I draw your attention to the reporting project that took me to Amman, Jordan, for 10 days: “The Lost Years: Iraqi Students in Jordan,” a collection of photos, videos, and an in-depth article about Iraqi refugees. It was published this week by Education Week. The project isn’t, of course, about English-language learners in the United States—the subject of this blog—but many of the nation’s ELLs are refugees and the piece might give you some insight into issues affecting displaced people in general.
What was most surprising to me in reporting for this project was that so many Iraqi refugees living in Jordan and Syria had missed so much school, often as many as four years, and that many Iraqi refugees are still not enrolled in school.
The children we interviewed who had fled their homeland because of the war often seemed to have lost track of time. For instance, 16-year-old Mohammed Faris, who is from Fallujah, Iraq, and is now a 5th grader in a public school in Jordan, couldn’t tell me exactly how many years of school he had missed, though it must have been at least four. He kept saying, “All I know is that when I left school in Iraq, I was in the 4th grade.” Fourth grade was one of his few reference points.
I imagine that it’s common for refugee children to lack points of reference when they are on the move and they are out of school.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.