• Two new basic English courses from King’s College London launch on FutureLearn as part of international partnership

The first two in a series of twelve new free online courses to assist refugees affected by conflict in the Middle East start on June 18th.

The courses are designed for tens of thousands of young people whose education has been interrupted by wars such as that in Syria, helping to prevent a ‘lost generation’ in the region.

King’s College London has produced two new free online courses, Basic English 1: Elementary and Basic English 2: Pre-Intermediate so refugees and displaced people in Jordan and Lebanon can learn basic English for everyday situations in order to gain transferable skills and/or help proceed into higher education.

The materials have been produced under PADILEIA (The Partnership for Digital Learning and Increased Access) whose partners are King’s College LondonKiron Open Higher Education (Germany), FutureLearn in the UK, Al al-Bayt University in Jordan and the American University of Beirut, Lebanon.

The PADILEIA project, of which these courses are a part, is specifically targeting Syrian refugees, displaced people and host communities in Jordan and Lebanon. It will provide blended academic programmes, including Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs), targeted online learning, and classroom-based learning to displaced students who are in refugee camps and other communities.

Learners can join the courses from any device, computer or smartphone with an internet connection. They will be able to hear people talking in English in a number of different situations and test their understanding with quizzes. The courses will also have Arabic translations. Those who join will also be able to chat to other learners in English and write short responses to some simple discussion questions.

While the course content is specifically designed for people affected by the Syrian crisis, they are open to all people in the region and beyond for free. The courses are hosted on FutureLearn, the social learning platform, and commence on June 18th. It is estimated that each course will take approximately three to four hours of study per week for four weeks to complete and there is a free digital Certificate of Achievement available for each course so learners can demonstrate their skills.

Course content introduces basic everyday conversational English and listening skills for participants in the first part with more intermediate topics such as technology and language which could be used to prepare for university in the second course.

Mark Lester, Partnerships Development Director at FutureLearn, said: “The courses that King’s has developed represent an exciting opportunity for refugees, and anyone else in the region, to strengthen their English language skills, earn formal accreditation for those skills, and improve their prospects of entry in higher education. As a company, we’re passionate about making high quality education accessible to all and I’m particularly proud that we can play our part in this important project which is doing just that for those in real need.”

Professor Bronwyn Parry is Head of the School of Global Affairs and lead on King’s Sanctuary programme which includes the PADILEIA project. She said: “We are delighted to get the first of these online courses up and live. In the scale of the enormity of the ongoing conflict in the region, English courses may seem a relatively small affair but access to education is absolutely vital and offers opportunity and hope for an entire generation whose lives have been devastated by war and displacement.”

The PADILEIA project has five years’ funding through the SPHEIR (Strategic Partnerships for Higher Education Innovation and Reform) initiative. The scheme is overseen by the British Council, Universities UK and Price Waterhouse Cooper on behalf of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).

About FutureLearn: A leading social learning platform formed in December 2012 by The Open University and is now the largest online learning platform in Europe with almost eight million people signed up worldwide. FutureLearn uses design, technology and partnerships to create enjoyable, credible and flexible online courses and postgraduate degrees that improve working lives. It partners with over a quarter of the world’s top universities, as well as organisations such as Accenture, the British Council, CIPD, Raspberry Pi and the New York Institute of Finance.

About The SPHEIR scheme: Designed to catalyse innovative ‘partnerships’ in low-income countries to improve the performance, governance and influence of higher education systems and institutions. SPHEIR is managed on behalf of UK aid through the Department for International Development in a consortium led by the British Council that includes PwC and Universities UK International (UUKi).

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