Home Institution

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Publication Date

Spring 2012

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


Refugee education has been evolving and developing since it was brought to the attention of the international community in the 1960s. Although education has become more accessible worldwide, the quality of this education has started to become a concern. Increasing the number of enrolled students in formal education systems is an achievement, but if half of these children drop out before the end of the school year what progress has really been made? Providing a quality system has long-term benefits that extend outside of the school setting, benefiting children, educators, parents and the rest of the community. In refugee camp settings, particularly protracted situations where camp mentality has become institutionalised, the need for a quality education can be groundbreaking for creating a self-sustaining population that will be able to thrive when it is time to adopt durable solutions: repatriation, integration or resettlement. Therefore, the global community has shifted its attention to improving the already established and functioning education systems.

The Education Strategy, 2012-2016, has prioritised and outlined many specific guidelines for how to improve the quality of education within its refugee camps and one of the major points of concern is improving the teaching. As described in the UNHCR Global Review on Refuge Education, “teachers are the central aspect of refugee education. Sometimes there is no building, no administration, but there is a teacher. It is these teachers that determine the effectiveness of refugee education” [1] It is apparent that if one wants to improve the quality of refugee education then one first has to address the problems affecting refugee educators. A lack of potential educators, a lack of materials and resources, a lack of motivation for teachers to stay in the camp based schools and a lack of successful interactive teaching methods have all taken a toll on the standard of learning and teaching in refugee camps.

A lack of funding is often cited as the reason why these problems have created “a vicious cycle of underdevelopment”[2] but increasing funding is not a feasible or realistic solution for a lot of international organisations that have other sectors to which they have to allocate funds. Also convincing donors to give more money is not the easiest or most time efficient task.

Therefore the international community has had to increase its global cooperation and coordination with implementing partners. The combined pooling of information, potential program strategies and funding is essential if there is to be improvement and the present situation is positive but still leaves a lot of room for improvement, especially in the manner of tackling problems in teacher training.

[1] Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Refugee Education: A Global Review (Geneva: UNHCR, 2011) 54.

[2] IOM, Assessment Report: Impact of the Returnees from Libya on their Home Communities in Chad (Geneva: IOM, 2012) 21.


Curriculum and Social Inquiry | Education | Inequality and Stratification