PIE Chat | Laura Kaub, Duolingo English Test


Joseph was one of many first college students Laura Kaub suggested when she started working on the African Leadership Academy, an organisation that helps the event of promising younger leaders throughout Africa. 

He was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who Kaub describes as “a rare younger man who had been via terribly horrible circumstances”. 

The chances of constructing it to school or college have been stacked in opposition to Joseph. Based on the UNHCR (the UN’s refugee company) solely 5% of refugees have entry to increased schooling, in comparison with 39% of non-refugees. 

“I bear in mind him sitting throughout the desk from me and he was like I simply need to go to school and I don’t know the place to start out,” Kaub mentioned. 

Kaub’s function on the time was targeted on serving to potential college students like Joseph navigate the sophisticated world of worldwide admissions – from discovering the correct establishment to making use of for funding to bodily travelling overseas (many refugees lack passports and different mandatory authorized paperwork). 

So the place is Joseph now? With assist from Kaub and her colleagues on the ALA, Joseph attended – and graduated – college. He at the moment works on the MasterCard Basis Students Program, supporting refugee college students to entry tertiary schooling.

Kaub with Joseph Munyambanza, Mastercard Students Program, and Christopher Khaemba, inaugural Dean of African Management Academy.

“That’s form of profitable,” Kaub mentioned. “While you see somebody go off to a college the place they’re a extremely good match and so they thrive, that’s the greatest. After which to see them really flip round and get entangled in that work is the cherry on prime.”

Earlier this 12 months, Kaub took on a brand new function heading up Duolingo English Test’s newest program, which – through the pilot section – plans to empower 25 refugee college students to enrol into universities. 

The mission has been designed to help the UNHCR’s 15by30 initiative, which goals to extend refugee participation in increased schooling to fifteen% by 2030. 

In addition to instantly growing the variety of refugee college students attending college, Duolingo needs to assist construct the capability of the UNHCR’s employees and native officers in order that they’ve the connections and framework to help extra refugees into increased schooling sooner or later. 

Kaub with 5 MasterCard Basis Students from her program at ALA

Kaub hasn’t at all times labored with such deprived college students. Earlier than becoming a member of the ALA, she labored within the admissions crew at a “highly-selective” liberal arts school in America. 

“It was such a privilege,” she mentioned. “I obtained to journey to all components of the world and inform college students all about that tremendous establishment.”

However Kaub discovered it disheartening that the faculty was solely reaching the wealthiest of worldwide college students. 

“I used to be feeling rather more like a gatekeeper than a gate-opener, particularly at an establishment with restricted monetary assist. As beneficiant as they may very well be, there’s so many extra fantastic college students on the market who want monetary help,” she mentioned.

And so, Kaub crossed to the opposite facet of each the desk and the planet, transferring from the USA to South Africa to start working on the ALA. 

Kaub with Ntakamaze Nziyonvira, co-founder and government director of refugee organisation CIYOTA.

However opening gates for deprived college students isn’t easy. Lack of awareness, lack of economic assist, and the “inflexibility” of the admissions course of are a couple of of the limitations in the way in which of low-income and forcibly-displaced worldwide college students. 

Kaub is important of universities for this.

She is disparaging of what number of of them restricted their monetary assist for worldwide college students through the pandemic, even when their endowments continued to develop.

She denounces their often-impenetrable admissions processes that solely work for college kids who can “fly to a complete different nation to take the TOEFL or the SAT”.

However Kaub can also be hopeful that increased schooling can – and can – change. 

“I feel not sufficient universities are being courageous and revolutionary”

“I’d actually love for universities to try their processes from the angle of a low-income worldwide scholar or a refugee and say, ‘OK, what can we simply get out of the way in which?’” she mentioned. 

“I feel not sufficient universities are being courageous and revolutionary and taking a look at how they will make this course of itself simpler”.

Kaub is adamant that schools and universities shouldn’t see refugee college students as a burden. Most establishments, she argues, have already got the mechanisms in place to help them. 

“It’s most likely not totally different from what you’re already doing for some college students in your campus,” she mentioned.

“The low earnings scholar from the city subsequent door might have the identical little bit of further tutorial refresher as the child who’s coming from the Central African Republic.” 

Kaub needs to listen to from universities which might be concerned with supporting refugee college students or wish to make their English language testing extra accessible. In spite of everything, a extra numerous cohort can profit everybody. 

“College students from these totally different backgrounds, together with actually troubled backgrounds, have all of this attitude and knowledge and resilience and dedication and dedication to their research,” Kaub mentioned. 

“They bring about a lot to the group and so they can enrich the schooling a lot for the opposite college students on the college”. 


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