Learning in the face of adversity: the UNRWA education program for Palestine refugees

Palestine refugees are achieving higher-than-average learning outcomes in spite of the adverse circumstances they live under. Their education system—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)—operates one of the largest non-governmental school systems in the Middle East. Contrary to what might be expected from a resource-constrained administration serving refugee students who continually face a multitude of adversities, UNRWA students outperform public schools in the three regions—the West Bank, Gaza, and Jordan—by a year’s worth of learning. The study notes that this is achieved as a result of the way these schools recruit, prepare, and support teachers; because of instructional practices and pedagogy in the classroom; and because of school leadership, accountability, and mutual support. This has created a distinguished learning community centered on the student. It particularly notes that UNRWA selects, prepares, and supports its education staff to pursue high learning outcomes; time-on-task is high in UNRWA schools, and this time is used more effectively than in public schools; UNRWA schools have a world-class assessment and accountability system; and UNRWA schools are part of a wider community and culture of learning that supports the child and ensures that the education received is meaningful and relevant.


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