How is UK and Norway’s leadership on evidence helping to push the agenda on education in emergencies forward?

An estimated 50 million children live in conflict-affected countries or are refugees – an 8% increase from 2008 – and many more are affected by natural disasters such as earthquakes or flooding. In addition to this, it is estimated that 20 million adolescents in conflict countries are not in school, and over half of these are girls.

The Oslo Education Summit, convened by the Norwegian government in July 2015, challenged the global community to do more in these contexts. The Oslo Declaration states that: ’The number of children and youth out of school due to conflicts, disasters, displacements and epidemics is increasing at a chilling speed. Neglecting their right to education undermines not only their future, but also the future of their societies. In addition, learning is crucial for the success of other interventions in crises, such as in the fields of sanitation and health. Education must be protected from armed attack.’

Building on the impetus provided by the Summit, we met in the margins of the Oxford UKFIET conference to discuss how the UK and Norway can further collaborate to strengthen the provision of education for children affected by conflict. One common concern is the lack of data to ensure value for money and accountability. Another is the lack of solid research on what works for which children in what contexts, and which can inform interventions and avoid causing harm.

The new International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity will provide an opportunity to develop the evidence on what works to improve delivery and financing of education in emergency and conflict situations. Both Norway and the UK are committed to extending this evidence base and both have commissioned reviews of the evidence on education in conflict situations that can be fed into the work of the Commissioners. Although there is a growing evidence base on some topics, for example community schools can be effective in a conflict setting, the knowledge base is weak in many areas, e.g. on interventions for disabled children during crises and technical and vocational training.

We need to ensure that efforts are joined up and linked to other international efforts – and the Commission is an excellent vehicle for achieving this ambition.

As an example, NORAD is implementing a partnership programme in South Sudan and other fragile contexts to improve quality of education through such measures as better teacher training and research. Using a results framework and evaluations, the programme will also generate evidence on effectiveness and learning processes. DFID is investing in joint programming with UNHCR and UNICEF to identify and test innovative education approaches in crisis situations. Independent evaluations will be conducted on the impact of the innovative ideas, as well as to document the process of innovation in these settings. NORAD, with several international partners, has launched an initiative to develop a smartphone application that can help Syrian children to learn how to read, and improve their psychosocial well-being. We will find ways to share the results of these innovative approaches and to move towards more joined-up approaches to identifying and testing the impact of innovation at scale, as well as improving the take up of successful approaches to innovation in these difficult contexts.

A background paper commissioned by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Oslo Summit proposed the establishment of a new fund and platform for education in emergencies to address financing, coordination and capacity gaps. Norway, USAID and DFID have all agreed to co-finance new work to develop options around a new global fund and platform and have asked UNICEF to serve as administrative agency for the exercise.

Norway and the UK agree that education is essential in humanitarian and long-term development – and often provides an opportunity for bridging the two, for example by ‘building back better’. Our ongoing conversations, at the edges of conferences and other meetings, and our ongoing endeavours to share evidence and learning, are a small but important step in this.

This blog is part of a series of blogs written by DFID Education Advisers in collaboration with Young Lives researchers. Others in the series include:

By Chris Berry, Education Head of Profession, DFID; and Ragnhild Dybdahl, Education Policy Director, NORAD


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