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WES bid to help refugees lacking academic records

Syrian refugees in Canada will soon be able to obtain recognition for their academic credentials in a pilot phase of a new initiative from US-based World Education Services to create an alternative credential assessment system.

The Syrian refugee crisis has displaced millions of people. Photo: MagentaGreen

"We would try and reconstruct their academic history from the research that we already have done on the Syrian education system"

WES is also planning to roll the initiative out in the US, and will make it available to refugees from any country after the pilot phase.

The system is designed to cater for those who may not be able to access any or all of their academic transcripts from their home institutions.

“We’re saying for people that for completely unjustifiable reasons can’t obtain documents in that way, they shouldn’t be left with nothing”

“We’re saying for people that for completely unjustifiable reasons can’t obtain documents in that way, they shouldn’t be left with nothing,” Tim Owen, director of WES Canada, told The PIE News.

“We’re not going to be able to provide a full verification of their academic background, but we are going to be able to say something that is an alternative which will help them move forward, and gain at least some recognition for their academic qualifications that they’ve earned in the past.”

Owen said that refugees may only be able to provide one year of academic records, photocopies of transcripts or a student ID card.

“We would try and reconstruct their academic history from the research that we already have done on the Syrian education system,” he said.

“So if somebody has their third-year transcript we can try and reconstruct the first and second year based on the knowledge we have of that system, and indicate that this is a reconstruction based on documents we reviewed from the individual.”

A WES report, published on the same topic, also suggests that application and credential fees “should be reduced or waived entirely” for refugee students.

A number of other educational organisations and institutions are stepping up initiatives since the recent refugee crisis in the Middle East.

The European University Association has also created an interactive map showcasing individual institutions’ and organisations’ action plans in welcoming refugees.

The WES report also referred to the ENIC-NARIC networks in Europe as a framework for evaluating non-verifiable credentials.

“I think the experiences in Europe have given us the most useful best practices to follow,” said Owen. “The Norwegian example, the Danish examples have been very helpful.”

“The difference is of course is we’re moving from a system of education which is centralised to one like in Canada and the US which is very decentralised,” he added. “There’s obviously some challenges in copying completely.”

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