Discipline-specific knowledge gaps amongst higher education students in northern Syria: Causes and potential solutions. (English)
The education sector in Syria has faced many challenges and changes since the outbreak of the conflict in 2011, due to factors such as displacement, the destruction of educational institutions, and the emigration of school and university staff, which is reflected in the declining quality of education at all levels, from primary to tertiary. This research explores evident foundational knowledge gaps amongst students entering university in languages and the sciences, as well as exploring solutions that might help to address these gaps. This study focused on two of the universities in northwest Syria that are helping to sustain access to higher education for local and displaced populations. It combined both qualitative and quantitative methods, running one-to-one interviews with 25 university lecturers from both universities, and a survey to which 165 undergraduate students responded. Our results showed that the majority of students entering university had significant foundational and discipline-specific knowledge gaps in both language and STEM subjects. In addition to the students’ disrupted pre-university education, social, psychological and economic factors exacerbated the problem of knowledge gaps. We recommend that an integrated approach be adopted by universities to address not just educational needs and knowledge gaps, but to respond to students’ psychosocial needs, as well as other social and economic factors. Such programmes to be funded by local authorities and/or relevant international entities responding to the crisis.