YTB Academy: E-Learning Platform for Students
The project in brief
The project is implemented by Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB), Ministry of Culture and Tourism in Türkiye. It began in January 2020. The project is implemented on a yearly basis which can be extended with the joint decision of the UNHCR and YTB. In line with the agreement with UNHCR, YTB is expected to add new modules to the system considering the needs of the target group.
The Academy of Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities (YTB Academy) is a free and public online learning platform established in 2020 by YTB in partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It offers 15 modules, including topics like twenty-first century competencies, career planning and language support, designed to enhance the educational opportunities and integration of young Syrians and the host community, addressing both academic and personal development needs in Türkiye.
The platform aims to provide enhanced educational opportunities to Syrians under temporary protection and the host community, helping them access a wide range of educational resources.
- Integration Support: The platform seeks to facilitate the integration of international students and students under temporary protection into Turkish society by offering not only academic content but also materials that support their psychological and intellectual development.
- Personalized Learning: By offering a variety of modules, the platform strives to cater to individual needs and interests, allowing students to personalize their learning experiences.
- Skill Development: The platform aims to develop a diverse set of skills, including language proficiency, coding, career planning, and entrepreneurial abilities, to better prepare students for their future.
- Collaboration with UNHCR: The partnership with UNHCR demonstrates the commitment to address the unique needs of Syrian students and improve their access to education.
Main activities of the Good Practice
The project's core activities put in centre the training workshops for Syrian and Turkish university students. These workshops aim to impart vital skills related to social cohesion and communication, covering topics such as conflict resolution, intercultural communication, active listening, and relevant competencies. The goal is to foster a harmonious and interconnected community among students.
Geographical expansion is a key aspect of the initiative, with activities spanning multiple Turkish cities, particularly those with a substantial Syrian population. This strategic approach ensures accessibility for a diverse group of students from different backgrounds and regions.
In 2023, the project introduced Training of Trainers (ToTs), designed to prepare select students to become trainers themselves. These individuals will lead their peers in conflict resolution training, promoting a "snowballing effect" where knowledge and skills cascade through the student community.
Community-building activities are integral, fostering social interaction and trust among participants, and enhancing social cohesion and a sense of belonging.
Monitoring and evaluation activities are implemented to assess the impact of the training programmes and make necessary adjustments based on feedback and results. Documentation and reporting provide transparency and evidence of the project's achievements.
Community engagement involves collaboration with the local community, universities, and relevant stakeholders, strengthening the project's reach and effectiveness.
The training content and methods are customized to address the specific needs and challenges faced by Syrian and Turkish university students in Türkiye, making the project tailored and responsive to their unique circumstances.
Elements which helped facilitate the implementation of the good practice
- Commitment to Refugee Education: The Turkish government's commitment to providing education and support to people under temporary and international protection and international students, as demonstrated by policies and initiatives, likely created a conducive environment for the project's implementation.
- Dedicated Development Funds: The availability of dedicated funding and resources allocated for the project is essential. These funds have been used to develop the online platform, create educational content, and maintain the platform's accessibility.
- Collaborative Efforts: The collaboration between government institutions (YTB) and international organizations (UNHCR) signifies a cooperative approach to addressing the unique educational needs of international students and Syrians under temporary protection. This collaboration provided access to additional resources and expertise.
- Digital Infrastructure: Türkiye’s existing digital infrastructure and technological capabilities supported the development and operation of the online learning platform, ensuring that it can effectively reach its target audience.
- Legal Framework for Education: A legal framework that allows people under temporary protection and international students to access education and educational resources has been crucial. This might include policies that enable students to attend schools and access online educational resources.
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
What challenges were encountered in delivering the project and how were they overcome?
- The occurrence of earthquakes in 2023 in the cities where the project was planned to be implemented presented significant obstacles. Since the disaster considerably affected the students and their families who are living in the earthquake region, it was needed to change the locations with the alternatives. Even if there is no direct damage, the earthquakes caused a profound impact on target audience.
- Working with a diverse group of students from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds presented minor challenges in communication, understanding, and cultural sensitivity. Some participants found it difficult to join a training programme in Turkish, albeit this was a relatively small group.
- Coordinating training sessions in multiple cities was sometimes logistically challenging, including travel, venue arrangements, and ensuring consistent quality across different locations.
- Ensuring active participation and engagement of students in training programmes was sometimes a challenge. Some students had competing commitments and were not initially inclined to participate.
- The "snowballing effect" strategy of training students to become trainers in some cases, required ongoing support and resources to sustain their motivations.
How they were overcome
- Alternative training locations that are safe and accessible were immediately identified to ensure that these locations meet the needs of the project and can accommodate the participants. Also, the timeline of the programmes was updated in the expectation that the psychological impact of the earthquake on the social level would diminish.
- Training materials in Turkish and Arabic were offered to participants.
- By working with a competent company in the field of organization to oversee logistics across different cities eased the logistical challenges.
- Continued support, mentoring, and resources were provided to the students who have been trained to become trainers. This included refresher courses, access to materials, and assistance in addressing challenges they face as trainers.
Results of the Good Practice
- Enhanced Social Cohesion: Fostering trust, understanding, and positive interactions among Syrians under temporary protection and host community members.
- Improved Communication Skills: Developing effective interpersonal and intercultural communication abilities.
- Conflict Resolution Proficiency: Acquiring peaceful conflict resolution skills to alleviate tensions and enhance overall well-being.
- Empowerment and Self-Esteem: Training students to become trainers empowers individuals, boosting self-esteem and a sense of agency.
- Cross-Cultural Understanding: Promoting deeper cultural understanding between individuals under temporary protection and the host community, reducing stereotypes and prejudices.
- Community Integration: Facilitating better integration of Syrians under temporary protection into the host community, expanding access to employment and social services.
- Psychosocial Well-being: Enhanced social cohesion, communication, and conflict resolution skills contribute to reduced stress and anxiety, benefiting participants' mental health.
In what way does the good practice meet one or more of the four objectives of the Global Compact on Refugees?
Objective 1: Ease the pressures on host countries
The project aims to foster social cohesion between Syrians under temporary protection and the host community, which can help alleviate social tensions and promote harmonious coexistence.
By providing training and educational opportunities, the programme contributes to the empowerment and integration of displaced people, potentially reducing the economic and social pressures on host communities.
Objective 2: Enhance refugee self-reliance
Training displaced people in communication skills, conflict resolution, and other essential skills empowers them to become more self-reliant. These skills can be valuable for finding employment, integrating into the host community, and making informed decisions about their future. The "snowballing effect" strategy, where Syrian students become trainers, promotes self-reliance by enabling them to take an active role in assisting their peers.
It is expected that this project will continue in the next year to track the trainings that will be provided by the students.
Arife Pehlivan, Coordinator of Joint Scholarship Programmes, Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, Ministry of Culture and Tourism - [email protected]
Emirhan Yalçın, Assistant Expert in Joint Scholarship Coordination, Presidency for Turks Abroad and Related Communities, Ministry of Culture and Tourism - [email protected]