Paper Airplanes provides the bridge that allows conflict-affected people greater access to a world of learning and employment opportunities. Achieving this and social, economic, and political inclusion and participation comes from building resilience, hope, and skills.
Teaching English—reading, writing, and verbal—is the core Paper Airplanes program. Studies have shown that English language acquisition is critical to school and post-school learning and earning potential. Increasingly, English is shifting from foreign language to medium of instruction: worldwide, English is the language of instruction in 78% of public universities and 90% of private universities, in 80% of all Coursera courses and 100% of Kiron classes, and as of January 2020 over 57% of all web content is also in English. English and our four additional programs (Youth Exchange, Women in Tech, Citizen Journalism, and Turkish) offer instruction in subject areas that help students access content and resources to discover their own unique potential.
Utilizing video-conferencing technology allows us to reach refugee and IDP students where English teachers struggle to go, and recruiting volunteer tutors ensures that our services remain free for students, thereby alleviating financial barriers to participation. We build skills through a comprehensive curriculum that leads to accredited proficiency exams, but most importantly, through the human partnership between student and tutor. Face-to-face, this learning commitment encourages communication and community. For tutors, it builds an understanding of displacement and a new empathy for immigrants in their local community. For students, this builds lifelong skills that will allow them to access further educational content and programs, and benefit from increased earning potential. Currently, 70-90% of Syrian refugees live below the poverty-line. EF reports that English proficiency “correlates with higher gross domestic product, higher net income, and higher productivity.” These assets and this hope are invaluable on a personal and societal level, whether our students return to their country of origin or are resettled in a new home.