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Refugee Children Education: Promising Practices and Recommendations

By Steve Vosloo on November 24, 2017

refugee children education
The surge in global refugees has had devastating effects on the education of affected children. Only 61% of refugee children have access to primary education, and only 23% have access to secondary school. Overall, refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children.

Technology has been shown to make a contribution to alleviating this crisis in a range of ways, be it through widening access to learning materials, enabling virtual mentoring of teachers, improving education administration, or better and quicker data collection.

Promising Practices: Case Studies

Launched in March 2017 through a partnership between UNHCR, Pearson and Save the Children, the Promising Practices in Refugee Education Initiative set out to identify, document and promote innovative ways to effectively reach refugee children and young people with quality educational opportunities. The result is a set of 18 case studies, many using tech to provide support somewhere in the education value chain.

Those that don’t use tech, for example Essence of Learning, which uses locally accessible recycling and natural materials only, are refreshing to see. Imagine: no dead batteries, no upgrades, no support needs, no lost passwords! They remind us of the range or resources at hand, of which tech is but one.

Promising Practices: Recommendations

A juicy synthesis report distills the key findings and lessons learned from the case studies. Collectively the experiences have been used to identify ten recommendations aimed at improving refugee education policy and practice. Stand out recommendations are to Improve collaboration and develop innovative partnerships†and Adopt user-centred design and empowering approaches.

Mobiles to Support Learners, Support Teachers and Support Systems

The 2017 UNESCO Mobile Learning Week focused on Education in emergencies and crises. The concept note provides an excellent summary of the key challenges and opportunities for mobile tech to play a supportive role. You can now download many of the Symposium presentations†aligned to the themes:††support learners, support teachers and support systems.

Do We Really Understand the Problem?

So you believe tech has a role to play in alleviating the education challenges facing refugees. But too often enthusiasm can result in a just-do-it approach that doesn’t necessarily address real needs or lacks co-ordination with others. A good place to start is with UNHCR’s 5 challenges to accessing education for Syrian refugee children. Another excellent resource is the Open University report Mapping Refugee Media Journeys: Smartphones and Social Media Networks, which offers an insight into the real lives, challenges and needs of refugees en route or in their host countries.

Refugees and Mobiles

Finally, beyond education, the GSMA report The Importance of Mobile for Refugees: A Landscape of New Services and Approaches offers a quick scan of the opportunities for refugees, themed by connectivity, digital tools and platforms, family reconnection, education, and livelihoods and mobile money.

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Written by
Steve Vosloo is passionate about using technology in education. He's worked at UNESCO, Pearson South Africa, Stanford University, and the Shuttleworth Foundation on the use of mobile phones for literacy development, how technology can better serve low-skilled users, and the role of digital media for youth. All opinions expressed in this post are his own.
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