Education in urban contexts

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Helpdesk Query:

Produce a report looking at the following aspects of education in urban areas:

  • Context – why is this important? What are the key themes? How is urban poverty shaping education opportunities? Look at equality issues
  • Evidence – what is the evidence saying about the situation in urban slums? In relation to the increasing range of providers, migration, employability and labour markets. What is the evidence and where are there gaps?
  • Other issues – quality of education, livelihoods, almost humanitarian approach/issues in urban slums, longer term learning outcomes, urban/rural divide e.g. anecdotal acceptance that migrating to urban areas increases learning outcomes and better access to teachers but does the evidence actually say this?

Studies which find that enrolment rates are higher in urban areas than rural areas are likely to mask the high numbers of children who are out of school in urban areas. Slums often have dense populations where access to education is poor. Education is needed to break the poverty cycle in urban areas and increase employment opportunities. The importance of education for improved health in urban areas has been documented.

Cameron (2012) suggests some barriers to education that are particular to the urban rather than rural context. These include:

  • Greater inequality and powerlessness.
  • Street children, refugees and internally displaced people face high barriers to access due to legal status and lack of paperwork.
  • Busy roads and built up areas can make travelling even short distances to school difficult and time-consuming.
  • Slum evictions and high population mobility make it risky to invest in education projects: they risk losing all their students and having their buildings demolished.
  • The author suggests that the perceived ‘urban bias’ means that development policy for education in urban areas is neglected in favour of rural areas.

The 2015 Education for All (EFA) Global Monitoring Report (GMR) has done some work on disaggregating education data (UNESCO, 2015). Traditionally education statistics tend not to be disaggregated by urban/rural areas. UNESCO interviewed UN and NGO officials on the education situation in urban slums and found the most common response to be: ‘we don’t know. This is under researched.’(Kielland, 2015).

This helpdesk report also explores migration, governance and school type in the context of urban education.

The literature focused on urban areas is expanding to address issues of conflict/violence, migration/demography, climate, inequality, labour mobility and other areas. However, there seems to be little focus on implications for education.

There was limited discussion of employability and labour market issues in relation to education in the urban context. More research is also needed on the range of providers and how each may contribute to improving education in urban areas.

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