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Non-formal Education for Adolescents and Youth in Crisis and Conflict: a Proposed Taxonomy and Background Paper [EN/PT]

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Executive Summary

With the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the global community reasserted its commitment to the provision of high-quality, inclusive, and equitable education for all by 2030 (UNGA, 2015). Despite this pledge, a significant number of adolescents and youth living in crisis- and conflict-affected contexts around the world are currently out of school.

Non-formal education (NFE) programs offer an alternative to formal education for out-of-school children, adolescents, and youth, and for learners for whom the formal education system is not a good fit. NFE programs provide a flexible, responsive education that is better suited to the unique circumstances of these groups, and it enables them to continue or to complete missed education, and/or to build necessary life and professional skills. However, NFE programming in crisis and conflict settings currently varies widely in its content, delivery modalities, educational quality, the certification provided upon completion of the program (or lack thereof), and target populations. Moreover, there is little shared language or common understanding in the current literature to explain which needs NFE programming addresses, and for whom. This variety causes confusion and makes it difficult to establish clear policy, design, quality, and operational guidance.

This Background Paper and its companion Issues and Considerations Paper aim to address the confusion about NFE’s definition, purpose, audience, and quality. The Background Paper proposes a taxonomy and definitions of NFE programming for adolescents and youth in conflict- and crisis-affected environments. It summarizes the historical and current use of terms related to NFE and reflects current policy and programmatic use of these terms. The companion Issues and Considerations Paper highlights the essential NFE-related challenges faced by adolescents and youth affected by crisis and conflict, and offers ideas for how to address them. Both papers are written for the benefit of education practitioners, donors, and policymakers working in crisis- and conflict-affected environments.

The taxonomy proposed in this Background Paper locates non-formal and alternative education within the broad landscape of education program options relevant to crisis- and conflict-affected contexts (Figure 1). It is intended to provide a shared understanding of the boundaries, relationships, and intersections between NFE and other forms of education, with the goal of supporting funders, policymakers, and implementers in conceptualizing how education programs may serve out-of-school adolescents and youth most effectively. The aim of the taxonomy is to represent various educational options that are equally valuable and have different purposes and benefits based on context.