University students’ mathematical knowledge gaps in Syrian conflict zones. (English)
In conflict zones, the education of young people is disrupted due to insecurity, displacement, loss of teachers, school closures etc. resulting in periods of lost schooling and knowledge gaps that affect those wishing to pursue university education. This study investigated university lecturers’ perceptions of their students’ mathematical knowledge gaps using a socioecological approach. Interviews were held with fifteen university lecturers from STEM disciplines (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) from two case study universities in the non-regime-controlled North of Syria. Although interviewees pointed to the fact that there had been knowledge gaps in mathematics before the crisis, these had been exacerbated by the conflict. The basic nature of students’ knowledge gaps and their lack of foundational knowledge impacted on their ability to understand fundamental mathematical concepts, and their progress in specialized subjects, contributing to poor engagement and attendance. They also spoke of the changing demography of their students given mass internal displacement to the area in which the two case study universities operate, and of the need for strategies to address the causes of those knowledge gaps before students enrolled in universities, e.g. investment in schooling and teachers and transport, as well as the need for financial support to enable universities to introduce catch-up programmes or a preparatory year before students began their undergraduate study.