A teacher works with her student at Johanna-Eck-Schule Secondary School in Berlin
A teacher works with her student at Johanna-Eck-Schule Secondary School in Berlin

Quality refugee education lagging a year after global commitments

published 28 September 2017 updated 2 October 2017

With only modest advances made in the year since countries pledged education-related support to refugees at the 2016 UN General Assembly’s Leaders’ Summit, renewed calls for immediate action are being made.

In its report, “Losing Out On Learning”, Save the Children notes that slow progress leaves refugees with an uncertain future and their host countries with inadequate support. In addition, the UNHCR says that an unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from their homes.

Refugee education crisis

The state of provision for refugee education around the world is its own emergency, as the 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report being drafted on migration, displacement and education will confirm. More than half of all the refugee children in the world – 3.5 million – are not in school.

Missing out on education means missing out on opportunities to learn, and a likely regression in children’s learning. In fact, the longer children are out of school, the more they lose the skills and knowledge they have already acquired, according to a blog post by two Save the Children experts: Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, Head of Education Policy and Advocacy, and Sébastien Hine, Education Research Adviser.

Global plan, national action

Nhan-O’Reilly and Hine are calling on member states and international institutions to develop and back with the necessary funding and technical support a global plan to ensure all refugee children have access to quality education. Host country governments must also be supported to develop national refugee education action plans, they say. Such plans would help host country governments to develop a widely shared understanding of the situation regarding refugee education in their country and set out a policy and delivery framework for ensuring all refugee children are in school.

According to them, the international community should further commit that no credible National Refugee Education Action Plan should go unimplemented for lack of resources. They have identified four areas for action to deliver on that promise:

·         Increased investment: The funding gap must be closed with additional resources

·         Refugee inclusion: Host country governments should develop plans and enact policies to ensure that all refugee children, regardless of documentation status, are able to access relevant, quality education, which is part of and recognised by the national system

·         Educational improvement: Existing refugee education provision must be improved to ensure student learning and wellbeing

·         Improve accountability: The international community should establish a results and accountability framework for the delivery of the New York Declaration pledges on education that has time-bound, measurable outcome targets and indicators that are reported on annually

Global commitments off track

At UNGA 2016, progress for refugees and their education was secured by two events. (i) The New York Declaration expressed the international community’s commitment that no child migrant should be out of school for more than a few months after displacement. (ii) At the Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, 18 countries, including the United States, Canada, Germany and Mexico, made significant pledges to support refugee education – these countries comprised 14 refugee-hosting countries and four donor countries. In total, these pledges should enable one million refugees to attend school.

One year on, Save the Children’s report, Losing Out On Learning, tracks progress made in each of these 18 countries. It finds that, since the Leaders’ Summit, modest progress has been made against these pledges but that the burden of responsibility falls disproportionately on low- and middle=income countries. Progress is notable in countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Ethiopia, which have created an additional 290,000 school places, and Chad, which has made progress on textbook provision and refugee teacher accreditation.

EI: Quality education for refugees

The Education International (EI) conference in Stockholm on refugee education in November 2016, which included trade unions, civil society, government officials, teachers and students from 43 countries, introduced a plethora of ideas.

Among the pledges made, and still being produced, EI led the way with three promises:

·         EI pledges to press for a European Union meeting to address the education challenges for refugee children and young people

·         EI assures its African colleagues that refugee education will remain high on EI’s agenda, and the necessary attention will be paid to African affiliates

·         A commitment to Global Citizenship Education. EI pledges to continue to advocate its global partners, and encourages its member organisations to lead the way and share experiences with individual members. Talk of global citizenship must be implemented to nurture future generations of global citizens. EI asks affiliates to inform members by dedicating space in publications and online communications to promote the actions on global citizenship being carried out around the world.

On 13 September, at the EI Africa Region Workshop on Refugee Education held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, representatives of education unions from 11 countries in Africa pledged to advocate for refugees’ rights to learn and teach.

During this event, 30 African education union activists explored how EI affiliates can work within their own structures and with other stakeholders and government and intergovernmental agencies to promote quality education for all refugees, promoting the rights of refugee teachers and providing professional development to education personnel working with refugees and displaced population.

Please click here to go to the EI's reference portal on refugee education.