The Butterfly Effect Center is a solution for refugee children growing up in a world without education. The majority of displaced children around the Earth have no access to educational offerings and after three years out of school, statistically, it will be too late: the majority will never go back.
The Butterfly Effect Center, established in 2016, is providing a response through deep engagement with children and their families to learn-to-learn, and catch up. Our mission is to expand the horizon, to illuminate the immediate return that education can offer in an exciting and progressive way and to help every child realize the promise of self-fulfillment, driven by the feeling of one’s own success in a prestigious and well-rounded environment.
The Larger Problem & Solution
The Lebanese are generous in extending their social services to Syrians in need and have committed to provide public education for all Syrian refugees in the country.
One major hurdle to providing Syrians with continuing education in Lebanon is the lack of congruence in curricula. While Lebanese learn mostly in French and English, Syrians only learn in Arabic. Thus, even the most experienced at the Syrian education system would typically have a difficult time with classes taught in English or French in the Lebanese system.
Another major hurdle to continuing education is a matter of lost time. A child from Syria who fled war in the 3rd-grade, and then remained out of school for three years, would be far behind and socially on par with much younger students who would likely out-perform, leading to a disruptive and negative environment all-around.
There is also a capacity issue. Lebanon has taken-in the greatest per-capita ratio of Syrians of any country – an unfathomable amount for such a small country. In 2017, one out of every four people in Lebanon had recently originated from Syria.
The UNHCR’s Syria Regional Refugee Response Count notes over 1 Million total registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon of all ages.
The title “Refugee”, being a legal definition provided to those who are registered with the UNHCR, does not account for the unknown number of out-of-school children. More than half of the estimated 500,000 displaced Syrian children in Lebanon are out of school, according to a 2016 investigation by The Human Rights Watch, Growing Up Without and Education: Barriers to Education for Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon.
In 2013, the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) and UNICEF implemented a solution to address the need: Lebanese children attend school during the day as they have always done, uninterrupted, and then open up their schools to Syrians in the evening for a separate, “Second Shift”.
Sadly, we have learned that despite good faith efforts, in the Fall of 2016, an enormous number of students who registered were denied a seat due to lack of availability.
Furthermore, when there is no legal mandate for refugees to be in school, education is not a priority for a family and many children work to help sustain their families, friction becomes compounded, and it’s difficult to keep kids engaged and in school, even when seats are available.
According to a Freedom Fund report in April, 2016, Struggling to survive: Slavery and exploitation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, “60-70% of Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are working. Rates are even higher in the Bekaa Valley in the east of the country, where children aged as young as five pick beans, figs and potatoes.”
Humanwire’s solution engages children and families to learn-to-learn, enables an advocate for their right to access education under the Lebanese mandate, prepares children for the opportunity to become full-time students in the public school system, utilizes computer programming as an exciting method to learn Arabic, English and Math at a high pace, and provides attendance-based scholarship and transportation rewards for families with extra needs to keep students enrolled.
What curriculum should Syrian children displaced in Lebanon follow? Should they learn the national curriculum of Syria or Lebanon? The answer may ultimately be a personal one for each family, and largely hinges on whether a student might return to Syria or integrate into Lebanon. With regards to certification and accreditation, the only available, legal option is to follow the host country system, which in Lebanon includes all programs that have been certified by MEHE, for example a private school certified for Lebanese children, or a certified program designed by an NGO for refugees or other non-nationals.
What are the differences in the Syrian and Lebanese curricula?
The Syrian Educational System
In Syria, all public basic and secondary education was free and funded by the government. Public higher education was also free for the majority.
Syria followed a 12-year system of basic and secondary education, consisting of nine years of basic education (the equivalent of “Elementary” and “Middle School” in the United States) and three years of secondary education (the equivalent of “High School” in the United States). The academic year ran from September to June.
Basic education (grades 1-9) was mandatory and typically included students ages 6-15. At the end of the basic education cycle, students took a national exam. Those who passed were awarded the Shahadet Al-Taleem Al-Asasi (Basic Education Certificate). The students’ test results determined if they were entitled to attend general secondary schools or vocational/technical secondary schools.
Arabic was the primary language used for instruction in Syria. English was taught as a foreign language and students selected French or Russian as a second foreign language in their later years.
The chart below reflects the curriculum in Syria for the first 9 years of compulsory, public education, grades 1-9, ages 6-15. Generally, by comparison, a student in the 9th grade in Syria would be at an equivalent level with a student in the 9th grade in the United States or Canada, according to an assessment of data generated by WES.org.
The chart below reflects a breakdown of the Syrian basic education system by the amount of attention each subject receives for grades 1-9.
Private schooling for higher education (e.g. private universities) has been legal in Syria since 2001. In 2009, just prior to the outbreak of war, there were 20 private and 7 public universities in Syria.
The Lebanese Educational System
The educational system for Lebanese children (which in most cases supports a significant percentage of Syrians too) focuses on mathematics and science, taught in French and English.
The Lebanese curriculum entails a heavy reliance on “rote learning” where studying is largely based on memorization through repetition, as opposed to critical thinking. Most children around the world do use rote, for example, when learning the periodic table of the elements, as a means for cramming for a test. By definition, rote learning forgoes comprehension for memorization, so by itself, is an ineffective method for mastering a complex subject at an advanced level. Nevertheless, according to the UN based on an assessment of tests including the Programme for International Student Assessment and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, which attempt to measure learning across the world, while many Arab countries consistently score below the world average, Lebanon tends to outperform its Arab neighbors [Link].
The chart below reflects a breakdown of the Lebanese basic education system by the amount of attention each subject receives for grades 1-9.
Lebanon intends to offer free public school for all Syrian refugee children and attempts to do so by providing its own Lebanese curriculum.
In 2014, The Second Shift system exclusively for Syrian students was established to expand the absorption capacity of the education system and address many of the significant challenges for Syrians, for example, by providing instruction predominantly in Arabic instead of English and French, and by providing an official, accredited, condensed version of the Lebanese curriculum to make up for time lost. The curriculum for the Second Shift Syrians excludes the Lebanese courses in the arts, physical education and extracurricular activities as a means of mitigating the catch-up factor while also accounting for late registration each year, which occurs in the Fall after the Lebanese citizen registration process is complete. NGOs and supplemental programs (including programming we have at The Butterfly Effect Center) offer support in unison. Many students currently enrolled in the Second Shift 2016-2017 school year are simultaneously enrolled in classes at The Butterfly Effect Center, for example.
Together MEHE and UNICEF developed the Second Shift accelerated curriculum for grades 1-9, with the aim of enabling children to complete each annual grade level in four months and thus, to complete each cycle (three grades) within a single year.
In other words, displaced Syrians children in Lebanon are receiving a Lebanese education, in a condensed, modified form.
Notes on Certification & Accreditation
Certification refers to the issuing of a certificate to validate a process of learning. A national standardized test can be taken to certify that an individual had achieved a certain level, based on the standards of that system for example. Accreditation is the authorization and validation of a learning institution or program which generally helps to show that an alternative education provider, for example an NGO’s educational program, is recognized. Accreditation is meant to validate the value of the institutional program.
The Butterfly Effect System
The Butterfly Effect Center has as its highest goal to prepare and enable children to seek a certification from an accredited institution of learning, and to keep course, wherever they may reside or move on to, in a progressive, congruous manner.
Our method for achieving non-compulsory enrollment and independence within the Lebanese educational system for Syrians is threefold: 1) prepare to get ahead of the Lebanese Second Shift catch-up curriculum with a high-end head start, 2) assure students learn-to-learn and parents learn the importance of learning, 3) advocate and provide ongoing support for each student when entering into, and remaining within the national Lebanese system, or any national system a student may transfer to.
The majority of the children entering into the Butterfly Effect program (ages 7-14) are entirely unable to read or write in their native Arabic language and reside in Bekaa Valley where resources are the most limited (of all displaced children from Syria in Lebanon, 70% in the Bekaa Valley region are out of schools vs. 30% in most of other regions in Lebanon, according to UNICEF’s December, 2016, Vulnerability Assessment of Syrian Refugees in Lebanon Education report).
The content of the Butterfly Effect curriculum combines four interdependent tracks dedicated to student learning outcomes in a single, cohesive five-month accelerator program:
- Basic numeracy skills
- Arabic literacy
- Extra curricular activity
- Real-life themes based on UNICEF’s social and health awareness curriculum
The pedagogy is an integrated approach, combining direct, hands-on learning, access to Mathblog reference, screen-based activity and unplugged, teacher-led and autonomous activities designed to foster deep, authentic learning.
In preparation for entering into a Second Shift classroom, the Butterfly Effect program begins five months ahead of the targeted Fall entry date, first by establishing a new daily custom for children, with a 4-to-6 hour-per-day schedule, five days per week. Students attend computer programming, while learning Math, English, Arabic and logic, as well as dedicated Arabic, dedicated English, recreation and extracurricular classes, including music and social/health awareness.
The chart below reflects a breakdown of the Butterfly Effect full-time semester by the amount of attention each subject receives for months 1-8.
Visual Programming: Learning to Code with Basic Numeracy
Visual Programming as a framework encapsulates a powerful tool for progressing basic literacy and critical thinking.
Video: Learn about a new “superpower” that isn’t being taught in 90% of schools, starring Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, will.i.am, Chris Bosh, Jack Dorsey, Tony Hsieh, Drew Houston, Gabe Newell, Ruchi Sanghvi, Elena Silenok, Vanessa Hurst, and Hadi Partovi. Directed by Lesley Chilcott, executive producers Hadi and Ali Partovi. Link.
Learning to code is a skill, much like learning a language, however learning to code pre-necessitates that a student break down a problem and ask pertinent questions to determine solutions. Learning to program instills computational thinking. Once computational thinking has been applied, only then is a student ready to instruct a computer on how to perform the necessary action to solve a problem.
The below chart represents, for example, everyday-academic applications of computational thinking:
Computational Thinking Concept
Subject Area Application
Break a problem into parts or steps
Literature: Break down the analysis of a poem into meter, rhyme, imagery, structure, tone, diction and meaning.
Recognize and find patterns or trends
Economics: Find cycle patterns in the rise and drop of the country’s economy.
Develop instructions to solve a problem or steps for a task
Culinary Arts: Write a recipe for others to use.
Generalize patterns and trends into rules, principles, or insights
Mathematics: Figure out the rules to find the third side of a triangle.
Physics: Determine the effect of trade winds on a kite.
Much like riding a bicycle, programming is a skill that does not require one to continue learning uninterrupted, but may be returned to at a later time. It takes very little (less instruction than we offer at the Butterfly Effect Center) to become well enough equipped to eventually self-teach.
Savviness and comfort with computers and digital devices not only prepares children for the digital world-wide society we live in today, but helps to enhance admiration from others and boost self-esteem.
Students at the Butterfly Effect Center use Scratch, a project of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the M.I.T. Media Lab, with Raspberry Pi computer stations to design their own storyboards and games.
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized (85×56 mm) computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It’s a capable device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python.
Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively – essential skills for life in the 21st century.
The goal of this class is to introduce basic concepts of computing and programming through fun activities including storytelling, games, art, music, animations, quizzes, and other hands-on activities within the framework that Scratch running on a Raspberry Pi computer provides. Some specific topics include:
- Introduction to Scratch and the creative possibilities that it offers
- Algorithmic description of movements and actions
- Sequential and logical reasoning for storytelling
- Numbers, math, strings, texts and logic expressions in computers
- Loops to simplify the specification of repetitive actions in programs
- Constructs for making decisions based on results and user actions
- Use of colors, sounds and animations in computer games
- Creating art from geometric building blocks
- Using computers for science and math education
- Debugging and troubleshooting of programs
Each class and computer lab supports 20 students with one or two students working per computer station.
The course instruction is taught in both English and Arabic and is rich with mathematical concepts that take students, consequently, well beyond the required experience for their age range.
Arabic + Math + Health & Society + Extra
Arabic & English Breakout Components
Syrians speak Arabic, the Lebanese speak Arabic, and the Second Shift Lebanese Curriculum is taught in Arabic, so Arabic receives the emphasis for this program. Both Arabic and English breakout courses cover the objectives defined in the first six levels.
Level 1: Focus on Alphabet (reading, writing and songs).
Level 2: Spelling exercises related to writing letters and identifying their forms.
Level 3: Exercises for spelling and the formation of words.
Level 4: Reading and writing numerical values and identifying numerical forms.
Level 5: Reading and writing simple sentences, Part I.
Level 6: Reading and writing simple sentences, Part II.
Health & Social Education
Health and social education encompasses human development and interactions. How do I think and act? How am I changing? How can I look after myself and others? It provides students with opportunities to inquire into physical, social and emotional health and information, key aspects of human development.
Also included: Personal hygiene, diseases, health and social issues, making choices in terms of the self in the wider society, self-control of needs and wants, diet and exercise.
The skills and knowledge needed for healthy functioning are widely known: strong communication skills, knowledge of typical human development, good decision-making skills, positive self-esteem, and healthy interpersonal relationships.
Applied experience for Syrians in Lebanon has been integrated based on UNICEF’s Social and Health Awareness Curriculum. Exercises, field-trips, and experiential interactions have been interwoven into the curriculum.
Current child development theories stress that acquiring social competencies is an important dimension of the positive social, physical, intellectual, cultural and emotional development of children and adolescents.
Even as a student may be prepared academically to re-enter, students benefit from behavioral “catch-up” leading to less disruption in class, more awareness of others and an ability to adapt quickly to social norms, while standing more accepted as equal with other children their age, and altogether more inspired to remain.
Extra Curricular Component
Classes include Music Listening, Outdoor Recreational Sports (soccer and frisbee), SEEMA app and Yoga.
Full-Time Semester Schedule
Full Time from May 1 – Oct 1, 2017 [5 months]
Ages 7 to 14
4 classrooms, 1 lab, 1 open study/game room, 2 quiet study rooms
5 teachers local
2 distant lead teacher
20 students per class
60 to 90 minute long classes
Student Schedule: 4 to 6 hrs per day, 5 days per week
300 to 400 students in the Butterfly Effect Center
AL MARJ TECH CENTER 1
Abdel Naser Al Sayed Station Building
Al Abbassieh Street,
AL MARJ TECH CENTER 2
Joub Jannine – Bir Elias Rd
Bar Elias, Bekaa-Lebanon
The Lead Team
1. Peter Mathys, Lead Teacher, USA. Instructor Peter Mathys is a professor at the University of Colorado in Boulder, CO, USA, in the Department of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. He has more than 30 years of teaching experience in communications, coding theory, and computer programming.
Professor Mathys, who speaks English and Arabic, visited our Butterfly Effect Center in Lebanon in the summer of 2016 to conduct a week-long workshop in programming, which has since been continued over video from Boulder, in collaboration with local staff in Lebanon.
2. Ghayyath Haydar, Teacher, Lebanon. B.A. in Arts, Science And Technology, University of Lebanon, Beirut.
3. Hanan Rashid, Teacher, Lebanon. Education: Oct 2016 – Faculty of English Literature, Sep 2011 – June 2015: BC in Sociology, Lebanese University, Faculty of Sociology, Zahle, Lebanon, Sep 2007 – June 2009: Al Marj Secondary School, Training Courses. 2011: Work Ethics Group, Al Marj Secondary School, 2007: First AID, Al Marj Secondary School. Work Experience: 2011 – Present teaching special, private courses (English, Arabic, Math, Science). 2000-2005 Al Jarrah Scout – Social worker Al Marj, Lebanon. Computer Skills: Windows, Microsoft Office, Internet. Languages Arabic (native), Fluent in English (Reading, Writing and Speaking). Hobbies: playing sports, traveling, swimming.
4. Mona Ayoub, Co-Founder and Director, Operations Oversight, Lebanon. Ms. Ayoub co-created and oversees the entire Butterfly Effect Center, from managing the programs, teachers and administrators to daily operations.
5. Andrew Baron, Co-Founder and CEO, Development & Oversight, USA. Mr. Baron, CEO of Humanwire, co-created the Butterfly Effect Center and manages directives from the US in collaboration with Ms. Ayoub in Lebanon.
Milestones for Fall, 2017
April, 2017: Classroom Setup, Surveys, Organization, Recruitment.
July, 2017: Lebanese Pre-Registration Advocacy Outreach, School Location and Quality Assessments, Chair Opportunity Assessment.
Aug, 2017: Second Shift, Lebanese Public School Registration.
Oct, 2017: Students begin public school.
Oct-May, 2018: Monthly individual surveys, group assessments, ongoing Buddy support, lab, workshops and limited classes for supporting all students through the academic school year.
June, 2018: Annual Assessment & Tally.
Real-time attendance and progress reports are available for donors for each student.
Each student has an ID card to check in and out of the Butterfly Effect Center and each teacher checks students in and out of individual classes.
Quarterly reports are generated by a small team of accredited Lebanese and Syrian teachers who have been tasked with reviewing and providing feedback on the Butterfly Effect curriculum and its effectiveness towards the end of preparing students to enter and excel within the Lebanese education system.
Scholarships & Incentives
For the newly registered 300 students in 2017 provided for by RCRT, a $5,000 scholarship fund was set aside for attendance incentives and transportation support for families who enroll in the Butterfly Effect program, but have difficulties staying in the program due to the need for their children to work, or due to transportation costs.
Families are incentivized to meet a 90%+ attendance goal with a monetary-cash incentive that is competitive with the amount their children would earn if they were required to work. In 2016, Humanwire found that all families who received incentives were grateful for the opportunity to provide their children with an educational offering, but even moreso, were grateful their own young children would not have to work. Humanwire has not yet experienced a case where any parent wanted their child to work given the choice. Funds that replace the otherwise necessary work efforts of a child (~$50USD per month based on a current wage average of $4/day, 3 days per week) are provided in cash to a family with no strings attached.
Students in need may be offered a transportation incentive, to cover the cost of transportation to safely travel to and from public school each day throughout the school year.
Of the many barriers to entry that inhibit Syrian refugee students from obtaining seats in the public school system in Lebanon, advocacy is substantial and in many cases key to ensuring each student is provided for. Advocacy is a large part of the on-the-ground work that Humanwire staff prepares for early. Time is of the essence to enroll quickly and assuredly. Planning ahead of time and collaborating with entities including MEHE and UNICEF is critical to assuring no new details or changes in procedures will hinder any one student’s readiness for enrollment. When students are not provided with the expected results due to the system, Humanwire is dedicated to assuring a solution for every child who prospers within the Butterfly Effect Center.
International Buddy Support
As students enter month three within the Butterfly Effect program, each student is assigned a “Buddy”, an online volunteer, to begin meeting periodically (weekly to monthly depending on the student) for extra encouragement and support. Each Buddy is an approved Humanwire volunteer who schedules time to meet with their student over video (always with a translator and representative from Humanwire), much like a big brother/big sister program.
A Humanwire Buddy plays a critical role in ongoing support for students after they have entered into the public school system.
The Buddy practice, obligations and guidelines are published within each Buddy dashboard, where each Buddy logs-in to track their times and notes. Interested in signing-up to be a Buddy? See Humanwire Volunteer.
Post-Public School Sign-Up Support
Currently, many displaced Syrian students who have enrolled in the Second Shift Lebanese school system continue to attend classes at the Butterfly Effect Center as a means of providing a more enriching and well-rounded education, as Humanwire fills gaps where students may not receive adequate support otherwise. As an added incentive to help students remain in the accredited Lebanese system, Humanwire offers support with sit-in attendance for running classes, workshops, lab time, Buddy support and alumni resources.
Students who enter school are surveyed daily (if receiving transportation or attendance support from Humanwire), or monthly. Along with teacher and Buddy assessments, surveys act as a catch-all means for Humanwire to identify any student who may be under-attending, underperforming, struggling academically, socially or economically, and will be used to take proactive action to ensure students remain in school.
Example Raspberry Pi Class
Students in class at the Butterfly Effect Center:
Example “Scratch” Assessment & Attendance report from 2016:
Have a questions? Please use the comments below.