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UNHCR's presentation will examine the prioritization of inclusion of refugees into national education systems, the applicability of flexible approaches in supporting refugee education, and the state of funding for refugee education in relation to the humanitarian funding architecture.
Globally there are 22.5 million refugees, half of which are children, and 3.5 million of which are children aged 5-17 who are out-of-school, 1.5 million at the primary level and 2 million at the secondary level. Enrolment at the primary level is 61 per cent for refugees and 23 per cent at the secondary level. This compares with global rates of 91 and 84 per cent respectively. At the tertiary level, only 1 per cent of refugees have access to education. The majority of these refugees, nearly 90 per cent, are in low or middle income countries. Often these countries already struggle to provide education to their own populations, let alone refugees.
UNHCR is currently working with actors around the world to put together the Global Compact on Refugees, a process that was set in motion with the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and its amendment, the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework in 2016. The declaration strengthens global solidarity with refugees and the developing countries that host the majority of them. Education is a crucial component of the New York Declaration, with emphasis placed on the inclusion of refugee learners in national systems and multi-stakeholder approaches to providing quality, inclusive education for all.
This presents a huge opportunity to share the responsibility for refugees amongst a multitude of agents. Multi-stakeholder partnerships with Ministries of Education, UNICEF, UNESCO, the Global Partnership for Education, NGOs, civil society, and the private sector are essential to establish and maintain sustainable access to quality education for refugee and host community children and youth in contexts of forced displacement.
The responsibility for providing refugees with education lies primarily with host countries. This paper analyses how national education system should adapt and prepare for the inclusion of refugees and other displaced people. This often necessitates adapting curriculums, incorporating refugee teachers into schools and recognizing the educational histories of refugees entering the system.
Where governments are currently unable or unwilling to open national education systems to refugee populations, alternative delivery mechanisms must be put in place. Furthermore, refugees may not be ready to enter public systems due to extended interruptions to their education or because they do not speak the language of the host country's curriculum. This paper explores the various strategies used to meet these challenges, such as accelerated education programmes, bridging programmes, and approaches to language.
Refugee education, like education in emergencies more broadly, is woefully underfunded. In 2016, UNHCR's budget was $7.5 billion; however, it only managed to raise $4.4 billion. This meant that UNHCR missed all its education targets for 2016. At the primary level, UNHCR aimed to enrol 1.4 million children, but ended up only enrolling 980,000. At the lower secondary level, the target was 149,000 but only 66,000 enrolments were realized. Given the protracted nature of most refugee crises, the need for better funding for refugee education - funding that is predictable and reliable enough to deal with rapid onsets of new refugee situations - is a fundamental priority.