Strengthening evidence-based dialogue on refugee inclusion: Introducing a tool for addressing refugees within education reforms

GPE introduces a policy dialogue tool that supports partner countries working towards more inclusive education systems by highlighting ways to better address inclusion in policy dialogue.

June 20, 2024 by Anna-Maria Tammi, GPE Secretariat, and Meredith Lee Bouvier, GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Aerial view of Kulmiye College, in Ali Adde refugee village, Djibouti
Aerial view of Kulmiye College, in Ali Adde refugee village, Djibouti
Credit: GPE/Federico Scoppa

At the second Global Refugee Forum in December 2023, GPE joined a multistakeholder pledge to ensure all refugee children realize their right to a quality education and are included in national education systems.

Considering that more than half of all school-age children who are refugees are out of school, and most in protracted situations of displacement, inclusion is the only sustainable solution to educate the world’s refugees.

On this World Refugee Day, GPE introduces an evidence synthesis on refugee inclusion within national education systems in the form of a policy dialogue tool that will be complemented by forthcoming World Bank guidance on designing programs to support refugee inclusion.

The tool, part of GPE’s commitments to support inclusive, evidence-based policy dialogue, supports partner countries working towards more inclusive education systems by highlighting ways to better address inclusion within the policy dialogue on partnership compacts (which identify partner countries’ priority education reforms), GPE grants and broader education sector dialogue.

What we know from the evidence on barriers to refugee inclusion

An enabling environment, both through legal frameworks and policies, is foundational for ensuring refugees are fully included in national education systems but is insufficient. There’s a gap between inclusive policy and practice.

Despite increasingly inclusive policies for refugee education, the reality is refugees struggle to access national education systems in practice. How children who are refugees are included in national education systems exists along a continuum from exclusionary to inclusionary.

One major barrier to implementing inclusive policies is the lack of predictable, multiyear financing to expand school systems in refugee-hosting communities and ensure refugees receive the targeted support they need for learning.

The annual cost of educating all children who are refugees in low- and lower-middle-income countries (host to 64% of all children with refugee status) is US$309 million and $2.3 billion, respectively.

Financing refugee inclusion supports not just children who are refugees, but also children in the host community who will benefit from increased resources and investments.

Other barriers include poor learning environments, gaps between home and host country curriculum, challenges to safety and social cohesion, and a lack of individual learning support such as language and the provision of catch-up classes.

Intersecting vulnerabilities make it harder for some children who are refugees to attend and complete education, especially girls and children with disabilities.

Still, targeted support can help students who are refugees regain lost ground. Providing additional classes that are remedial in subjects such as literacy or numeracy, or part of accelerated, bridging or catch-up programs can prepare refugees to transition to national schools.

However, most times wider improvements to the education system are needed to improve learning for all, including refugees. As such, there may not be immediate gains in learning for refugees making the transition to national schools. 

For example, in Lebanon, refugees are frequently restricted to public schools of lower quality. This leads some communities to view that schools entirely dedicated to students living as refugees are of better quality for their education as they might offer more resources and better targeted support. 

Although integration into national systems benefits refugees, this should not be at the expense of receiving quality education which may be better provided by refugee schools depending on country capacity.

4 entry points to highlight refugees within dialogue on GPE grants

There are several entry points within GPE processes for partner countries to better address the needs of refugees:

  • The partnership compact process: An opportunity for dialogue on barriers and opportunities for refugees to access a quality education within the national system. The enabling factors analysis prompts countries to examine whether 1) there are legal frameworks in place that guarantee education for all with specific reference to different marginalized groups, and if 2) sector coordination mechanisms are inclusive.​
  • System capacity grants: Dedicated support for analysis and planning depending on a country’s needs, particularly specific weaknesses identified through enabling factors analysis.

The system capacity grant can support activities like updating national legal frameworks around the right to education, analysis of forced displacement trends and revising sector plans, budgets and data systems to be inclusive of children who are refugees.​

  • System transformation grants: Can support refugee inclusion within national systems over multiple years as part of partner countries’ priority education reform. ​The GPE Multiplier, accessed through system transformation grants, increases education investments and can be used to garner additional financing for refugees.​
  • Local education groups: Inclusive dialogue is essential, such as bringing in civil society with human rights expertise or representatives of humanitarian coordination mechanisms in crisis-affected contexts. GPE supports civil society through Education Out Loud.
    In 2023, 47% of Education Out Loud-supported national education coalitions had at least one organization representing internally displaced persons or refugees among their members. An Education Out Loud project in Yemen is working to increase enrollment and retention of refugee children. is working to increase enrollment and retention of refugee children.

How partner countries are making progress on inclusion

In Kenya, GPE, the World Bank and the Ministry of Education are working closely together through the Primary Education Equity in Learning (PEEL) Program, which pools resources from the World Bank, GPE and the LEGO Foundation.

The PEEL Program supports refugee education through results-based school grants in refugee and host schools in Dadaab, Kakuma and Kalobeyei, national sample-based learning assessments in refugee schools, refugee and host student scholarships and school meals.

The program also supports teacher management in public primary schools serving refugees and refugee-host communities through increased recruitment, continuous teacher professional development, and monitoring of teacher presence in the classroom.

The PEEL program was developed through a collaborative process, convening humanitarian and development partners supporting refugee education. The Kenyan Ministry of Education collaborated with UNHCR and other partners to revise the criteria for school grants to better account for the needs of refugee schools.

As of May 2024, GPE is investing $1.35 billion to strengthen education systems in 17 partner countries hosting large numbers of refugees that also have policies to protect refugees’ access to school. These countries include Djibouti, Chad and Ethiopia, among others.

Read about some examples and stories of change.

As ministries of education, together with their education partners, work to improve education for all children, we hope this tool is helpful to identify how they can better address the specific needs of refugee children within policy dialogue.

Access the Policy dialogue tool: Inclusion of refugees in national education systems

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