Video games deliver hope to Syrian refugees: research

by Magda Mis | @magdalenamis1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 7 June 2017 15:51 GMT

Internally displaced Syrian children play at a refugee camp near the Bab al-Salam crossing, across from Turkey's Kilis province, on the outskirts of the northern border town of Azaz, Syria February 6, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

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"Play is a universal way of learning"

By Magdalena Mis

LONDON, June 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Computer games such as Minecraft teach Syrian children new language and coding skills and boost morale in refugee camps, according to new research.

"Play is a universal way of learning," said Bruce Homer, an associate professor of educational psychology at the City University of New York.

"In taking a game-based and playful approach to learning, we created an intervention that was not only effective, but also one in which the children were engaged and wanted (to) continue doing," he said in a statement.

The researchers worked with 147 Syrian refugee children living in the southern Turkish town of Urfa, on the border with Syria, where language barriers stop most children from going to school and half of them suffer mental health problems.

The children took part in daily, two-hour sessions over four weeks and researchers measured their satisfaction with various games, as well as the games' educational and psychological impact.

While Minecraft, in which players roam a virtual world with very few limitations, helped children feel more positive, other games improved their Turkish language skills and taught them the basics of coding.

The research, published on Tuesday, was funded by the Turkey-based Bahcesehir Ugur Education Foundation.

The Syrian conflict, now in its seventh year, has killed hundreds of thousands of people and displaced more than 11 million, around half within Syria and half as refugees abroad.

(Reporting by Magdalena Mis @magdalenamis1. Editing by Lyndsay Griffiths. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit

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