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New UNESCO Report praises Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan for inclusive education policies for refugees

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23 November 2018
New UNESCO Report praises Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan for inclusive education policies for refugees
The 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report, entitled ‘Building bridges, not walls’, analyses policies towards refugees and migrants around the world. It praises countries in Western Asia, such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, where almost a third of the world’s refugees are hosted, for their inclusive education policies towards Syrian refugees. The Islamic Republic of Iran has also decreed that schools should accept all Afghan children regardless of documentation. The Report calls for such efforts to be intensified and for international support to help the countries reach their ambitions for fully inclusive education. This means including children at all education levels and from all nationalities.
Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report said: “At last exclusionary practices are being abandoned, whether due to political pragmatism or international solidarity Stronger national efforts are still needed though to make the leap to fully inclusive refugee education, for children of all ages and all nationalities.”

Turkey has committed to include all Syrian refugees in its national education system by 2020 and has already included them in its social protection system. In 2016, Jordan began allowing public schools to enrol children without service cards, which required birth certificates. To improve take-up of refugees in schools, the Lebanese government piloted offering conditional cash transfers for education and saw their attendance rise by 20%.

All three are making substantial efforts to help refugees use their education and prior learning to find work. Lebanon and Jordan are praised for giving refugees the right to enrol in higher education and to work. In Turkey, the national employment agency is working with several international organizations to overcome the administrative obstacles for making jobs accessible to Syrian refugees and to develop vocational training programmes. Jordan has issued or renewed over 100,000 work permits for Syrian refugees since 2016.

But the Report warns that the degree of refugee inclusion in education systems can be challenged by a lack of resources. Lebanon and Jordan, which have the highest number of refugees per capita in the world, have adopted double-shift systems, producing temporal separation. Teachers often teach both shifts and report being overworked.

Antoninis continues: “While double-shift systems have been an important temporary fix, the long-term consequence of being permanently segregated is that refugees cannot integrate into the host society and they are put at a learning disadvantage. Better international support is needed to help these countries ensure refugee children sit side-by-side with nationals in schools.”

Globally, only a third of the funding gap for refugee education has been filled. UNRWA, providing education to half a million Palestinian refugees, faces a major finance gap after the withdrawal of the United States, its largest donor in absolute terms. The regional response to the Syrian crisis had received only $248 million of the requested $873 million for education, or 28%, by April 2018.

The quality of education will suffer without greater international support to the countries hosting most Syrian refugees. Teachers’ salaries are the most expensive part of any education bill and Turkey needs 80,000 more teachers to teach all current refugees. In Lebanon, only 55% of teachers and staff had participated in professional development in the previous two years.

The Report shows that, if the international community used only humanitarian aid, the share to education would need to increase ten times to meet refugees’ needs. The Education Cannot Wait Fund, established in 2016 is highlighted as key for raising resources for education in emergencies that can bring humanitarian and development actors to work together. Donors are called to use the momentum behind the Fund’s creation to catalyse predictable, multi-year funding.

Education for those on the move is crucial: the Report cautions of the links between education and violent extremism, warning that exclusion from education’s benefits can be as harmful as exclusion from education itself. A study in eight Arab countries showed that unemployment increased the probability of radicalization only among the more educated; disappointed expectations of improving economic standing through education increased the allure of violent extremism to address grievances

The Report has concrete recommendations for countries to fulfil their education commitments to migrants and refugees:

1. Protect the right to education of migrants and displaced people

2. Include migrants and displaced people in the national education system

3. Understand and plan for the education needs of migrants and displaced people

4. Represent migration and displacement histories in education accurately to challenge prejudices

5. Prepare teachers of migrants and refugees to address diversity and hardship

6. Harness the potential of migrants and displaced people

7. Support education needs of migrants and displaced people in humanitarian and development aid.

For more information, please contact Kate Redman k.redman@unesco.org