Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

Education and Forced Displacement


Forced displacement occurs when individuals and communities have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of, or in order to avoid the effects of, armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights, epidemics, or natural or human-made disasters (Global Protection Cluster 2010, page 137).

In 2015 there were 65.3 million people living in forced displacement due to conflict and persecution (UNHCR 2016). The figure includes those who have fled across borders (refugees) (23.1 million), those who have stayed within their own countries (Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs) (40.8 million), and stateless persons (3.2 million). Children under 18 years constitute half of the refugee population. Similar data for IDPs is unavailable.

Access to quality education is very limited for displaced children and youth. Refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children. At least 3.2 million refugee children and adolescents remain out-of-school. Only 1 in 2 refugee children are enrolled in primary school, and only 1 in 4 are enrolled in secondary school. Less than 1% of refugee students are enrolled in tertiary education (UNHCR 2016).

Ensuring the right to education for forcibly displaced children and youth is a concern central to the field of education in emergencies.

States have committed to Sustainable Development Goal 4, aiming to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. SDG4 contains a commitment to supporting people and countries affected by conflict, and to ensure that education is maintained during emergency, conflict and post-conflict situations. It explicitly commits to education for refugees and IDPs, which will help to ensure that displaced children become systematically more visible and accounted for in education planning and monitoring in the coming years.

The INEE Education Policy Working Group serves as a platform to support the development of resources on topics related to education for forcibly displaced populations.

Some knowledge gaps and emerging themes are:

School children in Colombia

  1. Education planning and financing for displaced populations.
  2. Specific education challenges and opportunities for displaced persons living in urban settings.
  3. Protracted crises and long-term educational responses.
  4. Teacher management, including recruitment, compensation, retention, well-being and professional development.
  5. Integration of other key EiE themes for displacement  contexts (conflict-sensitive education, countering violent extremism, psychosocial support and socio-emotional learning).
  6. Data management and coordination.
  7. ICT and new technologies for education for displaced populations.


Key Statistics and Messages

  • An estimated 65.3 million people living in forced displacement due to conflict and persecution in 2015 (UNHCR 2016);
  • In 2015 approximately 51% of refugees were children under the age of 18;
  • Only half of refugee children attend primary school compared to a global level of more than 90% and only 22% of refugee adolescents attend secondary school, compared to a global average of 84%. (UNHCR 2016).
  • There is currently no established mechanism within the humanitarian field for collecting comparative data for IDP populations who represent 62% of all displaced people in 2015 (40.8 million)
  • Common barriers to access at all levels of education include restrictions to enrolment in school due to lack or non-recognition of documentation and/or certification; lack of schools in reasonable distance or lack of safe transport, lack of qualified teachers and learning material, language barriers, and economic barriers related to work availability or the right to work, which can result in pressure for children and youth to engage in domestic labour or wage-earning activities.
  • Particular challenges for girls include social and cultural norms and expectations about attending school or about attending alongside boys and male teachers, lack of female teachers, and inadequate learning facilities (including sufficient appropriate WASH facilities and access to hygiene products), early pregnancy and/or marriage, and security or personal safety concerns.


Key Activities

International Conference: Education for a Better Future - Creating Prospects for Displaced Populations, 2 November 2016

© Katrin Faensen
Education for a Better Future

The INEE Education Policy Working Group co-organized an international conference sponsored by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and INEE, which was held in Berlin on 2 November 2016. This conference brought together international humanitarian and development actors to take stock of their engagement, discuss challenges and effective approaches, identify synergies, and strengthen partnerships for education and skills development in contexts of forced displacement.

Please see here for more information about the conference and materials, including the full meeting recording.


E-forum: Planning for the inclusion of displaced populations in the education sector, 3-15 October 2016

IIEP, together with UNHCR, the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and Education Above All’s Protecting Education in Insecurity and Conflict (PEIC) programme organized an e-Forum which brought together 473 participants from 86 countries, including education officials, humanitarian and development partners, refugees and IDPs, and teaching staff. Participants discussed challenges and identified effective strategies to support Ministries of Education in planning for displaced populations.

Please see here for the e-Forum report summarising the discussions.


Webinar on ICT for education in emergencies (ICT4EiE), 18 May 2016

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have the potential to support, enhance, and enable education for the most marginalized. The INEE Education Policy Working Group, together with partners, organized a webinar on ICT for education in emergencies to share emerging research from two landscape reviews on ICT for Education in Conflict and Crisis and on Technology for Refugee and IDP Education, which were launched at the UNESCO Mobile Learning Week in 2016. The webinar discussed promising results and lessons learnt regarding the use of ICT for education in contexts of forced displacement.

Please see here for more information about the webinar, including the full recording.


Key Resources


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