Teaching the Found Generation: Exploring the Experiences of Teachers Working to Educate Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon
Elizabeth Adelman

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Harvard University

Primary Discipline

The on-going war in Syria is one of the greatest humanitarian crises of the decade. Since conflict began in 2011, more than 1.2 million Syrians have crossed into Lebanon. Almost half of these refugees are school-aged children (UNHCR, 2015). Education has come to be considered an essential component of any humanitarian response, serving to provide children physical, emotional and cognitive protection (INEE, 2010b; Machel, 1996). Teachers have one of the most central roles for ensuring these benefits become a reality in the classroom.Foundational documents from the field of education in conflict outline the expectations for teachers working in crisis. Teachers must deliver academic content, foster social cohesion, and support children’s emotional recovery (INEE, 2010a; UNESCO, 2006; UNHCR, 2012). While the expectations may be clearly articulated at a policy level, the reality of how teachers understand their obligations at a local level has rarely been researched (Penson, 2013; Penson & Yonemura, 2012; Winthrop & Kirk, 2005).Through my research, I investigate the role of teachers within refugee education from three different perspectives, each framed within the context of Lebanon. In my first paper, I explore how proposed global and national-level processes and policies for integrating refugee students into public schools compare with the reality of integration from the perspective of teachers and school leaders. In my second paper, I consider how teachers working in a conflict setting understand their educational, social, and emotional obligations towards refugee children in their classrooms and whether these understandings vary between host-country teachers and refugee teachers. My final paper focuses on the experience of Syrian teachers living as refugees in Lebanon and how their personal and professional journeys intersect inside and outside of the classroom.
About Elizabeth Adelman
Elizabeth Adelman has over 15 years of experience working in international education and development throughout Africa, Asia, Latin American and the Middle East. Through her education and professional experiences she has developed considerable expertise in the areas of early grade literacy, education in crisis and conflict settings, monitoring and evaluation, research design and implementation, and program management. Elizabeth first began her career in Concepcion, Chile where she founded and ran her own independent English language program. Since leaving Chile, Elizabeth has championed numerous research projects and education programs across the globe. Elizabeth’s current research is focused on documenting the experience of teachers working in conflict-affected settings and exploring how these key actors understand their educational, emotional and social obligations towards their students. Elizabeth is presently pursuing her doctorate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she also completed her M.A in International Education Policy.

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