12 September 2018

Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut 

Written by Caroline Bullen, Communications and Development Officer in Beirut

The Syrian conflict has not only caused significant loss of life and livelihoods but created a generation in urgent need of education throughout their prolonged displacement. Especially in Lebanon, the state does not have the capacity or funds to accommodate all those children in public schools. This especially emphasises the importance of non-formal education (NFE) and those actors providing it. 

The conference was kicked off by Dr. Gregory Light and Dr. Denise Drane from Northwestern University, who presented the results of their research on the importance of emotional intelligence and critical thinking skills, which they applied in Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank. Mohamed El Amine from the Salam Institute for Peace and Justice then continued to give a detailed overview of the curriculum they developed for this study, which was supported by his colleague Talal Emalat who is responsible for teacher training.

The second session provided for an overview on the public opinion (through opinion surveys) on non-formal education in the MENA region. This was conducted by Dr. Michael Robbins of Princeton University and Dr. Hana A. El Ghali of the American University of Beirut. 

In the third session, NFE actors elaborated on their actions and NFE models in response to the Syrian refugee education crisis in Lebanon, spoke about innovation and shared success stories. After presenting SB OverSeas to the public, we paneled together with Sonbola, Alphabet and the Educational Pedagogical Commission in Lebanon to answer questions from the audience. 

The entire day provided for productive discussions and highlighted shared views between the academic world and the actors in the field. One of the main takeaways is that we need to form a united front to continue doing extensive research and providing our services to those in need, as well as sharing our findings and struggles.