Norway launches an innovation competition to teach Syrian refugee children to read

Three million Syrian children are unable to attend school because of the war. 'Education is vital for the children's future. We are now taking new and innovative steps to give children fleeing from war educational opportunities,' said Børge Brende, Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Norway is fronting an initiative to develop a smartphone application that can help Syrian children to learn how to read, and improve their psychosocial wellbeing. This will take the form of an international innovation competition in cooperation with Norwegian and international partners.

'This international competition will put education for refugee children on the agenda with the aim of developing new, digital solutions that will allow children to learn no matter where they are, and ensure continuity in their education,' the Foreign Minister said.

The application will be a game-based learning tool in Arabic, intended as a learning supplement for use in the home. The aim is to develop several applications in the first half of 2016, and these will then be tested so that the best application can be put to use as soon as possible.

'Naturally we want all children to have the opportunity to attend school. Unfortunately, reality is not like that. Millions of children are fleeing and are being exposed to high levels of stress, which also affects their learning ability. Many children are deprived of schooling and the last four years alone there have been more than 4 000 attacks on Syrian schools', Brende said.

A large proportion of Syrian refugees have access to a smartphone, which is necessary to ensure that such a project has a broad reach. Many Syrian parents are well educated and will be able to support their children in the use of such a learning tool.

The project is part of the Norwegian Government's investment in education globally, and is one of several interventions to help provide education for children in countries affected by war and other crises. Possible contributors in disciplines such as computer games technology, Arabic, education in crisis, educational theory and psychology are invited to take part in international dialogue conferences in Oslo on 26 October and in Washington on 29 October.

Norway launches the competition in cooperation with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), the All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development-partnership, the mobile operator Orange and the Inter-Agency Network for Emergency Education (INEE).

Please see further information at Norad's website.