Director's Corner,  Georgetown,  Georgetown University,  School of Continuing Studies

Georgetown University’s Mission to Increase Educational Access for Refugees

Refugees in the Middle East need education, relocation, and employment services due to forced migration from countries such as Syria, Iraq, and Somalia. In recognition of and in service to the Catholic and Jesuit mission of Georgetown University to accompany, educate, and serve, the English Language Center (ELC) and Professional Development & Certificates (PDC) in the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) are collaborating with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Pathfinder Project to provide these services.

The Pathfinder Project has four main objectives:

  • On-Site Courses (General English Program);
  • Online educational (access from partner universities);
  • Scholarship and Community Events; and to
  • Link students to legal employment or business.
28 February 2023. Georgetown Visit to JRS Jordan. All photos by Silvia Mazzoccchin, JRS.

Beginning with On-Site English Courses

The On-Site General English Program in Amman, Jordan approached Georgetown University’s English Language Center (ELC) early in 2019 to request an external validation of its English language programs to ensure that the JRS curriculum is consistent with that of the Georgetown certificate program. The aim was to review teaching materials and assessments so that students who successfully complete the JRS program can be awarded official Georgetown University certificates of completion. This credential is crucial to help the students demonstrate skill and knowledge achievement so as to help them obtain employment and additional educational opportunities.

In July 2019 and in February 2023, we visited the JRS Amman, Jordan site to study the English language program delivery that was being offered. In addition to conducting interviews with dedicated JRS staff and faculty, and observing classes, we collected evidence documents pertaining to existing curriculum, assessment, materials, and position descriptions. As a result, several strengths, challenges, and recommendations were noted.

JRS English language programs and courses in Amman, Jordan are well attended and meet the general needs of program participants. This was evidenced by the strong attendance records and high completion rates. Instructors demonstrated passion and dedication to their work, and the staff were equally driven and determined by their mission to serve this population of migrants and forcibly displaced persons. Facilities were conducive to adequate teaching and learning. There are clearly defined class schedules, assigned instructors, class rosters, and a comprehensive registration system that includes pre-placement testing.

We also noted areas to be addressed which included the need to enhance course-specific language learning objectives and outcomes, clarifying policies and requirements for course completion and grading, as well as directions and policies for placement test administration and course placement.

The ELC will support JRS Amman in implementing these recommendations and we will provide ongoing support as we hope to serve more students at this center.

ELC meets regularly with JRS to support its faculty and staff by providing feedback and guidance on the curricular material. The ELC has also provided synchronous virtual training to JRS Amman instructors and academic staff to familiarize them with the CEFR proficiency scale, and to incorporate the proficiency level descriptors into the course material (as learning objectives) and assessment tools (as measurable outcomes).

Working with ELC, JRS Amman has created overall programmatic goals and objectives, which are mapped to the leveled courses and defined course-specific learning goals and objectives.