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Journal on Education in Emergencies Volume 5, Number 2 (March 2020)

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By Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Jo Kelcey, and S. Garnett Russell

This issue of the Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE) is the second part of a two-part special issue on refugees and education. Reflecting the salience of this topic and its global impact, we were delighted to receive more excellent and rigorously reviewed submissions than could fit in a single issue. The first part of the special issue provided a historical analysis of refugee education and the actions and decisions made by various actors, such as teachers, organizations, and bureaucracies, in mediating refugee children’s educational experiences. This second part complements the first with articles that focus on opportunities and outcomes in refugee education as they connect to rights, funding actors, literacy, belonging, and teacher development.

In this second part, we present five research articles and three book reviews. Three themes emerge across these contributions. First is the importance of multiscalar understandings of refugee education. The contributing authors show the diverse ways that global laws, policies, and approaches are mobilized, interpreted, and experienced at a national and local level. They draw attention to the complex factors, which often are located at the intersections of these levels, that create critical gaps in the provision of refugee education and in refugee students’ learning outcomes. Second, the contributors underscore the need to account for the diverse economic, social, and cultural dimensions of education. They demonstrate the ways in which laws, schools, teachers, and donors shape how these dimensions of education play out in the schooling experiences of young refugees. Third, building on the first part of this special issue, these contributions showcase how much methodologically diverse research can help to improve refugee education. The contributors employ a range of approaches, including narrative content analysis, interviews, and representative surveys, that together contribute to new theoretical and empirical insights that relate to opportunities and outcomes in refugee education.

The first two articles focus on global factors that shape the provision of education for refugees. In “Exploring the Enforceability of Refugees’ Right to Education: A Comparative Analysis of Human Rights Treaties,” Sarah Horsch Carsley and S. Garnett Russell examine international legal provisions for refugee education. In seeking a better understanding of why international human rights treaties do not necessarily translate into access to education for refugees, the authors find that the international treaties that form the backbone of refugees’ legal right to education are some of the least enforceable treaties in international human rights law. Horsch Carsley and Russell suggest that this discrepancy reflects the historic underprioritization of economic, social, and cultural rights in international law.
Their findings underscore the importance of legal and policy analysis in furthering understanding of the persistent gaps between policy objectives and the actual provision of education for refugees.

In “The Emerging Role of Corporate Actors as Policymakers in Education in Emergencies: Evidence from the Syria Refugee Crisis,” Zeena Zakharia and Francine Menashy examine how the global phenomenon of education privatization has shaped the provision of education for Syria refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. Through a qualitative case study that draws from interviews and mapping, they analyze corporate involvement in refugee education and the motivations behind this involvement. Zakharia and Menashy argue that the trend toward corporate-supported provision of education for refugees has increased the influence of corporate actors in global policy circles to the extent that these corporations now need to be viewed as global education policymakers.

The next three articles focus on the overlooked but critically important issue of refugee students’ learning. In their article, “Are Refugee Children Learning? Early Grade Literacy in a Refugee Camp in Kenya,” Benjamin Piper, Sarah Dryden-Peterson, Vidur Chopra, Celia Reddick, and Arbogast Oyanga collect representative data to assess literacy outcomes among refugee children attending lower primary schools in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya. Their analysis reveals these students’ very low literacy outcomes, even as compared to disadvantaged schoolchildren in the host community, Turkana County. The authors also identify important differences in learning outcomes among the refugee children, which vary according to their country of origin, language of instruction, languages spoken at home, and children’s reported expectations of a return to their country of origin.

Jihae Cha’s article, “Refugee Students’ Academic Motivation in Displacement: The Case of Kakuma Refugee Camp,” explores learning from the perspective of students’ academic motivation. Using regression modeling to analyze survey data collected from more than six hundred students in nine primary schools in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya, Cha examines the factors that help account for refugee students’ level of motivation. A student’s sense of belonging at school emerged as the most important factor in predicting their academic motivation. This finding underscores the importance of creating school environments that foster refugee students’ academic motivation.

In “Educators for Change: Supporting the Transformative Role of Teachers in Contexts of Mass Displacement,” Tejendra Pherali, Mai Abu Moghli, and Elaine Chase explore how teachers of refugees in Lebanon understand their role in preparing refugee students for the future. Drawing from qualitative data collected from teachers, they find that teachers can support refugee students’ future trajectories more effectively when their local knowledge, capacities, and creativities are mobilized. The authors present a transformative model of teacher professional development and point to the potential of critical approaches and digital technologies to support teachers and advance their professional development. The findings of these three articles underscore the importance of investing not only in creating access to education for refugees but in improving their opportunities for learning and their sense of belonging.

The three book reviews included in this issue cover important topics for the field of education in emergencies, including migration and education, peace education, and human rights education. Bethany Mulimbi reviews the “Global Education Monitoring Report 2019: Migration, Displacement and Education—Building Bridges, Not Walls” by the Global Education Monitoring Report Team. Mulimbi provides an overview of the report, including the multiple ways education and migration relate to each other. She notes that the text is highly accessible and relevant to a range of stakeholders, and that it has particular implications for teachers and school leaders in terms of curriculum and pedagogy, and for policymakers at all levels. Samira N. Chatila provides a review of Peace Education:
International Perspectives, edited by Monisha Bajaj and Maria Hantzopoulos. Chatila provides an overview of the importance of peace education in supporting peacebuilding in emergencies and defines the link between peace education and violence as process, intervention, or outcome. The book includes 12 chapters by different authors who explore various dimensions of peace education relative to peacebuilding in postconflict societies, historical and critical pedagogy, and localized approaches. In the third book review, Amit Prakash provides an overview of Rachel Wahl’s Just Violence: Torture and Human Rights in the Eyes of the Police. He explains how police officers in India draw from global human rights discourse to justify their own acts of violence and torture, and how human rights education is used to justify these actions in terms of security and justice concerns. Prakash highlights Wahl’s attempt to go beyond the binaries often associated with human rights and torture.