|Programme Title||English Language Course for Refugee Teachers (ELCRT)|
|Implementing Organization||Education Development Trust (EdDevTrust)|
|Language of Instruction||Host country’s language; second or foreign language|
|Date of Inception||2017|
|Programme Partners||Jusoor, Save the Children, Out of the Wilderness, Sawa for Development and Aid, Multi-Aid Programs (MAPS)|
|Annual Programme Costs||USD 85,000|
|Annual Programme Cost per Learner||USD 850|
|Annual cost of the digital tool||USD 400|
|Digital tool(s) used||Zoom, WhatsApp, Padlet, edPuzzle, Microsoft Forms|
|Learner age||Adults aged 18+|
|Learner to instructor ratio||15:1|
|Target skill(s)||English teaching, speaking and writing; digital literacy|
|Impact||Teachers trained to serve 1,500 Syrian refugee children|
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were almost 1 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon in 2019 (UNHCR, 2020). The country currently has the largest number of refugees per inhabitant in the world: one in six (EdDevTrust, 2020a, p. 5); it is therefore no surprise that it has experienced difficulties providing adequate housing, employment and access to social services to support this influx of refugees.
Although refugee children are entitled to attend public schools in Lebanon, high poverty and language barriers prevent many of them from receiving an education (Anera, 2021). UNHCR estimates that only 57 per cent of refugee children aged 6–14 are enrolled in school (UNHCR, 2021). In addition, public schools often lack the funding and personnel to provide remedial education, such as English language learning for refugee students. Many of these students therefore fall behind and drop out. Moreover, there is a shortage of qualified English speakers who can teach core subjects in English, one of the languages of the national curriculum (USAID, 2021).
In 2017, the Education Development Trust (EdDevTrust), an international organization based in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, founded the English Language Course for Refugee Teachers (ELCRT) programme in Lebanon in response to the Syrian refugee crisis. Working with several NGO partners in the country, EdDevTrust’s ELCRT programme provides training for teachers, who are themselves Syrian refugees, to instruct refugee children in English, numeracy and science, using English as the primary language of instruction. The objective of the ELCRT programme is thus to train refugee teachers, who can in turn prepare refugee children to enrol in the Lebanese school system. Believing that ‘everyone's life can be transformed through excellent education’ (EdDevTrust, 2021), EdDevTrust and its partners developed ELCRT as a successful programme that can serve as a model for other NGOs to replicate with refugee populations across the world.
Overview of the programme
Learners on the ELCRT programme are teachers who wish to improve their teaching skills and apply these improved skills in their classrooms. They are selected by EdDevTrust in consultation with its NGO partners. Learners attend courses in literacy and digital skills in a multilingual context, literacy for social, cultural and economic integration, and vocational education. The skills that they acquire during training can then be reproduced and provided to others in their communities through their teaching.
The programme provides learners with 30 hours of instruction: 20 sessions lasting 90 minutes each. They learn teaching strategies and pedagogical approaches that they can use in their own classrooms, while simultaneously improving their English language skills. Each group of learners is given a weekly assignment requiring around 10 hours of work per session. Learners receive a certificate upon completion of the course.
Learners are guided in using the flipped classroom approach (whereby videos, PowerPoint presentations or similar are sent to participants ahead of the lesson for discussion in the session) and presentation-based teaching. Using blended learning techniques that combine in-person and virtual instruction, learners are taught to use technology as a tool for instruction. Learners who are initially unfamiliar with the technology build their own digital competences while learning how to integrate such tools into their lessons.
Periodic formative assessments are conducted, including classroom observations and other opportunities for reflection, to assess and guide the learners. Learners have access to online ‘teacher learning communities’ (TLC), where they are encouraged to share their experiences and setbacks, exchange ideas, and support one another in their teaching work with Syrian refugee children in Lebanon.
Through its ELCRT programme, EdDevTrust seeks to:
- deliver an English language course for teachers to improve their language proficiency and confidence using English;
- help teachers to teach more effectively in English by providing them with training and curriculum support;
- deliver professional development to school leaders so that they can become effective instructional leaders;
- encourage teachers and NGOs to take ownership of their professional development by supporting them in facilitating teacher learning communities (TLCs).
EdDevTrust works closely with its partners (Jusoor, Sawa for Development and Aid, Out of the Wilderness, Multi Aid Programs [MAPS] and Save the Children) to identify the learners who will take part in the programme. These NGOs provide professional development to teachers. Learners mostly comprise Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and working as teachers.
Many teacher-learners do not have strong English language skills. The programme strengthens their English proficiency while also providing them with instruction on pedagogical techniques. Learners face the challenge of juggling the responsibilities of the course with teaching their own classes throughout the country, some in very remote areas. This challenge has been exacerbated still further by the COVID-19 pandemic: during the academic year 2019/20, a total of 106 teachers signed up for the course but only 88 managed to complete it (EdDevTrust, 2020b).
Enrolment of learners
An application process for teachers who wish to take part in the programme is carried out through the EdDevTrust partners. Approximately four learning groups are formed, each comprising 10–15 learners with comparable English skill levels, who progress through the curriculum together.
Assessment of learners
Learners are assessed before, during and after the course. They are given the Oxford Online Placement Test at the outset to determine their initial English speaking level. During the course, 10 hours of assignments are given. Two weeks into the course, the teacher-learners are given an additional speaking assessment. Around the same time, classroom observations of their teaching begin. Midway through the course, the teacher-learners are asked to fill out a satisfaction survey. At the end of the course, advanced teacher-learners complete a project, while the less skilled receive a further assessment. After the course, they are given a follow up assessment to determine whether the course has met expectations, along with in-person focus groups to gather further feedback.
In 2019, for example, EdDevTrust conducted an in-depth evaluation of the programme for the period 2018/19, which sought to measure its impact on learners’ teaching and learning. The research questions focused on two areas: how the language course had enabled teacher-learners to improve the delivery of their lessons, and how the new English curriculum developed by EdDevTrust for Jusoor had informed their teaching and learning in English. A range of methods were used, including an online language proficiency test; an anonymous online survey to gather participant feedback using open-ended and Likert-scale questions; focus group discussions; and lesson observations.
Teaching and learning approaches
In the ELCRT programme, teaching and learning practices are interconnected. A range of teaching methodologies is used, such as flipped learning, presentation-based teaching, and learning-by-doing. For a more diverse approach, facilitators also use case studies and videos in their lessons. Such methods provide learners with ideas as to how they can teach English to their students.
The programme also uses the lexical approach to teaching, which sees words and word combinations as the building blocks of language learning and communication. Lexical approaches to language teaching place a particular emphasis on multiword lexical units, or ‘chunks’, that are learned and used as single items (Richards and Rodgers, 2001).
During the programme development phase, EdDevTrust conducted a number of classroom observations and held several meetings with its main partner NGO, Jusoor, to identify problems to be addressed. The curriculum was developed in order to meet the needs and contexts of teacher-learners, and to improve their English language abilities based on the proficiency levels laid down in the Common European Framework Reference for Languages (CEFR). These CEFR levels are also used to inform the course pacing (see Figure 1), and to guide facilitators in developing their curricula.
Figure 1. Sample pacing guide for teacher-learners with A1- and A2-level proficiency in English. Source: Education Development Trust
The curriculum is revisited on an annual basis based on feedback received from pre- and post-course classroom observations, focus group interviews, a teachers’ survey, and expert input from the EdDevTrust’s programme team.
Recruitment and training of facilitators
Teacher trainers hired by EdDevTrust are required to have obtained a bachelor’s degree in education or English, and preferably further certification, such as the Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA). Facilitators also receive additional support from EdDevTrust through conferences and online courses on teaching skills, particularly teaching English to adults and teaching English as a second language.
Facilitators must also be able to travel to and work in rural and refugee contexts. This requirement has proven challenging in the Beqaa Valley, a rural area of Lebanon that is considered high risk. EdDevTrust reports a general unwillingness among recruitment candidates to work in predominantly Syrian refugee camps due to historical differences, and to drive long distances to deliver in-person classes.
Technology: Infrastructure, management and use
The programme uses two main digital platforms: the virtual meeting platform, Zoom; and the free instant messaging platform, WhatsApp. Like most educational providers confronting the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the programme adapted its curriculum to transition from in-person to online/digital instruction. Needs assessment and training were provided for learners in order to equip them with a working knowledge of Zoom and other relevant teaching apps with which they may have been unfamiliar.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the programme reached out to teacher-learners concerning their access to technology at home. Unfortunately, some were unable to participate due to internet connectivity and other issues, but the decision was nonetheless taken to transition to the Zoom platform and continue working with those learners who can access and use it.
All ICT tools used in the programme have been selected based on accessibility and connectivity in terms of bandwidth and affordability. WhatsApp was chosen because most of the learners were already using it privately and were therefore familiar with it. In the programme, facilitators use WhatsApp to communicate with teacher-learners, and to send them homework assignments and corrections. They use a combination of written messages, voice messages, images and video clips to interact with learners, and encourage them to practise their English. For example, learners are asked a question, which they answer by recording themselves and submitting their response via a dedicated WhatsApp group.
Other educational apps used regularly during the programme include Padlet, edPuzzle and Microsoft Forms. EdDevTrust indicates that more educational software can and will be incorporated as the shift to virtual teaching progresses.
As with many teacher-training programmes, participants are required to film themselves while they teach. Generally, learners record themselves using their personal mobile phones. As a result, a TLC has been created to allow learners to meet voluntarily each month to share and discuss video clips of their work. While this practice developed spontaneously, it is now considered to constitute an important part of the programme.
Programme impact and challenges
Impact and achievements
Since its inception in 2017, 88 learners have participated in the programme, teaching in 15 different schools and reaching 1,500 children (EdDevTrust, 2020b). Thanks to its extensive data collection routine, EdDevTrust can report in detail on the accomplishments of programme participants. Its impact evaluation for the period 2018/19 (see EdDevTrust, 2020b) was used to improve and refine project delivery for the following academic year, and yielded the following conclusions:
- Teacher-learners reported using English more frequently in their lessons. As a result, their students were understanding English better and using it more. This was verified through lesson observations conducted by EdDevTrust.
- The new English curriculum developed by Jusoor and EdDevTrust encouraged a move towards more learner-centred teaching methods. Observations of lessons with teacher-learners using the new curriculum showed an improvement in English language teaching methods.
- Most teacher-learners found the videos and songs used in the new curriculum to be more engaging and relevant for their students. They found the new curriculum easy to implement and felt supported by the Jusoor English Coordinator in implementing it.
Furthermore, most teacher-learners reported that their training had adequately prepared them to implement the curriculum. Self-reported data indicates that:
- 95 per cent of participants were satisfied with the quality of professional development provided;
- 98 per cent of participants felt that the course had improved their confidence in listening and speaking;
- 97 per cent of participants found that the course had equipped them with language to use in the classroom;
- 100 per cent of participants reported an improvement in the level of English language used in their classrooms.
While EdDevTrust regularly evaluates its teacher-learners, it reports that data collection has proven more challenging in recent months due to political upheaval in the country and the COVID-19 pandemic. Further barriers impede the assessment of ELCRT’s overall impact on the schoolchildren taught by teachers who have taken the programme: the Lebanese educational system and the migratory nature of the refugee population present obstacles to collecting such data.
The programme’s potential to have a strong impact educationally and socially in Lebanon and beyond is, however, clear. In a report entitled Our Response to the Syrian Crisis, EdDevTrust notes that ‘the Lebanese education system was only designed to accommodate 300,000 students’ and references a study by No Lost Generation that found that, ‘according to official figures in 2017, of the 625,222 registered school-aged Syrian refugees, 264,970 were enrolled in formal education and 92,617 were enrolled in non-formal education’ (EdDevTrust, 2020a, p. 5). Table 1 summarizes the benefits of the programme to various stakeholders.
Benefits to participants
Benefits to facilitators
Benefits to community
• Improved language skills;
• Confidence in using English;
• Increased pedagogical knowledge.
• Improved access to teaching in English;
• Smoother transition into the Lebanese school system for refugee children;
• Improved community relationships between Syrian refugees and Lebanese facilitators;
• Move away from historical conflicts and ongoing tensions around migration.
• Improved English teaching;
• Learning community enables language practise and sharing of good practice.
• Improved capacity of local Lebanese instructional leaders (teaching, coaching, managing projects, training and conducting classroom observations);
• Exposure to international research and practices;
• Opportunity to connect with external international consultants.
In the makeshift classroom in Lebanon where the state system is at capacity, alternative school settings are flourishing and the appetite to learn – and to teach – is as strong. Our language courses for teachers, customized to meet the needs of the teachers working in non-formal education, many of whom are refugees themselves, are welcomed with open arms. The teachers want to continue their mission to teach; they want to help pave a way out of the situation they find themselves in and they want to ensure that generations aren’t lost.
Senior Project Manager, EdDevTrust
In addition to the political upheaval and COVID-19 pandemic currently affecting the country (and impeding programme delivery and evaluation, as noted in the section on the impact of the ELCRT programme, above), EdDevTrust faces two main challenges. The first is finding facilitators to deliver educational services, especially in remote areas (see the earlier section on the recruitment and training of facilitators); the second is the weather. Neither challenge has as yet been fully resolved. With COVID-19 forcing providers worldwide to move their instruction online, the programme may be able to transition to online provision in order to eliminate the physical travel barriers caused by bad weather and governmental restrictions on travel. However, both programme facilitators and potential participants may find that teaching and learning remotely from home, coupled with familial demands, prohibits them from taking part in the programme.
Stakeholders and partnerships
EdDevTrust provides all funding for the ELCRT programme. As mentioned above, it works closely with a number of partners in Lebanon, including Jusoor, Sawa for Development and Aid, Out of the Wilderness, MAPS and Save the Children. These partners provide teacher participants for the programmes. They also contribute to the instructional design of the programme, and meet at the start of each academic year to review the curriculum and make necessary updates. Stakeholders are provided with detailed information about the participants enrolled in the programme and their progress.
Based on the impact evaluation conducted in 2019, EdDevTrust reports that the following changes and enhancements have been implemented through 2020-2021 to improve delivery of the ELCRT programme:
- A blended learning approach: This offers more flexibility and resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and accompanying restrictions, while also circumventing accessibility issues caused by political protests and extreme weather conditions that hinder face-to-face classes. The programme’s reading circle sessions and conversational English elements mostly take place online.
- More structured involvement of English-speaking volunteers from across EdDevTrust: Volunteers were invited to attend and participate in conversation lessons and reading circle sessions.
- A greater focus on equipping teachers with knowledge of digital pedagogy: Digital pedagogical aims were incorporated into the language course, and a monthly newsletter waspublished to allow teachers to share tips, best practices and online teaching advice.
EdDevTrust has been approached by other NGOs with regard to expanding its programming in the region but is currently limited by available funds.
Anera. 2021. Where we work: Lebanon. [online] Available at: https://www.anera.org/where-we-work/lebanon/ [Accessed 19 February 2021].
CoE (Council of Europe). 2021. Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: The CEFR levels. [online] Available at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/common-european-framework-reference-languages/table-1-cefr-3.3-common-reference-levels-global-scale [Accessed 1 June 2021].
EdDevTrust (Education Development Trust). 2020a. Our response to the Syrian crisis: A case study of our work supporting the right to education of Syrian refugees. [pdf] Available at: https://www.educationdevelopmenttrust.com/CMSPages/GetFile.aspx?nodeguid=14bb01a9-3360-44dc-9370-6a29bb06d9ec&lang=en-GB/ [Accessed 10 November 2021].
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USAID (United States Agency for International Development). 2021. Lebanon: Education. [online] Available at: https://www.usaid.gov/lebanon/education [Accessed 19 February 2021].
World Bank. 2017. Individuals using the internet (% of population) – Lebanon. [online] Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/IT.NET.USER.ZS?locations=LB [Accessed 19 February 2021].
 Microsoft Forms can be accessed here: https://forms.office.com. A Microsoft account is required to create surveys and polls; however, anyone sent a link to a survey or poll can respond without registering.
 CEFR organizes language proficiency into six levels, from A1 to C2, which in turn can be regrouped into three broad levels: basic user, independent user and proficient user (see CoE, 2021).