UNESCO: More needs to be done to include migrants and refugees in education systems

UNESCO: More needs to be done to include migrants and refugees in education systems

According to UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring report, the number of migrant and refugee school-aged children worldwide has increased since 2000 by 26 percent and could fill half a million classrooms. 

The report notes countries’ strengths and weaknesses in ensuring the ability of migrant and refugee children to benefit from quality education. 

The report warns that although legally migrant and refugee children are entitled to a quality education, this is not always the case. Statistics show that since 2016, refugee children have missed 1.5 billion days of school. 

However, there has been progress in the inclusion of refugees in education systems in Uganda, Chad and Ethiopia. Countries such as Ireland and Canada have worked extensively to implement inclusive education policies for immigrants. 

 Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO commented: 

“Everyone loses when the education of migrants and refugees is ignored. Education is the key to inclusion and cohesion. Increased classroom diversity, while challenging for teachers, can also enhance respect for diversity and an opportunity to learn from others. It is the best way to make communities stronger and more resilient.”

The report warns that, in many countries, such as Malaysia, Hungary, Australia, Indonesia and Mexico, asylum-seeking children in detention are barred from accessing full educational opportunities. 

Similarly, in some host countries, refugees can only get an education in uncertified schools, while other programmes do not provide refugees with language access opportunities to acquire good employment opportunities and achieve social integration. 

Half of the world’s displaced people are under 18.

In Kenya, refugee children benefit from the country’s national educational curriculum, but do not interact with their Kenyan peers due to housing circumstances. Jordan and Lebanon hold the largest number of refugees per capita, but do not have the necessary resources to construct more schools

The report highlights the considerable efforts made by the Islamic Republic of Iran and Rwanda to ensure that refugees and nationals attend school and interact with their host community. Turkey along with seven other countries in East Africa have pledged to include all refugees in its national education system by 2020. Uganda has already fulfilled this commitment.   

From 2005-2017, the share of students with immigrant backgrounds in high income countries has expanded from 15 percent to 18 percent. However, many immigrant children are not provided with the adequate resources to succeed. 

In the European Union, two times as many young people born overseas left school early compared to those born there in 2017. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) report that first generation immigrant students were 32 percent less likely to achieve basic skills in science, mathematics and reading in 2015 compared to host country students.

Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report noted: 

“Countries cannot think the job is done once immigrants are in school. They are being excluded in so many other ways. They end up in slower school tracks or in under-resourced establishments in troubled neighbourhoods. Nevertheless, almost all countries are now signing two global compacts on refugees and migrants, which contain several key education commitments. This could be the much-awaited turning point.” 

The main findings of the report recommend:

Protect the right to education for migrants
Include migrants in the education system
Implement plans to meet the educational needs of migrants
Represent migration and displacement accurately in history 
Prepare teachers to address diversity 
Harness the potential of migrants
Support education with development aid

The AIDF Global Summit will return to Washington in 2019. 

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Photo Credits: UNESCO 

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