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There are 22.5 million refugees around the world, half of which are children. These children have some of the lowest education outcomes of any group. At the primary level at least 39% are out of school, which rises to 77% at the secondary level. Learning outcome data is lacking, but for those enrolled there are high drop-out and low attendance rates.
Catalysing solutions for refugee education at scale requires increased resource and political will, but also new and improved ways of providing educational services. While innovative practices in refugee education exist, they are often not well known or understood outside of their context. The Promising Practices in Refugee Education research initiative aims to increase awareness of the important work happening in the sector; demonstrate the diverse ways in which organisations and individuals are responding to the challenge of providing quality education for refugees; enhance understanding of what works both in individual projects and across them; and use the experiences and insights gained to inform policy and practice.
In 2017, Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative partnered with organisations around the world (Caritas Switzerland, Children on the Edge, i-ACT, International Rescue Committee, Libraries Without Borders, Mercy Corps, Norwegian Refugee Council, Relief International, Teachers College Columbia, UNRWA, The Vodafone Foundation, War Child, Windle Trust, World University Service of Canada, and We Love Reading) to create 20 case-studies that document innovative, promising practice in refugee education. These practices cover refugee situations in 15 countries (Serbia, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Chad, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, DRC, Burundi, and Myanmar), range from early childhood through secondary education, and deal with the themes of equity, access, learning, wellbeing, technology, and system strengthening.
According to the World Bank, 'a case study is not just another "story" but an important method of applied and empirical research. Case studies can provide a clearer understanding of the sequence of events and balance the perspectives of key actors, helping us untangle cause and effect.' Documenting good practice creates a record of what actions took place, when, and how they led to a positive outcome and can contribute to the process of learning within a group, organisation, geographical area, or sector. The principal goal of the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative was to contribute to that learning process and ultimately to closing the refugee education gap.
The practices and the experience of implementing partners have been used to identify ten recommendations, grouped under three overarching pillars, aimed at improving refugee education policy and practice. They are:
Approach the immediate crisis with a long-term perspective:
1. Strengthen inclusive national systems
2. Commit to predictable multi-year funding for education programming and research in refugee responses
3. Improve collaboration and develop innovative partnerships
Understand different contexts and meeting distinct needs:
4. Adopt user-centred design and empowering approaches
5. Establish diverse pathways that meet distinct needs
6. Use space and infrastructure creatively
Improve outcomes for all:
7. Support teachers to help ensure quality
8. Prioritise both learning and well-being
9. Use technology as an enabling tool in pursuit of education outcomes
10. Build a robust evidence base
The Promising Practices in Refugee Education research initiative demonstrates that while there are significant barriers to overcome, there are many innovative solutions that show immense potential and deserve to be replicated.
The practices documented as case studies and included in this Synthesis report have made an important contribution to the refugee education crises in each of the contexts that they have been implemented. They also offer wider lessons about what works and why. They are not silver bullets and no practice, however promising, can answer the refugee education challenge on its own. However, they for part of the solution and offer a significant step forward in reaching every last refugee child with education.