The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated the need for pedagogically sound, locally sustainable practices that keep young minds growing.
This is particularly important for displaced children, whether they are refugees, migrants or internally displaced. Indeed, the number of school-aged migrant and refugee children worldwide has grown by 26% since 2000 (UNESCO 2018).
Often missing from the refugee and migrant education dialogue is discussion of the language of education. In the midst of a crisis, there is a tendency to reach for whatever learning resources are most readily available.
Paying attention to the language of instruction
Many refugees spending 10 to 15 years in camps or non-formal settings prior to repatriation or resettlement (World Bank 2016). More attention thus needs to be given to enhancing the effectiveness of displaced children’s learning, to ensure that their formative years are not wasted.
Many of today’s displaced children come from linguistic minority groups in their country of origin. Thus, whatever education they may receive while “on the move” is rarely delivered in their first or home language. This is true of children studying in refugee camp schools, non-formal migrant learning centers, or national schools in a host country.
Since 2004, the Asia-Pacific Multilingual Education Working Group (MLE-WG) — a coalition of United Nations agencies and major international development organizations—has sought to remove barriers and promote inclusive quality education for ethnic minority and indigenous children who enter school without understanding the dominant school language.
Recently, the MLE-WG has become increasingly concerned about displaced children, recognizing that the same well-researched, mother tongue-based education approaches we champion apply to refugee and migrant children.