children. This includes supporting the Government of Jordan to achieve its objective to universalize pre-school education within the host community and refugee camps throughout the country. This program is also in line with Dubai Cares’ ‘Education in Emergencies’ strategy, as it aims to support both Syrian and Jordanian children at the pre-primary level by giving them access to quality education from outset, while leveraging technology through existing mobile devices to increase outreach without additional infrastructure.”
Plan International Jordan’s Country Director, Muna Abbas, said: “This program is very timely as the government has announced that pre-school will be compulsory by the 2019/20 school year. With this generous support from Dubai Cares, we are establishing much needed KG spaces that will continue to benefit children in the years to come. It is a basic right for children to have access to quality education, and research shows early investment in education has a significant impact on performance in later stages of education, and the ability to get jobs and succeed later in life.”
UNHCR report shows that only 69% of children in Jordan under the age of 6 – and even lower among Syrian refugees – have access to pre-primary care, and access to private KG is considered a luxury, and public provision of pre-primary services is very low.
Supporting teachers’ wellbeing and development
The delegation also launched the 2nd program titled ‘Transforming Refugee Education towards Excellence’ (TREE), a program being implemented by Save the Children and the MIT Abdul Latif Jameel World Education Lab (MIT J-WEL), which was co-founded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Community Jameel in 2017. This program is a collaboration between the Jordanian Ministry of Education and Community Jameel and Dubai Cares. The delegation was joined by Kevin Watkins, CEO, Save the Children UK; and Vijay Kumar, Executive Director of MIT J-WEL, at the launch ceremony.
The program aims to support the urgent need for Teacher Professional Development (TPD) in an extremely challenging context. Over a period of 5 years, the AED 20.2 million (USD 5.5 million) TREE program - which includes an AED 5,510,250 (USD 1,500,000) contribution from Dubai Cares - involves teachers, head teachers and government representatives with the program team to develop and refine an iterative process that focuses on two core areas to improve TPD in Jordan. The program also aims to improve teachers’ wellbeing by capitalizing on the partners’ experience to bring compassion and empathy into education-based thinking. Furthermore, the program seeks to improve quality of teaching through a blended learning approach for teacher development, which takes into consideration the wellbeing of children, identification of their competencies and monitoring of their development. This pilot program, which is set to benefit 1,350 teachers and impact 745,000 people in Jordan, will be up-scalable to help millions of children in crisis situations.
Commenting on the significance of this program, Dr. Al Gurg said: “Teachers in some parts of Jordan are struggling in extremely challenging environments such as inadequate support, overcrowded classrooms, and lack of training, to name a few. We believe that the TREE approach is a powerful tool which supports teachers to be agents of change. The MIT, J-WEL and Save the Children program represents a unique opportunity for Dubai Cares to play a key role in transforming the social and emotional wellbeing of teachers.”
Hassan Jameel, Community Jameel President for Saudi Arabia, added: “Every child deserves safe access to education – a critical tool for people to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. At Community Jameel, we believe that effective learning depends on both children and teachers getting the support they need to develop their social and emotional wellbeing. This is the focus that joins the exceptional work of Save the Children, J-WEL, the Jordanian Ministry of Education and our other partners. We would like to thank Dubai Cares in particular for their support in helping materialize the groundbreaking program launched today.”
“Teacher professional development that leads to self-empowerment, which includes but goes beyond simply tools and techniques, is a critical element of positive educational change. With the support of Dubai Cares, we are well positioned to carry this important work forward,” remarked J-WEL’s Executive Director Vijay Kumar. “Through TREE, with Save the Children and Community Jameel, we are not only addressing the needs of Jordanian teachers and the students they serve, but developing solutions that can address the wellbeing of teachers and students in challenging environments worldwide.”
Save the Children Jordan CEO Diala Khamra commented: “The protection and education of children is at the core of what we do and the TREE program aims to address the social and emotional wellbeing aspect of teachers that supports transforming classrooms into friendly teaching environment.”
Groundbreaking high-tech platform taking the learning experience to higher levels
Furthermore, the delegation also launched “MiyaMiya”, a new technology enabled program supported by a consortium of global donors, including Dubai Cares, the One Foundation, the Vitol Foundation, and Chalhoub Group. Washington DC-based education technology leader Pedago, the project’s inceptor, will act as program manager, with Amman-based Questscope implementing the initiative across the Kingdom. The Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development is providing design, research and evaluation capacity.
MiyaMiya focuses on the reintegration of out-of-school children into secondary education, which is key to gaining access to basic job opportunities and opening pathways to higher education. This pilot program relies heavily on Pedago’s proprietary and innovative learning solution. The company is developing the necessary instructional courses, which are optimized for smartphones given the high device penetration across Jordan. The concept of MiyaMiya was conceived as a digital curriculum delivery solution targeting refugee children and youth but will eventually be made available to all learners. The learning content is adapted to the national curriculum of host countries.
Pedago draws on its long history in education technology. Its management team spearheaded NYSE-listed Rosetta Stone, the world’s leading language instruction company, for over a decade before setting up Pedago. The program will run for a period of 3 years, and is in line with the Jordanian Government’s priority to tackle the low passing rate of ‘Tawjihi,’ the General Secondary Education Certificate Examination. Subject matter focus areas are Math, Physics and English for the final two years of the Jordanian National secondary curriculum, and will be tested by the out-of-school Syrian refugee and Jordanian youth starting this year.
The Queen Rania Foundation (QRF) will provide research, monitoring and impact evaluation of the program, and coordination with the Ministry of Education throughout the process. Dubai Cares has secured USD 4 million out of which Chalhoub Group has contributed AED 3,673,500 (USD 1 million). The Vitol Foundation is also a major supporter of the program.
Commenting on the launch of the program, Dr. Al Gurg said: “We are proud to announce a program that leverages technology to support secondary-school aged refugees and host communities alike in Jordan. We believe that technology nowadays – especially smart phones - plays an instrumental role in providing increased access to learning opportunities, as it complements the already existing education systems and brings about positive change towards learning. This cutting edge technology-led program aims to offer flexible learning solutions that empower refugees and host communities in diverse circumstances to pursue their education, which is a basic human right and a step forward to protect refugee children and give them hope for a better future for themselves, their families and communities.”
“We are delighted to collaborate with Dubai Cares, Questscope and the Queen Rania Foundation to make our breakthrough technology available to Jordan’s most vulnerable students” said Tom Adams, Pedago’s Founder and CEO. “MiyaMiya is designed to be the premier solution for delivering Tawjihi-based instruction, in both Arabic and English, and it works on smartphones.”
Queen Rania Foundation CEO Bassem Saad noted that: “We know that the world is changing faster than our classrooms, and the technological advances in education can bridge the gap for our students to access knowledge that might otherwise be unavailable. We’re very proud of this partnership, the prospects excite us, and give us hope to provide the most vulnerable students in Jordan quality education.”
Dublin-based One Foundation is another major contributor to MiyaMiya with a targeted grant to develop the English curriculum. In announcement, the Foundation said: “At the One Foundation we have continuously worked with identified partners to catalyze and to scale-up identified innovative programming to help as many vulnerable young persons as possible both at home and abroad. We are passionate about new ways to access education, new ways to access entrepreneurial opportunities and new ways to access the new economy skills training young people need and deserve. We believe English is a language of opportunity, and we are proud to be part of this impactful consortium for positively charged education.”
According to a UNHCR report, only around 20% of secondary-school-aged Syrian children are enrolled in formal education, while the rest mostly work to support their families. Not attending secondary education prevents students from passing the final exam ‘Tawjihi’ and receiving the necessary school certification to gain access to the job market, or study further. The success rate for passing the ‘Tawjihi’ is only 32% among Syrian refugee youth and 40% among Jordanian youth, thus underlining the overall strain on teachers and the lack of investments in pedagogical capacity for decades.