Over the past school year, teachers across 9 different European countries have implemented CHANGE, an educational project coordinated by JRS Europe and 8 of its partners, which main objective is to educate and engage students on the topics of migration and refugees. What are their impressions of the program? Which aspects have they most valued? As one of the three main actors of CHANGE, #Think4CHANGE, it is important to understand teachers’ experiences of CHANGE, what they perceive it has brought to their students as well as what could be improved. That is why we have asked them to fill out an evaluation form. Their opinions can tell us whether the program is meeting its objectives.
One of the most valuable elements of CHANGE for many teachers was the encounter between their students and a refugee. Many of them agreed to the encounter being insightful and enriching for the students. The idea behind facilitating an encounter is that a real change in perception only happens when we meet and discuss with a person that we regard ‘different’ to us. CHANGE emphasizes the importance of storytelling; of enabling a refugee to tell his or her experiences, rather than solely seeing or hearing them through media which often have a biased lens or representation. As one teacher in Ireland puts:
“our students had a fixed idea who a refugee was and the visit really challenged this stereotypical idea”.
Some teachers also noted and appreciated the ‘interactive’ aspect of the visit. One teacher in Spain explains that “a very enriching horizontal relationship between young people for both parties” was established. Another teacher in Belgium complements this perspective by stating: “the refugee spoke to students ‘on their level’”. Moreover, in this class, the refugee had showed his artwork and photography with the students, one of the hobbies he developed and continues today.
Through these encounters, two teachers in Italy have stated that both students’ and refugees’ empathy come to the fore, an empathy described as “a positive element” and which also enabled a two-way interaction, with some refugees also asking the students questions. It has been noted however that it is important to allow enough time for discussions and for reflection afterwards. Even during COVID-19 times, the encounters continued happening online and virtually, notwithstanding challenges. For more testimonies regarding the encounter between refugees and students, you can discover our CHANGE blog.
Lastly, another point of feedback was the program’s relevance and potential in understanding and engaging with societal matters. One teacher mentioned the role play activity in Stage 4: “the Town Hall role play was excellent as it made students empathise with different sections of society.” In the same line of thought, a teacher in Spain states that the different stages of CHANGE together “help broaden horizons for young people of what life is like”.
The CHANGE team would also like to take this opportunity to thank all teachers who have taken part in CHANGE, and who have dedicated their time and energy to creating more inclusive societies.
If you too as a teacher, would like to engage with CHANGE, we invite you to take a look at The project materials in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian or to visit our website and/or to get in touch with your local JRS partner. If you have question please feel free to share them in the comment box below.
CHANGE is an educational project coordinated by JRS Europe and 8 of its partners. Its’ main objective is to educate and engage students on the topics of migration and refugees. CHANGE proposes the following three elements: 1) a pedagogical programme – structured into 6 phases, 2) an encounter and exchange with a refugee, and 3) encourage students to take action through the Student Ambassador program. All three elements aim to foster students’ critical thinking, socio-emotional skills, and participation on the topics of migration and refugees.