(USA/TURKEY)

Using gaming as an educational tool could transform the prospects of refugee children, a new study suggests.

Incorporating gaming platforms in to learning is growing in popularity. Earlier this year researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas trialled the use of Minecraft in teaching chemistry to college students who were studying a range of subjects. It revealed that gamers became surprisingly proficient in processes for which they had no prior instruction.

Now a collaborative research project between the City University of New York, New York University, and Turkey’s Bahcesehir University has shown how digital games can enhance educational achievement and mental health indicators among refugee children. Working with Syrian refugees based in Turkey, the researchers examined what impact technology could have on youngsters starved of proper schooling.

Called Project Hope, it involved the development of an online gaming platform. The goals were to improve the Turkish language skills of the young learners, their coding ability and to enhance their mental wellbeing. The pilot project was carried out in the Turkish city of Urfa, which borders Syria.

The feedback from the kids, aged 9 to 14, was positive – as were the results. Turkish language skills were up significantly among the group given access to the tech, coding competency was improved, and it “lowered children’s sense of hopelessness”.

“Our pilot study shows that using game-based learning is an effective, cost-efficient way to teach refugee children important skills – and importantly, this structured environment provided distressed refugee children an outlet to imagine a better future for themselves,” said Sinem Vatanartiran, president of BAU International University and a Project Hope investigator.