Teachers of refugees: a review of the literature
Emily Richardson with Leonora MacEwen
Ruth has worked in international education development since 1999 as a consultant, advisor, researcher and trainer, with a focus on how to improve the learning of the most marginalised, especially girls, in low-resource and conflict-affected settings. She has written evidence reviews on education for adolescent girls for DFID, Plan International and UNICEF. She has worked on the design and monitoring and evaluation of large girls' education programmes in a wide range of countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Kenya and Rwanda. She was a founding member of the Girls’ Education working group of the Gender and Development network. Ruth holds a PhD on science teaching in Tanzania.
Education Development Trust and IIEP UNESCO joined forces to conduct a much-needed review of the main aspects of management relating to teachers of refugees – from recruitment to certification and professional development as well as incentives and retention.
The review concludes that context is key. For displaced populations, realising their legal rights, where afforded, can be challenging when international frameworks have not been ratified or adapted into national legal frameworks. It can be equally difficult when legal frameworks are poorly integrated into social service policies, plans and strategies (e.g. within national education sector plans). Also, research is needed to understand what host governments managing large refugee populations have done to reconcile the tensions between their international obligations and their capacities to fulfil these. Relatedly, research is needed on how the Global Compact on Refugees will affect government capacity to effectively manage teachers of refugees. Overall, we need to learn more about how to provide education to refugee children by better exploring examples of teacher management models.
The review also concludes that much of the literature indicates that teachers from the refugee community are best placed to teach, or should at least be a part of education provision. Indeed, host countries are aware of this, and are utilising refugees to support national teachers, as is the case to some extent in Jordan, Lebanon, Kenya and Turkey. Nevertheless, in most contexts more and more national teachers are teaching refugees, with very limited support and preparation. Fragmented information on refugee teachers, coupled with a lack of information on host teachers charged with refugee students’ education, points to a need for more research. Issues like the portability of certification and adequate pay are important management factors for both refugee and national teachers. Yet, beyond these issues, there are few studies that critically analyse teachers’ perceptions. A wider study of how teachers of refugees perceive their selection and management would go a long way to ensuring policies and programmes are appropriate, effective and sustainable.