This year’s UNESCO Global Education Monitoring report Migration, displacement and education: Building bridges, not walls published today echoes numerous findings and recommendations we have been making through the Every Last Child Refugee Education campaign.

It is a highly influential report setting out global education trends and debates, as well as marking progress towards reaching Sustainable Development Goal 4 in 2030. We have been actively working with UNESCO over the last year to share our research on education in emergencies to ensure their report includes strong recommendations for bilateral and multilateral donors, crisis affected countries, UN agencies and civil society.

We strongly welcome the report. Sadly it shows that the world is far from being on track to meet the promise in the Sustainable Development Goals or the commitment in the Global Compact on Refugees to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education for all children by 2030.

Whilst the report sets out the enormity of the challenge it also helpfully outlines what can and must be done – echoing many of our recommendations and data in Time To Act: A costed plan to deliver quality education to every last refugee child.

Including refugees in national education systems

It backs our call for more support for refugee hosting countries to include refugee children in the national education systems of the countries to which they have fled. This is the most practical and sustainable way to provide displaced children with accredited and certified learning opportunities that can be monitored for quality.

While the Global Education Monitoring report highlights good progress in this area, sadly there remains a lack of political will, or worse, a political decision to obstruct the education of certain groups in a number of contexts. Of the 25 hosting countries regarded as highest priority by UNHCR, only 16 (64%) allow refugees full access to their education systems at primary and secondary level.[i]

While seven East African countries have made strong commitments to inclusion in the Djibouti Declaration, without international support, these countries will struggle to meet their commendable ambition.

We urgently need to provide more support to countries hosting large refugee populations to help them develop and implement national plans aimed at ensuring all refugee children have access to quality educational opportunities. Host governments should remove policy and practical barriers that exclude refugee children from the formal education system, for example by establishing an inclusive, flexible registration system that allows students to enrol in school even if they lack the usual documentation.

Improving the quality of education refugees receive

The Global Education Monitoring report also points to the importance of ensuring that both refugee children and their host community peers have access to a quality education which delivers real learning outcomes. However, with 85% of refugees living in low- and middle-income countries whose education systems already struggle to meet the complex learning needs of the most marginalised, even refugee children and youth who are in school often are frequently not learning.

We very much agree with the report that inadequate support to teachers in these contexts is a significant barrier which prevents refugee and migrant children from learning. In refugee settings the average teacher to student ratio is estimated to be 1:70 with many classrooms exceeding these numbers. Despite the complex needs of refugee students, teacher rarely receive adequate training, pay, language assistance or support.

We recently interviewed 28 Save the Children teachers and facilitators from refugee and host communities in Bangladesh, Lebanon and Uganda to find out the key challenges they face. While all teachers received training, they identified that they would benefit from more training and ongoing support across several areas, including supporting children who are distressed or need additional support to learn, and teaching multilingual or multi-grade classrooms.

We recommend that governments include refugee teachers in national education workforces and provide teacher professional development and certification on an ongoing basis.

Supporting teachers is one crucial way of improving the quality of education but governments and donors should also reform policy and increase funding in: 

  • socioemotional learning (SEL) opportunities and psychosocial support (PSS),
  • early care and development for young children in emergencies, alongside parent education and
  • the distinct education challenges faced by girls in crisis.
Closing the funding gap

The report also finds that only $800 million was spent worldwide on education for refugees in 2016. This is only one-third of what we argue in our Time To Act report that donors should spend. We argue that $11.9 billion is needed from donors over 5 years to provide quality education to the 7.5 million school aged refugees.

Understanding how much funding is being allocated to refugee education, as well as how much is required is a critical step in both securing it and agreeing how it can be used most effectively. In our report we set out how bilateral and multinational funding mechanisms should be used to fill the funding gaps, including through the Global Partnership for Education, Education Cannot Wait and the World Bank.

The world has made promising commitments to support education for refugees and migrants, but now we urgently need financing. It is well within our means to provide a quality education to every last refugee child.  

We must listen to the needs of refugees and migrants   

The Global Education Monitoring report should be a wake-up call for the international community.

Refugee children in countries like Uganda, Bangladesh and Lebanon, who have lost their homes, are terrified of losing their education too. They tell us that education gives them hope for a better future.  We must listen to them and act now.


[i] Nicolai & Hine (2015), ‘Investment for education in emergencies: A review of evidence’ Overseas Development Institute

Opening image credit: Children participate in their kindergarten graduation ceremony in Zaatari refugee Camp, Jordan. © Simine Alam / Save the Children

Second image credit: Nur*, 11, takes part in activities at Save the Children’s Child Friendly Space, in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. There-quarters of Rohingya children do not have access to any education, making them vulnerable to risks of violence, abuse, child marriage, sickness and trafficking. (© Jonathan Hyams / Save the Children)

Third image credit: Furaha*, 12, in the Save the Children Child Friendly Space in Nyakabande transit camp, Uganda. She fled violence in the Congo with her mother and sister. She wants to go to school because she wants to learn English. She says, ‘when I grow up I want to be a Doctor then I can give medicines to people and they will get well.” (©Hannah Maule-ffinch / Save the Children)