A group of students at Gaziantep University in Turkey recently took the initiative to make the voices of fellow students heard. They independently decided to evaluate the Arabic course they were studying by handing out surveys amongst their peers. Gaziantep University began teaching the course in 2015, with support and advocacy from SPARK. Over 100 students from different departments in the scholarship programmes joined the Arabic course.

Academia Club for Research and Studies

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The students that initiated the evaluation were from different faculties, different backgrounds and different study levels. They established what they call the ‘Academia Club for Research and Studies’. Initially, they evaluated general aspects of the Arabic course, from structure to content, teacher’s competencies and relations between Syrian and Turkish students.

Students become part of the “decision-making process”

One student then thought to contact SPARK for support with the technical aspect of the data analysis and the presentation. An M&E specialist from SPARK gladly offered some advice and the students designed a thorough and professional survey.

Nour Aldabbak, an Architecture student and SPARK scholarship holder said: “We didn’t want to be seen askids whose only task is to take lessons and study, we wanted to be part of the decision-making process. We wanted to show the real picture of the programme and highlight areas that need to be improved. It could motivate other universities to replicate this programme, which is so important for Syrian students’’.

The nail-biting moment: the results

gaziantep-2Their survey collected some valuable data. It showed that 18% of the students are working while studying and 14% are responsible for their family. Around 53% of the students that participated in the research had a scholarship via SPARK. Just 41% of the students indicated they could speak a few words of Turkish, and 33% of the students could speak no Turkish at all.

The students were asked to name the course’s greatest strengths and. The generally strong points were found to be the convenience of studying in Arabic, the Syrian teachers and the great teaching style. However, the lack of an Arabic library, an unorganised attendance schedule and the expensive tuition fees were named most frequently as the weaknesses.

Hope for the future

gaziantep-1The research team is currently working on a further analysis of the findings. They have received approval from the university to present the findings during a ceremony, which will be attended by academic staff, Syrian and Turkish students. They have liaised with Turkish and international student unions at the university, who have echoed their appreciation.

Such initiatives give a lot hope for the future of Syria. It shows that young people are taking responsibility for their own education and emphasises the need to support them by nourishing their creativity.