Dr. Bassel Akar is Associate Professor of Education at Notre Dame University – Louaize, Lebanon (NDU) and Research Fellow at Centro de Estudos Africanos, Universidade do Porto. From 2014 to 2021, he served as Director of the Center for Applied Research in Education at NDU. His research and development work in education over the past 12 years has focused on lower middle-income conflict-affected countries, namely Lebanon and those in the wider Arab region including Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan and Egypt. The studies have contributed to four core knowledge fields in these fragile contexts undergoing various forms of armed conflict, systemic corruption and violations of children’s rights to education: (1) education for social and human development through citizenship, history and early childhood education; (2) education for young people made vulnerable by war and crises; (3) empowering teachers as agents of sustainable change and (4) ethical and inclusive methods of inquiry for highly vulnerable populations.
Bassel has worked closely with international (UNICEF, UNESCO, Caritas Austria, Save the Children, USAID, World Bank) and local organisations in carrying out regional studies in education and facilitating professional development activities for citizenship and history education teachers. Most recently, he examines how teachers exercise agency when taking risks and pioneering classroom activities that engage students in critical pedagogies to explore controversial or sensitive issues.
Since 2015, he has led on research projects that examine educational programs for Syrian refugee children in Lebanon and Jordan (formal, non-formal, early childhood). A collaboration with Save the Children in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Yemen captured testimonies of adolescents and their daily struggles at home and school and in their local community. Most recently, he contributed to international studies by leading the Lebanon Case Study in Resilience in the Return to Learning during COVID-19 (USAID), The Impact of School Closures under COVID-19 on Child Protection and Education Inequalities in Humanitarian Settings (Proteknon & INEE) and Provision of Peace Education (Ulster University & UNESCO). The studies on education during the COVID-19 pandemic analysed the government, school and family responses during school closures that demonstrated threats and growth to children’s rights to education, child protection and the resilience of the education sector.
Currently, the International Network for Education in Emergency (INEE) is carrying out a third revision of the Minimum Standards of Education. To inform these revisions, Dr Akar and his international research team has just completed a six-month study assessing the usage of the minimum standards over the past ten years across five main languages.
Dr Akar published a book on citizenship education, Citizenship education in conflict-affected areas: Lebanon and beyond (2019) and an article on empowering teachers as agents of change in “Citizenship education in conflict-affected areas and nation-states: empowering teachers for sustainable reform” (2020) in a special issue edited by Professor James Banks for Intercultural Education. In addition to co-editing three special issues (2020, 2021, 2022) on teacher agency for Public History Weekly, he finalizing a manuscript on school-based practitioners’ agency during school closures.