Project Name:


Primary Investigators:

Selçuk Şirin, Jan L. Plass, NYU; Bruce D. Homer, GC CUNY; Sinem Vatanartiran, BAU International University


Bahcesehir Ugur Foundation, Istanbul, Turkey


To support Syrian refugee children in Turkey by providing them game-based education opportunities. Research has shown that these refugee children have very specific mental health and educational needs. A study by Sirin and colleagues shows that an overwhelming majority of Syrian refugee children are not enrolled in school, and about half suffer from PTSD and/or depression. Turkey hosts the majority of the Syrian refugee population in the world but most of the Syrian children in Turkey lack basic Turkish language proficiency. This makes keeping up academically nearly impossible, which in turn can intensify mental health distress.

In response to this emerging educational and psychological crisis in Turkey, we designed an intervention that includes Turkish language learning, mental health interventions, executive functions training, and coding, a critical 21st century skill for children throughout the world. Specifically, in the first phase of the project, we aim to provide 2-hour a day, 5-days a week program for 4 weeks, totalling 40 hours. The daily curriculum includes a combination of five games including Minecraft, Code.org programming courses, as well as specifically designed games for executive functioning and Turkish language instruction (using Cerego).

Our project aim for the pilot study is to investigate the effectiveness of this unique intervention with a controlled field experiment that will form the basis of a larger project that will reach more children in need.

The first round of the pilot study took place in Urfu, Turkey. Results are reported in this NYU News Release and in NYU Steinhardt At A Glance. A full report is forthcoming.


CNN (story was widely syndicated on local TV stations across US – example here)
Reuters (picked up by Daily MailDNA India)

Selçuk Şirin Delivers NYU’s Jacob K. Javits Lecture on the Plight of Syrian Refugee Children