Sunday, August 3, 2014

IDEAS Academy to offer more educational freedom for refugee and stateless children in Malaysia

In Malaysia, educational freedom is a growing option for refugee and stateless children thanks to a new project by IDEAS Academy.

The Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), an Atlas Network partner in Malaysia, is taking a bold new step in the direction of implementing school choice by opening up its own school, IDEAS Academy, for refugee and stateless children.

The idea to start the school started last December, after IDEAS found that there was a need in the refugee/stateless community for secondary school options. There were (and still are) many primary schools for these children in Malaysia, but few offer secondary education. “We want to make education accessible to everyone,” says Trine Engskov, IDEAS Academy general manager.

IDEAS is collaborating with a Dutch NGO and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to create this school. Because of the international makeup of IDEAS Academy, classes will be taught in English.

IDEAS Academy already has 20 students waiting to sign up, and it is expecting that number to rise to 100 by the end of the year when the school opens. In addition to providing education, the academy is looking to provide a number of programs for its students including outings, movie nights and workshops. “We want to create a platform for students to be safe and be young,” Engskov says.

Secondary school education will soon be a reality for refugees and stateless children in Malaysia when the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) opens its academy in Kuala Lumpur by the end of this year. 

To be called the Ideas Academy, the school is in collaboration with a Dutch NGO, Stichting Young Refugee Cause, and aims to provide high-quality education to youths aged 12 to 20 using the International Canadian Syllabus, for a minimal fee.

"We want to make education accessible to everyone. No matter what their situation is, we want to make it available for them," said Ideas Academy's general manager Trine Engskov.

"And we have to offer a programme that really matters. So when they come out, they will have something that really matters, that will work for them.”

The idea of the academy came about in December last year, after Ideas found there was a need to set up a secondary school for stateless and refugee children.

"There are many refugee community learning centres and they only offer primary education. So when they reach a certain age and level, they have nowhere to go.

"So we are trying to fill in the gap," Engskov said.

She said that the Canadian syllabus was being used as it was the most comprehensive one, without being "nation-specific".

"We're going to have students from many different countries. There will be Malaysian students and there will be refugee students who come from a wide range of countries and continents.

"As it will be an international setting, the language in the school will be English. If possible, we will also be on the road for international accreditation," the Danish national added.

She said the biggest challenge in setting up the school was finding an appropriate building in the designated area, Pudu, leading to delays in opening the school.

"One of our biggest challenges is finding the perfect building for the school. Once we have that, we are set to go. And then, there is the finances part," Engskov said.

The Ideas Academy already has about 20 students waiting to sign up and it is expected to grow to 100 students in its first year.

"It is a four-year course, so our capacity will be about 400 students.

"We have been working closely with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and other NGOs to spread the word about the school and round up students," said Engskov, adding that they were in the midst of recruiting full-time teachers for the school.

"Because we are teaching Canadian syllabus, we are hoping to have some Canadian teachers who are Ontario-qualified and we are also looking for some local teachers," she added.

Besides regular education curriculum, the school would also organise programmes for the youths such as outings, workshops, movie nights and parties.

"We want to give them everything that other children have... that is normal for other children. So why should they be denied these things?

"We want to create a platform for students to be safe and be young. That is important for their confidence," she added. – July 5, 2014.