Let's collaborate to support refugees and asylum seekers with English

by Guest Blogger, 24 May 2018
Yvonne from a Kenyan refugee camp with books

Chloe Shaw and Sarah Rogerson from Cambridge Assessment English talk about their recent experience delivering the ESOL SIG showcase at IATEFL 2018, and seek your support and ideas on collaborating to support refugees and asylum seekers with English. 

We were really excited to share the work Cambridge Assessment English has been doing with organisations such as FutureLearn, Crisis Classroom, British Council, Techfugees and UCAS, to help forced migrants access English language education. People who came to our IATEFL session found out about the background to our staff-led initiative, ‘Access to English for refugees and asylum seekers’ and heard examples of projects already underway. We were very keen to hear what more people thought could be achieved by joining forces with us and supporting each other’s work. 

Techfugees conference 

Around 18 months ago, Sarah had suggested that Cambridge English, as a large international organisation with a social mission, could play a role in helping refugees who needed support with English. A small group of us formed around this idea, and set about finding out more about the specific challenges faced by forced migrants. We spoke to refugees, teachers working with refugees, researchers, NGOs, tech companies and education organisations to understand the issues and where our support could be most valuable. 

We didn’t want to do this alone and so we ran a conference with Techfugees (pictured above and Will Saville pictured below, presenting), an organisation which helps provide technology solutions to refugee challenges, to get the right people together who could help people in crisis situations with learning. A number of projects are now up and running thanks to the ideas and enthusiasm of those people who came to our Techfugees conference. We shared details of some of these in our IATEFL session: 

Will Saville presenting at techfugees 

Access to higher education for refugees and asylum seekers – a free online course to help forced migrants apply to university in the UK. The two lead educators are refugees living in the UK and the course features content from many partners, including UCAS, STAR Network, Welsh Refugee Network and Article 26. Cambridge English contributed content around English language learning and English entry requirements. This course will run again in November and would be helpful to people you know who are planning to make a university application. 

Volunteering with refugees – another free online course, for people who would like to better understand the linguistic and social needs of refugees and work as volunteer teachers. Developed in partnership with Crisis Classroom, this MOOC is running again on 25 June and is open for registrations now. Please help us spread the word about this course which has attracted thousands of volunteers in its first two runs with a lively collaborative online community. 

Donating laptops to refugeesDonations of laptops and mobile phones – we shared how our IT department is now refurbishing our old IT equipment so we can donate laptops and mobile phones to refugees (pictured right in action). Equipment has been used by people all over the world, including France, Lebanon and Greece. Do get in touch if you are working with refugees and would like equipment donations or if you’d like advice on how to set up a similar scheme where you work. 

Exam bursaries – we’ve been working with RefuAid to offer Cambridge English exams to refugees in the UK. We started by offering C1 Advanced but will now be offering Cambridge English Qualifications at lower levels too, as well as the Occupational English Test (OET). If you know of anyone who would benefit from a bursary or if you can help as a volunteer teacher of English with RefuAid, do get in touch. 

Online tutoring and free content – we worked with Kiron Open Higher Education to provide free online English lesson and learning content. We’re happy to share our experiences around the online teaching if anyone is interested. We’re now planning to teach refugees in our local community, now that more families have moved into the area. 

You can watch our IATEFL presentation here and do please get in touch by leaving a comment below if you can see an opportunity for us to work together to support forced migrants with their learning. 

Chloe Shaw and Sarah Rogerson 
Cambridge Assessment English

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