Calgary Learns released a call for proposals May 17 for our new Refugee Language and Support Grant. This one-time grant stream runs July 2016 to June 2018. Thanks to Alberta Advanced Education, $320,000 in funding will support Calgary-based projects to help refugee newcomers gain proficiency in the English language. Successful projects may span up to two years (ending June 30, 2018) and will receive up to $50,000 for one-year grants and $100,000 for two-year grants.
On May 10th in preparing for this proposal call, Calgary Learns convened a dozen refugee-serving funders and educators to explore the current learning needs of refugees in Calgary. The discussion gravitated toward the learning needs of refugees who arrive with low levels of formal education and low English proficiency.
Holistic approaches are necessary to prepare these learners for success in English language learning, in the workforce and to provide a sense of belonging in our community. The group identified a need for alternative learning environments for refugees with these learning gaps: context/task-based learning (e.g. sewing, field trips), first-language instruction in ‘Canadian’ life and learning skills, low-stakes small-group learning, and cross-generational learning such as family literacy. Curriculum and real-world materials for low English levels are also needed.
The group also discussed access issues including the short supply of childcare spaces in traditional ELL programs and the difficulty of traveling to classes with small children in tow. Home-based instruction was noted as a strategic gateway to community learning opportunities for refugee families who face complex barriers to learning including multiple children under six, mobility and transportation issues. The message was: “Take the learning to them” and help isolated parents gain confidence and learn to venture from their homes to pursue further learning.
Finally, most of the learning providers on May 10th ranked targeted professional development as their highest priority for support.
Learners who have spent little time in classrooms require orientation to Canadian culture through the effective use of learner-centred instructional models. Trauma, life skills, and conflict resolution are also factors to consider with refugees coming from conflict zones — all these need to be addressed.
Calgary Learns greatly appreciates the time and informed perspectives participants lent to our work on May 10th. We will keep their priorities in mind in the context of Alberta Advanced Education’s intention to support progress toward increasing language proficiency in refugee newcomers with this grant.
Here is the call for proposals
. We look forward to your ideas and questions. Please review the funding categories and requirements before calling. Proposals are due June 30th and we plan to announce allocations by end of July 2016.