The global learning poverty crisis affects refugee and internally displaced children as well as their host communities. New research shows ways to help address this crisis.
The learning poverty rate is the share of children unable to read a simple text with comprehension by age 10. Learning poverty in 2019 was 57 percent in low- and middle-income countries, and particularly high in vulnerable groups such as internally displaced people (IDPs) and refugees. As a result of disruptions due to the pandemic, the State of Global Learning Poverty 2022 estimates that global learning poverty in low- and middle-income countries has surged to 70 percent, and affects the most vulnerable, especially refugee and displaced children.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, UNHCR, and the World Bank, along with the American Institutes for Research and New York University, have collaborated on research published recently on forced displacement and education. The first phase of the research systematically gathered, collated, and synthesized evidence on what works to support education for forcibly displaced people and to include them in national education systems. During the second phase, in-depth comparative case studies were conducted to examine educational inclusion for the forcibly displaced in Chad, Colombia, Sudan, Pakistan and Jordan. A costing analysis was also conducted in Jordan.
While the challenges in each of these contexts vary, four key findings from the case studies indicate that the inclusion of forcibly displaced children, adolescents, and youth can be supported through the following policies.
1. Providing high-quality teacher training and support
We found that in Colombia, there are structures in place to help local schools understand national policies around inclusion of refugees, while teachers and schools have received training and acompañamiento (on-site guidance) to build and strengthen their capacity to deliver quality education to integrated classrooms. These are areas that could be strengthened in Colombia and repeated in other contexts, so that school administrators know how to integrate new arrivals. In other contexts, such as Chad, support is provided for qualified teachers with displaced backgrounds, expanding the pool of teachers to support refugee and IDP learners.
2. A clear national policy of inclusion
At least three countries in our study had favorable policy environments for the inclusion of refugees in national systems. In Chad, refugee camp schools were officially integrated into the national education system, making all camp schools Chadian public schools. In Pakistan, a 2010 constitutional amendment guaranteed the right to education for all children. In Colombia, the government issued a series of national-level decrees and regulations to guarantee access to the country’s education system for Venezuelan migrant and refugee children.
3. Communication and effective implementation of inclusion policy
In Colombia, strong messaging for the integration of Venezuelans in national systems was found to be a contributing factor explaining the increased enrollment of Venezuelan children and adolescents in school. On the other hand, in Pakistan, despite the 2010 constitutional amendment on the right to access education, many teachers and refugee parents included in the study stated that they were not familiar with this change. Some refugee parents explained that even when children had proper documentation, teachers refused them entry and reiterated that documentation requirements varied by schools or teachers. This highlights the importance of consistent messaging across different levels of governments, but also effective communication of policy and policy changes with forcibly displaced groups, as well as communication with schools and teachers.
4. Adequate education data on access, learning and expenditure can be collected and shared to drive data and evidence-informed decision making
Not all education management information systems (EMIS) are capturing education data on forcibly displaced populations or disaggregating data by international protection status, making it difficult to monitor education access and learning outcomes for sub-population forcibly displaced groups. In Colombia, the national EMIS captures the nationality of students, which allows for a comparison of education outcomes between host and Venezuelan school-aged children. In Pakistan, the EMIS does not capture refugee learners who are enrolled in refugee village schools nor does it disaggregate by protection status in cases where refugee children are enrolled in public schools, making it difficult to monitor access to education and learning outcomes. Access to cost data and student learning outcomes for education programs for the forcibly displaced was difficult to obtain across countries in the study.
UNHCR, the World Bank, FCDO, and partners can use this evidence on teacher support, inclusive policy implementation and improved data to work with host governments and the international community with the goal of improving education for refugee and forcibly displaced students as well as host students.
This blog reflects the research findings and recommendations. The research was funded by the UK Government, however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policy. Data collection for the Sudan country study took place between May and July 2021.
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