Refugee education: shining a light on promising practices

Photo: Egan Hwan/Save the Children.
Students attend school at the Mae La Camp in Mae Sot, Thailand.

Migration and displacement dominate our news media. And for good reason: the world is witnessing the highest levels of human displacement on record.

An unprecedented 65.3 million people around the world have been forced from their homes.

Among them are nearly 21.3 million refugees: people who have fled their country seeking protection from violence or persecution.

And over half of the world’s refugees are children.

The single most important tool

After leaving their homes in search of protection, refugees often struggle to access basic services like healthcare and education, as well as important day-to-day needs like food and shelter.

While education is the single most important tool we can equip children with, it is often one of the first casualties in conflicts and emergencies.

Half of all refugee children of primary school age are out of school and fewer than one in four refugee children get to go to high school.

The situation is especially bleak in countries where a third generation of children has been born into displacement, and where the prospects of a safe return to their countries of origin seems like a distant dream.

But even in the face of enduring hardship, the drive to ensure refugee children get an education is combining with creativity and determination and giving birth to innovative solutions to the refugee education challenge.

Improving early reading skills

Photo: Egan Hwan/Save the Children.

 

I saw this firsthand on the Thai/Myanmar border where, after more than 30 years, the situation for refugees from Myanmar in Thailand has become one of the world’s most protracted refugee crises.

Despite this, refugees in the nine camps along the border continue under extremely difficult conditions to provide education to children.

Save the Children is supporting their efforts. In response to an assessment of children’s reading ability – which showed poor reading attainment – we’ve been working in the camps to improve children’s early grade reading skills.

For the first time ever, we took Literacy Boost, our pioneering approach to helping children learn to read, into an emergency situation.

Implementing Literacy Boost

Implementing Literacy Boost in the camps has involved producing and distributing local language reading material and training the camps’ volunteer teachers to teach reading more effectively.

We’ve also been working with parents and children to encourage them to read more by implementing programmes such as ‘reading buddies’, which sees children team up, outside of school, to read to each other and discuss what they’ve been reading.

We’ve seen reading skills improve, and a real enthusiasm for and commitment to reading, take off.

Shining a light

I’ve had the privilege of seeing situations in the Middle East, Africa and in other parts of Asia where refugee communities are doing everything they can to provide their children with an education.

However, while pioneering examples of refugee education exist, they are often not well known or understood outside of their context.

So we’ve teamed up with UNHCR, the UN refugee agency and Pearson, the world’s largest learning company, to shine a light on efforts to provide education to the world’s refugees.

We want to identify the projects with the most promise of contributing to wider change, then document and promote them.

We want to show the world refugees’ determination and commitment to creating a better future for themselves. And we want to learn about what’s working in the field of education for refugees, so that ultimately every last refugee child has access to a quality education.

Find out more

You can find out more about the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative here. And if you know about an innovative project that you think might meet the selection criteria then please encourage them to submit their project.

Read more about our partnership with Pearson.

 

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