Crowd sourcing solutions to the challenges of refugee education

By Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, Head of Education Policy & Advocacy at Save the Children, Chair of the Global Book Alliance and a member of the Executive Committee of Education Cannot Wait. 

Last week, UNESCO headquarters in Paris was abuzz with policy makers, practitioners, students and teachers who had gathered for Mobile Learning Week 2017.

Jointly organised by UNESCO and UNHCR the theme of the week was ‘education in emergencies and crises’.

Events throughout the week focussed on how affordable technology can preserve the continuity of learning in conflict and disaster contexts, open and enrich learning opportunities for refugees and other displaced people and facilitate the integration of learners in new schools and communities.

With 75 million children aged 3-18 years living in 35 crisis-affected countries in need of educational support, we urgently require both new approaches and to scale up proven methods of providing children affected by crisis with quality learning opportunities.

Among this larger figure are 10 million child refugees, who having fled their country seeking protection from violence and persecution and face the double jeopardy of losing both their homes and their education.


No more excuses’, a briefing paper jointly released by the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report and UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 revealed the appalling state of refugee children’s access to learning opportunities, with only 50% of refugee children in primary school and 25% of refugee adolescents in secondary school. Continue reading

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A racist education

By Kassiani Lythrangomitis


The Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953, an apartheid law, specified the use of many basic amenities such as parks, benches and entrances according to race. (Image: Wikipedia)

I was born in a racist country, with a racist president, and racist laws. My neighbour was a racist. I went to a racist school that did not allow black children to learn in the same space as white children. My racist school withheld information about the racist regime that created the racist curriculum, which only gave one side of the story. In the eyes of the undemocratically elected racist government, white people were superior to black people. Because I was white, I had the right to learn, in the language of my choice. I had the right to choose the subjects of my choice, in the school of my choice. Under the Bantu Education Act black children were taught a different curriculum from white children. The aim was to provide them with skills to work in manual jobs only. As noted in the 2016 GEM Report education can support social inclusion; unequal education results in social exclusion, which sums up apartheid.

madibaWhen South Africa’s first democratically elected government took its seat in the Union Buildings in 1994, history, as taught in schools, had to be rewritten. The curriculum started to change, offering the other side of the South African story. The way the curriculum developed in South Africa after 1994 became part of the national political process. Education experts were tasked with transforming the pre-1994 history syllabus to become more inclusive. This formed part of the politics of compromise in the interests of a peaceful transfer of power and of national reconciliation. The heroes and notable figures that we began to learn about were governing South Africa, rewriting the laws, trying to create a democratic, nonracial, nonsexist society. Continue reading

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Learning on the run: using ICT for education in emergencies

Photo 1Natural disasters, extreme weather, bombings and protracted armed conflict can destroy schools and undermine the normalcy of school life. Given the complexity of how education is impacted by emergencies, innovative solutions are needed to ensure that disruption to education is minimized. Mobile learning in such settings – the theme of this year’s Mobile Learning Week – can bring vital relief to children and youth deprived of an education, and teachers tasked with the job of providing it.

First let’s remember the way that education is affected by emergencies, so that we can better understand how ICT can fill the gap. Most visibly perhaps is the physical destruction of schools. To get an idea of the scale of destruction this can involve, flip back to our 2016 GEM Report, which showed that schools were used for military purposes in 26 countries between 2005 and 2015. In Iraq, 85% of schools were damaged or destroyed by fighting during the conflict of 2003–2004. By 2016, the Syrian Arab Republic had lost more than one-quarter of its schools. Continue reading

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How would education suffer without aid from the USA?

1Last week, White House officials said that President Trump would increase military spending by $54 billion, taking funds from domestic programs and foreign aid to pay the bill. What would a total cut of all USA aid for education mean?

In 2014, the USA was the fourth biggest donor to education, after the UK, France and Germany, allocating just over $1 billion to the sector. It allocated 88% of its total funds to basic education making it the biggest donor for basic education, followed by the UK in second place.

The United States tripled its aid to basic education between 2002/03 and 2013/14. It is among only a few donors that have continued to increase such aid after 2009/10, accounting for more than 20% of total aid to basic education. Continue reading

Posted in Aid, curriculum, Democracy, Developed countries, Developing countries, peace, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Peru has a new ‘rose-tinted’ curriculum

quote blockThe UN congratulated Peru last week for its new education curriculum, in effect since the 1st January this year, which aims to improve gender equality. The change has been long needed,  as is the case for many other countries in the region, where curricula for secondary education have not been updated for decades. The changes made in Peru have a significant focus on gender equality, calling on teachers to challenge stereotypes where “women clean better, men are not sensitive, women have less ability than men to learn math and science, men are less able than women to learn in Communications, women are weaker and men are more irresponsible.”

This change is directly in line with the call in Target 4.7 of the new education goal in the Sustainable Development Agenda, which looks more at how we are learning and for what aim. Correspondingly, the GEM Report has been emphasizing the need to monitor the content of curricula frameworks and textbooks as a way of holding governments to account for this Target, which is otherwise hard to pin down. Our research showed, for instance, that less than 15% of countries curricula frameworks integrated key terms such as gender empowerment, gender parity or gender-sensitive, while half mentioned gender equality. Continue reading

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Join our youth photo competition

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In September 2015, the member states of the United Nations agreed on a new sustainable development agenda with 17 goals to be achieved by 2030.  These Sustainable Development Goals are the collective vision of the international community. They merge the previous development agenda known as the Millennium Development Goals and the environment agenda known as the Rio process.

The fourth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG4) focuses on education and aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’. One of the targets – Target 4.7 – in the new global education goal truly captures the transformative aspirations of the new Sustainable Development Agenda. It focuses on the moral purposes of education, asking us all to think about why we are learning and for what aim. The target also promotes the importance of lifelong learning, and does not specify the education levels or age groups to which its themes apply. Continue reading

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The poorest young women have spent less than a year in school in the bottom ten countries


Girls learning in Niger. Credit: Tagaza Djibo/GEM Report

It’s International Women’s Day this week. As people in different cities rally for gender equality, not enough changes are being made to help the poorest girls pick themselves up from the bottom of the education ladder in many parts of the world. This blog draws together a list of the thirty worst performing countries for female education using updated data from the GEM Report’s WIDE database, renewing a list we posted on this blog in 2012 – our most popular blog to date. We hope it will help those advocating for girls’ education to focus their efforts.

What does it show?

Appallingly, in the bottom ten countries, the poorest 20% of young women in their early twenties have spent less than one year in school. At least six out of ten of the poorest 20% of girls have never been to school. When the bottom ten countries includes those also in the top ten for the largest populations in the world, such as Nigeria and Pakistan, these figures become seriously concerning.

South Sudan stands out for being in the bottom and second from bottom place for both girls and young women. Only one in ten of the poorest young girls in the country have been to school; young women have only made it through one term in school if they’re lucky. Continue reading

Posted in Basic education, Equality, Equity, Gender, Out-of-school children, parity, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment