The refugee situation is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world since World War II, and Syrian citizens currently represent its most visible facet – one in two Syrians has either been displaced or killed since the conflict started. The Americas host 16% of the world’s refugee population (UNHCR, 2016). Argentina currently hosts 3,200 refugees from 65 nationalities, and Programa Siria, the national government’s response to the crisis, received 828 asylum requests between 2014 and October 2017 alone.
British Council work in the Middle East has reached over 154,000 Syrians since 2013, and many thousands more from neighbouring countries, helping individuals, communities, civil society and service providers to access the skills, opportunities and pathways needed to manage sources of conflict peacefully. A cornerstone of this work has been a focus on the importance for refugees and migrants of learning the local language of their host country, a focus which has led to substantial research and the publication of the Language for Resilience report. In terms of the needs and priorities of a refugee, knowing the local language comes second only to sustenance and safety: it gives people a voice; supports integration; enables access to work, services, education and information; and the learning process itself offers opportunities to process loss and trauma.
British Council in Argentina is currently piloting an approach to teach Spanish via videoconference to refugees throughout the country who are not able to attend face-to-face classes, and is working with the national government to develop this into a larger scale solution.
Language for Resilience report
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 and providing suggestions for programme responses that address key needs.
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.
This report is offered as a contribution to the understanding of how language learning builds resilience, whether it is giving a voice to young people and adults, building social cohesion in host communities or providing individuals with the skills they need to access work, services, education and information.
The report shows that for children and young people attending schools or post-school education, and for educators in host communities handling influxes of refugee students, quality language learning improves attainment and attendance and builds safer and more inclusive classrooms. It also illustrates how creative approaches to language education can support the development of life skills and help meet psycho-social needs.
Find out more here.