Education, the One Thing that Cannot Be Taken Away—Fulfilling the Hopes of Palestinian Refugees
School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University
When Israel was founded following World War II, many Palestinians were forced from their homes and ended up refugees. They are still unable to return home. However, they have hope. That hope is education. There is a strong hope that education can broaden the possibilities for the next generation and create a better society, and Japanese in the field of education, too, support projects to make that a reality.
Educational technology that supports efforts to develop educational programs for Palestinian refugees
The First Arab-Israeli War broke out in response to the declaration of the founding of Israel in 1948, and more than seven hundred thousand Palestinians fled to neighboring countries and have been living as refugees for almost seventy years. Among the refugees are now even third and fourth generation refugees, and over five million Palestinians are living in refugee camps in surrounding countries, such as Syria. Before the Syrian Syrian Crisis, Syria was extremely tolerant of refugees, including Palestinians, and adopted policies that gave these refugees various rights. There are refugee camps throughout Syria, including Damascus, but even though they are called camps, they are normal cities with shopping centers and condominiums, not tent villages. The schools in these camps were clean and equipped with various types of audio visual materials and equipment. Although the children are called Palestinian refugees, most are third or fourth generation refugees and were born and raised in Syria. Because they do not possess passports, they have difficulty leaving the country, but they were permitted to attend universities and start businesses in the country.
Through UNRWA, local Palestinian staff and international staff, who possess expertise in various fields, cooperate in the fields of education, medical care, and relief/social services. I was part of a project team composed of Japanese educational technology researchers and UNRWA staff that developed and put into practice a curriculum for children stuck in the conditions unique to refugees. I considered how to use my experience with education in Japan to solve the problem of children not being proactive because of feeling forced to study, an issue related to education in the refugee camps at that time. Both Palestinians and Syrians have a respect for Japan, which developed into an advanced country following its defeat in World War II, and they know that the foundation of that growth was education. Because everyone wants to learn about education in Japan, they showed extremely strong interest in Japanese education methods and techniques. Using Japanese educational methods and technology as reference, Palestinian teachers created classes and developed various ingenious ways to generate interest among the children. However, local teachers began to feel something was wrong even though they could feel that they were being successful. It had become possible for children to enjoy taking part in the classes, but the teachers wondered if that was enough. For example, the children seemed to enjoy giving presentations on what they had learned and thought, but they did not try to get others to understand what they were saying or search for and examine problems or points that could be improved on by comparing their presentations against those of other students in order to make their presentations better. How could teachers foster deeper learning? Children worked hard to learn what they were told, but how could teachers get children to look and search for questions and solve problems on their own without being told? While pursuing the answer to those questions, the teachers noticed that “not being proactive because of being forced to study” was a problem that not only the children but also teachers themselves faced. If teachers are bound by an idea that something should be done this way or that this is a good class, they stop thinking for themselves and simply do it that way. The important point is for teachers themselves to develop the perspective of looking for ways to improve classes and conducting classes by always creatively expanding that perspective to match the conditions of the children. In this way, teachers create a system in which children take a leadership role in creatively learning and developing, which is one of the major roles of educational technology.
Learning through international exchanges between Japan and Palestine that broaden the worlds of children
In fact, the literacy rate among Palestinians in Syria is extremely high. This is partly because of the high quality of the education provided by UNRWA, but the major reason is because Palestinian refugees value education above everything else. Palestinians have had their homes, families, land, and belongings stolen from them, and they believe that education is the only belonging that cannot be taken from them. Adults want children to live happy lives. They believe that education will make it possible for children to survive in the complex society they live in and make it possible for them to have at least a slightly better future. Palestinian children, however, live in an extremely constrained society—that is, the refugee camp. Because of that, no matter how much they learn, they accept the system of their small society as normal without questioning it. Thus, this way of thinking becomes normal and common sense, making it almost impossible to develop new ways of thinking or acting. Under these conditions, by coming into contact with a different culture, system of values, language, and people (Japan), they reexamined what they had come to think of as normal and used that different perspective and way of thinking to take another look at what was normal. This freed them of the routine preconceptions they had developed in daily life, broadened their future possibilities, and made them aware of the possibilities of what they can do on their own and what they want to do.
Adaptability that grows by accumulating experiences of other countries
In Japan, efforts are being made to reform education, and this includes introducing the idea of active learning by striving to foster new skills, such as key competencies, important skills stipulated by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and needed in the 21st century as we are facing drastic changes. Through actively learning, children try various roles, such as being a speaker, evaluator, supporter, group leader, recorder, etc. In addition, the use of ICT broadens those possibilities even more. When playing various roles, there are situations when the values and ways of doing things children have acquired will not be applicable. In those situations, children reexamine what they consider normal, develop questions, and broaden their perspective and values. In this way, children learn to adapt to changing situations through various experiences with other countries in which their current values and ways of doing things are not applicable. Children discover new things about themselves, broaden their options, and increase their possibilities, and this probably leads to the development of key competencies.
Fulfilling the hope that education be the one thing that cannot be taken away
* The contents of articles on M's Opinion are based on the personal ideas and opinions of the author and do not indicate the official opinion of Meiji University.
Associate Professor, School of Global Japanese Studies, Meiji University
Designing learning environments based on situational learning
[Key words] educational technology, international educational cooperation, multicultural cooperation through ICT, qualitative research
Main books and papers:
◆ “Daigaku kyoiku o design suru—koseishugi ni motozuita kyoiku Jissen” (Designing Higher Education based on Constructivism ) (Koyo Shobo 2012)
◆ “ICT kyoiku no design dai 12 sho Kaigai tono koryugakushu no tenkai” (Chapter 12 “Introducing Learning Based on International Exchanges” of ICT Education Design) (Nihon Bunkyou Shuppan 2008)
◆“A Case Study of Implementing Lesson Study for Pre-Service Training for Education in Myanmar.” Journal of Educational Technology and Research (2012)
◆ “Internet o katsuyo shita ibunkakan no kyodo o unagasu gakushukankyo design —Jissen-kyodotai no soshikika no shiza kara” (Designing a Learning Environment That Promotes Cooperation Between Cultures Using the Internet—From the Perspective of Organizing a Community of Practice) (Japan Society for Multicultural Relations Vol. 17, 2010)