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Lifting Barriers to Education During and After COVID-19 - Improving education outcomes for migrant and refugee children in Latin America and the Caribbean

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Executive summary

Children migrate with their families and independently. According to the most recent global estimates, the total number of child migrants is approximately 31 million. Thirteen million children are refugees and 936,000 are asylum-seekers. Meanwhile, 17 million children have been forcibly displaced inside their own countries and are considered internally displaced persons (IDPs). Access to inclusive and equitable education is a major challenge for these children.

Currently, the Latin America and Caribbean region is experiencing the largest external displacement crisis in its recent history – the Venezuelan refugee and migrant crisis. By the end of 2019, at least 4.8 million refugees and migrants had left Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). At least 25 per cent of the Venezuelan refugees and migrants are children and adolescents many of whom are experiencing school disruptions. It is estimated that the crisis has caused over 1 million children to drop out of school in 2018. Moreover, 3.9 million Venezuelans were living in other Latin American and Caribbean countries by the end of 2019, generating significant resource and capacity challenges to educational systems across the region.

The COVID-19 pandemic poses additional challenges. By November 2020, 137 million boys and girls across the region were missing out on their education, due to the prolonged closure of schools. While in other parts of the world, schools have gradually reopened, in Latin America and the Caribbean, the majority of classrooms remain closed with no immediate prospect of reopening. The implications are troubling, especially for migrant and refugee children.

Through a systematic review of the empirical literature, this study collates evidence from Latin America and the Caribbean and across the world to facilitate a better understanding of the multifaceted linkages between education and migration. The study leverages global and regional evidence to: (i) estimate gaps in educational outcomes between migrant/refugee children and children from local communities; (ii) identify structural barriers to education for migrant/refugee children at the macro-level (educational system), the meso-level (school organization and local communities), and the micro-level (individual and interpersonal characteristics of children and parents with a migration background); (iii) detect promising practices in migrant/refugee education, and (iv) inform relevant policies and practices in Latin America and the Caribbean, in the COVID-19 era and beyond.