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MIT-Africa Program Manager Ari Jacobovits is joined by CEE Assistant Professor and ReACT faculty founder Admir Masic and the MISTI students who worked with Syrian refugees in Jordan this January with ReACT. This bi-weekly series features global news discussions, a taste of international music, and MISTI experiences from faculty and students! 

This week, the MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) announced that it is now accepting applications for the second offering of the Certificate Program in Computer and Data Science. The one-year course of study is designed for refugees and other displaced people around the world, and offers them the opportunity to earn a certificate in a rigorous, yet accessible program that allows young adults to reactivate their potential and restart careers.

ReACT is a part of MIT Open Learning, which looks to extend and expand educational and development opportunities worldwide, with ReACT focusing on adult refugee learners globally. ReACT seeks to design, develop, and deliver new curricula and hybrid learning models to specifically address the needs and expectations of displaced learners and workers, as well as their communities.

Since it was conceived as an online offering in 2012, the MITx massive open online course (MOOC), Introduction to Computer Science using Python, has become the most popular MOOC in MIT history with 1.2 million enrollments to date.

The course is derived from a campus-based and Open CourseWare subject at MIT developed and originally taught at MIT by John Guttag, the Dugald C. Jackson Professor of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. "Although on the surface it's a computer programming course with Python, it's really not about Python or even programming," explains Guttag. "It's about teaching students to use computation, in this case described by Python, to build models and explore broader questions of what can be done with computation to understand the world."

MIT ReACT delivers MIT educational opportunities to talent refugee students where they live.

REACT was founded in 2017 by MIT Professor Admir Masic, a former Bosnian refugee, who had long dreamed about bringing education and creating opportunities to forcibly displaced talented students. With few educational and employment opportunities, exploitation, discrimination, and segregation are the norm. The pilot ReACT Certificate Program in Computer and Data Sciences launched in Amman, Jordan in 2018 – providing 18 talented refugee and Jordanian students the opportunity to pursue the future they want.

The lives of refugees aren’t just disrupted by the loss of a homeland, but also by massive challenges in accessing educational and professional opportunities. A collaboration between the MITx MicroMasters program in data, economics, and development policy (DEDP), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), and the MIT Refugee Action Hub (ReACT) seeks to address these challenges. MIT’s Department of Economics and J-PAL co-developed and launched the MITx MicroMasters Program in DEDP in 2017. The new collaboration will allow refugee learners to receive scholarships for DEDP courses, participate in skills-building workshops, and connect with top organizations and companies in the field of development economics and data analysis.

The MicroMasters team at J-PAL recently announced a new collaboration with ReACT Hub, an MIT initiative that designs and deploys new learning opportunities for displaced populations.

Starting in the summer of 2018, ReACT will sponsor a cohort of refugees to join the MicroMasters in Data, Economics, and Development Policy, providing selected learners with access to scholarships for the five MicroMasters in DEDP courses, remote work with paid internships during the fall of 2018, and in-person skill-building workshops in January 2019. Learners with proof of refugee, asylee, or internally displaced status are encouraged to apply for this opportunity.

This new pathway is designed to empower refugees with customized roadmaps to education and career opportunities, supporting J-PAL’s mission to reduce poverty by ensuring that policies and programs are informed by scientific evidence. Our hope is the refugee learners selected for ReACT scholarships will be able to gain strong technical skills and meaningful professional experiences in >evidence-based policymaking that they can bring back to their communities and put into practice.

"What we're really doing is offering the students an opportunity to sharpen their skills in computer and data science, but also in innovation and how to be entrepreneurial,"

The initial program was madey displaced people, Fadel says, as well as to qualified citizens of Jordan. The organizers made extra efforts to promote the program to women, and because access to records can be difficult for displaced people, applying to the program does not require transcripts or standardized test scores.

The program includes five online courses - two in computer science, and one each in data science, innovation, and leadership. The courses will be taught by a combination of MIT faculty and students, both live and on the edX platform.

The concept was initially created under the leadership of Admir Masic, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, who as a child was a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina whose family fled to a refugee camp in Croatia. He then lived in Germany and Italy, where he earned his college degrees. "I know firsthand that a good education is the ticket to a better life," he says.

MIT is poised to become a global educational hub for displaced populations and refugees. With the launch of the Refugee ACTion Hub (ReACT), which was announced at the SOLVE at MIT annual flagship event, the Institute will develop digital and blended learning opportunities and serve as a catalyst for anyone dedicated to solving the problem of refugee education.

MIT ReACT stems from the vision and personal journey of its faculty founder, Admir Masic. "During the war in Yugoslavia my family lost everything, and I became a teenage refugee. I had access to a great deal of humanitarian support, such as food, clothes and shelter, but what changed my life was access to education," he says.

MIT ReACT documents its 1st computer and data science program in Amman, Jordan. Watch the video by clicking the linked title.

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