Crowd sourcing solutions to the challenges of refugee education

By Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, Head of Education Policy & Advocacy at Save the Children, Chair of the Global Book Alliance and a member of the Executive Committee of Education Cannot Wait. 

Last week, UNESCO headquarters in Paris was abuzz with policy makers, practitioners, students and teachers who had gathered for Mobile Learning Week 2017.

Jointly organised by UNESCO and UNHCR the theme of the week was ‘education in emergencies and crises’.

Events throughout the week focussed on how affordable technology can preserve the continuity of learning in conflict and disaster contexts, open and enrich learning opportunities for refugees and other displaced people and facilitate the integration of learners in new schools and communities.

With 75 million children aged 3-18 years living in 35 crisis-affected countries in need of educational support, we urgently require both new approaches and to scale up proven methods of providing children affected by crisis with quality learning opportunities.

Among this larger figure are 10 million child refugees, who having fled their country seeking protection from violence and persecution and face the double jeopardy of losing both their homes and their education.


No more excuses’, a briefing paper jointly released by the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report and UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 revealed the appalling state of refugee children’s access to learning opportunities, with only 50% of refugee children in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents in secondary school.

Recognition of the importance of education for refugees is growing

The good news is that there is growing recognition of, and support for, providing education to refugees. During 2016, education in humanitarian situations in general and for refugees in particular has been the focus of the Supporting Syria Conference in London, the World Humanitarian Summit, the UN General Assembly and the Obama Leaders’ Summit. Education for refugees was also a principal driver of the establishment of the Education Cannot Wait fund for education in emergencies and crises. But significant barriers to ensuring all refugee children and young people can participate in quality education persist.

Catalysing solutions to refugee education at scale require increased resources and political will, as well as new ways of providing educational services, like the innovations that were profiled at Mobile Learning Week.

However, while innovative practices in refugee education exist, they are often not well known or understood outside of their context.

Shining a light on promising practices in the field of refugee education

This is where a joint project between UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, Pearson and Save the Children comes in.

The Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative is looking to shine a light on innovations occurring in response to the challenges of educating refugees.


By identifying promising practices in refugee education and producing and promoting case studies we want to make more people aware of good work in the field; demonstrate the diverse ways in which organisations and individuals are responding to the challenge of education for refugees; and enhance understanding of what works both in individual projects and across them; and use the individual experiences and insights gained from them to inform policy and financing.

We know, both from experience and from the response we’ve already received to our invitation to submit projects that there are numerous examples of innovative practice and good policy that deserve to be better known and understood.

Approaches that are closing the refugee education funding, policy and delivery gap

The inclusion of refugees into national Education Sector Plans, backed by donor funding along the lines of what has happened in Chad, is particularly promising.

With high numbers of children and young people having missed out on schooling, accelerated and flexible forms of education provide a viable way for many towards certified learning, and we also know that language and psychosocial support, as well as an adequate supply of trained and motivated teachers are vital ingredients for successful educational initiatives for refugees.

We are looking for promising practices in these areas and more widely for practice that addresses the challenges of timeliness, educational access and quality, protection, equity, data and which strengthen educational systems.

Submit your project


You can find out more about the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative and if you are implementing a project that you think might meet the selection criteria then please submit it.

Selected projects will be given technical support to develop case studies about their work along with a small grant of US$1,000 in recognition of the costs associated with the documentation process.

These case studies will then form part of a collection that showcases innovative practices from around the world. We will also publish a synthesis report that will be launched at UNGA 2017 and shared widely within the sector and with policy makers.

Refugee children have the same right to access education as other children and need the skills and knowledge that education provides to help them adjust to their new circumstances, integrate into communities and ultimately to thrive.

Identifying, documenting and sharing projects that have helped to deliver that can play a vital part in getting us closer to the goal of ensuring every last refugee child can enjoy their right to learn.


Leave a Reply