Education for refugees and IDPs in low- and middle-income countries: identifying challenges and opportunities

This topic guide is designed to support DFID advisors, education specialists, and other partners working on providing education for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). It provides an overview of the key issues, and signposts relevant sources for further information and reading. Section 1 provides a brief introduction to the guide. Section 2 gives a global overview of forced displacement and education. Section 3 maps the state of research, policy, and practice in refugee education. Section 4 maps the state of research, policy, and practice in IDP education. Section 5 seeks to identify and explore best practice, and existing and potential future opportunities and innovations, in the field of education and forced displacement.


This topic guide is focused on skills immediately necessary for employment and increased productivity. It focuses on technical and vocational education and training (TVET) skills, which are concerned with the acquisition of knowledge and skills for the world of work. The importance and value of obtaining basic skills is recognised as a pre-requisite for higher order skills development. This document was written between July and December 2015 and includes evidence that was available at this time.

Higher Education

Higher Education (HE) plays a major role in building a nation’s intellectual capital required for poverty reduction, sustainable development and positive engagement in the global knowledge economy. This topic guide aims to answer the questions, how can the capacity of HE systems and structures in LMICs best be built and how can effective partnerships be generated to best support the process. To answer these questions, the guide presents evidence of the critical role of HE for overall national development, examines the key policy issues and barriers to building capacity in HE in low income settings and reviews the evidence from a number of different innovations that have attempted to overcome these barriers.

Early childhood development

This topic guide focuses on early childhood development (ECD), which has become a priority for research, policy and programming, at national and global level, with increasing recognition of the interconnections between a nation’s development goals and the quality of services for all young girls and boys, and their families.  The guide summarises evidence across the full age span of ECD,  maps the various sectoral entry points for delivering comprehensive holistic services, and identifies opportunities and challenges in achieving more integrated ECD at every level.

Educational technology

This guide aims to contribute to what we know about the relationship between educational technology (edtech) and educational outcomes by addressing the following overarching question: What is the evidence that the use of edtech, by teachers or students, impacts teaching and learning practices, or learning outcomes? It also offers recommendations to support advisors to strengthen the design, implementation and evaluation of programmes that use edtech. We define edtech as the use of digital or electronic technologies and materials to support teaching and learning. Recognising that technology alone does not enhance learning, evaluations must also consider how programmes are designed and implemented, how teachers are supported, how communities are developed and how outcomes are measured.

Inclusive learning

Inclusive learning is defined in the Topic Guide as ‘the result of effective teaching practice, an adapted learning environment and teaching approaches which ensure that all children are included, engaged and supported’. The Topic Guide addresses some of the contested and debated issues around terminology, labelling, and segregated, integrated and inclusive schooling; reviews the limited evidence that exists from low and middle income countries;and identifies future research directions.

Family Planning

This document presents a summary of family planning. It reviews existing literature, examining carefully what the current knowledge is, where the important issues or problems lie and “what works”. It is divided into ten sections. This guide was produced as a result of a reading week held for the UK Department for International Development (DFID) advisers in mid-2012. The topics and readings were chosen by experts in the field but are not a comprehensive review of all family planning literature. The main audience for this guide is policymakers, advisers, managers and practitioners.


This Topic Guide has been compiled to provide an overview of undernutrition in the context of development. It covers the nature, scale and complex range of causes of undernutrition and summarises the evidence for what works to address the problem. The Guide covers direct nutrition interventions (or nutrition specific development as it is often termed), indirect interventions (nutrition sensitive), and the global coordination structures, governance and funding which are essential for an enabling environment within which undernutrition can be successfully reduced.

Other DFID funded Topic Guides:

Disability inclusion Topic Guide

This topic guide summarises some of the most rigorous available evidence on the key debates and challenges of disability inclusion in development and humanitarian response. Disability does not necessary imply limited wellbeing and poverty. Yet there is growing evidence that the estimated one billion people with disabilities face attitudinal, physical and institutional barriers that result in… Read more

Social development and human development

This Topic Guide aims to answer the question ‘What is the interaction between social development issues and human development outcomes?’ An individual’s right to lead a long and healthy life, to be educated and to enjoy a decent standard of living cannot be realised without addressing social development issues. This is because these issues determine… Read more

Education, Climate and Environment Topic Guide

This Topic Guide sets out the existing knowledge around the links between education, climate and environment. In particular, it highlights the two-way relationship between these key areas, including: The risks and opportunities posed by environmental and climatic factors on educational supply and demand at all levels (primary, secondary, tertiary) and modes (formal and informal). The… Read more

Education economics. A guide through the subject

The key messages from this topic guide are: Education economics starts from the basis that there are returns to education that increase the wealth and well-being of the educated. Economists view education as a merit good, in that there are externalities or spillovers, meaning returns to education benefit others beyond the person being educated. Government/public… Read more

Low-cost private schools: Evidence, approaches and emerging issues

Over the past five years, a polarised debate about the potential contribution of low-cost private schools (LCPSs) to achieving Education for All (EFA) objectives has received growing coverage in international policy circles. At the heart of this debate are disputed questions about whether these schools are providing quality education, reaching disadvantaged groups, supporting or undermining… Read more

Non-Traditional Financing for Education

Aid to education is declining. Given the success of non-traditional financing in the health sector, the education sector has started to explore its potential to see if it can provide additional and alternative sources of finance to address some of the financing gap. Non-traditional financing is about more than raising additional funds; it is also… Read more