Education for refugees and internally displaced persons

A new HEART Topic Guide on Education for Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) will be published in June 2016. Picking up where the seminal 2011 UNHCR Refugee Education: A Global Review left off, and adding a section on the important but under-researched topic of IDP education, the Guide will be an invaluable resource for all those working in education for forcibly displaced persons. Drawing widely from the current research, policies, and practice, the Guide will be a highly pertinent and practical resource that explores the challenges and opportunities for delivering quality education for refugees and IDPs to facilitate effective learning among these populations.

Historically, humanitarian crises were thought to be unfortunate but temporary interruptions to an otherwise progressive process of development, uprooting people momentarily who would be able to return to their homes and rebuild their lives as soon as the crises subsided. But now a growing body of research demonstrates that this is incorrect. Most displacement crises last for years, if not decades. The total number of forcibly displaced persons has also increased. The UNHCR estimates that there currently exists the highest number of forcibly displaced persons ever recorded on the planet – some 60 million worldwide – with 2014 seeing the highest annual increase in a single year. Children and young people are disproportionately affected by this upheaval, with 51% of refugees aged 18 years old or younger. In the current global economic and political climate, most forcibly displaced people in protracted exile are unlikely to see what is known as a ‘durable’ solution to their displacement (i.e. returning ‘home’, integrating into the place of exile, or resettling elsewhere). They instead find themselves in an extended state of limbo in makeshift spaces such as camps, with limited access to basic services, and scarce or non-existent employment opportunities. Education for these groups is thus a pressing issue.

Globally, refugees and IDPs are missing out on education, or are participating in low-quality education, where they face barriers to learning, such as language issues, poor quality teaching and inaccessible or irrelevant curriculum. It is critical, therefore, that education support is designed to address the particular barriers to learning faced by refugees and IDPs. However, very little robust, generalizable academic research exists in the education in emergencies field in general, and even less on refugees and IDPs. Most of the academic research on these issues is in the form of qualitative, small-scale and/or context-specific studies, which are not generalizable. Whilst much good practice and innovative thinking exists in grey literature, this has not been captured and shared since the 2011 Refugee Education: A Global Review. The result is that education practitioners, donors, and country governments can struggle to transfer lessons from the literature to inform the design of effective education policies and programmes that better meet the specific needs of forcibly displaced populations.

The new HEART Topic Guide on Education for Refugees and IDPs aims to support these stakeholders by providing a practical, up to date overview of:

  • The relationships between education and forced displacement
  • The state of current refugee education research, policy, and practice
  • Key issues in the emerging field of IDP education research, policy, and practice
  • Examples of best practice and existing and potential future opportunities and innovation in the field of education and forced displacement

By drawing widely on current research, policies, and programmes in the field, the Guide will be a highly pertinent and practical resource on critical issues such as access, quality and protection across all levels of education. It is aimed at technical education experts looking for the current best practice, as well as humanitarian and development workers looking to learn more about the critical issues in education and forced displacement. The Guide is written by HEART and commissioned by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and will be published in the Topic Guide section of the HEART website.

If you use twitter, please use the hashtag #refugeeIDPeducation to join in the conversation. 

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