How best to offer education to displaced people? An important question and one that Kiron, a German non-profit, has attempted to answer with their two-year, refugee-targeted, online education programme.
The team’s vision is to provide millions of refugees all over world the opportunity to gain an accredited higher education qualification through a combination of online and offline learning platforms and programs.
Their official mission statement is as follows:
Less than 1% of refugees globally have access to higher education. At Kiron, we believe that everybody has the right to fulfill their potential and improve their life prospects through education. We know that the obstacles refugees face in accessing education can be overcome.
The basis of the Kiron model – a name based on Chiron, the wisest of the centaurs in Greek mythology – is massively open online courses (MOOCs).
As this look at the history of MOOCs and other ‘distance learning’ initiatives suggests, the early forms of distance learning, such as instructional videos or courses that relied on written correspondence, suffered from a lack of interaction between the learners and directly between tutor and pupil. This issue began to be addressed with the founding of the Open University in Britain in 1969.
The proliferation of the internet has given rise to online learning platforms all over the world – take a look at MOOC-list for an idea of just what, and how much of it, is out there.
What sets Kiron apart is their focus on refugees. A loss of education may not be the first thing that occurs in the case of a misplaced person, but when considering that 25 per cent of Syrians between 18-24 years old were in education before the war started, it becomes clear that this is vital work.
According to their website, the main issues that they feel their system is challenging effectively are:
- Refugees are often not in the position to provide the paperwork necessary in terms of proof of attainment and identification required by traditional universities
- The language barrier that may be present
- Tuition fees
- The physical capacity of the universities
Whether by offering their educational programmes for free, or by using language assessments to ascertain what level the prospective learners are at, it is no surprise that Kiron has quickly expanded, with it being reported that they are currently working with over 1500 students and have recently expanded into France.
Faith in humanity, restored.