UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report puts a spotlight on migrants and refugees

published 20 November 2018 updated 22 November 2018

Education International welcomes the release of the 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM Report), and its focus on the importance of addressing issues related to migration, displacement and education in order to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s commitment to leave no one behind.

Bringing together the agenda of the New York Declaration for refugees and migrants and that of SDG 4, the report provides a valuable resource to transform commitments into action and hold governments accountable for fulfilling the right to education of migrant and refugee populations.

Taking a broad approach to the definitions of migration and displacement, the report provides an understanding of the phenomenon and its complex interactions with education. By doing so, it makes a strong case for setting up comprehensive and context-relevant policy frameworks and monitoring mechanisms, involving all concerned stakeholders.

As the report rightly recognizes, teachers and education support personnel are on the front line of diverse educational contexts. Considering the many activities developed by education unions worldwide to promote the rights of migrant and refugee teachers and students and build inclusive educational settings, the report asserts that education staff and their organizations should be given a centre stage in the development and implementation of education and migration policies.

The findings of the report show that access to education remains a major concern, especially for displaced populations. The report argues that governments should identify and remove administrative barriers and regulations that directly or indirectly restrict migrants and forcibly displaced persons’ education opportunities. In particular, it criticises the detention of migrant minors and youth, a concern EI has been raising over the years.

The report makes it very clear that treating migrants and refugees differently is wrong and rightly points out the many dimensions of exclusion, including geographical segregation, separation in preparatory courses, early tracking and channelling of migrants into different school types, misdiagnosis of special education needs. It is thus important that educational authorities tackle multifaceted discrimination facing migrants and refugees in education.

Of particular importance is the report’s bold step to bring to the fore the prejudice and discrimination faced by migrant, refugee and other minority teachers. These issues should be confronted and addressed head-on in order to make schools and all education institutions inclusive.

Considering the benefits associated with teacher diversity  in relation to migrant students’ achievement, self-esteem and sense of safety, the recognition of prior qualifications and professional experience of migrant and refugee education staff should be addressed by governments as a matter of priority and in close collaboration with unions. More broadly and beyond bilateral/multilateral qualifications recognition agreements, the development of systematic and individualized assessment of migrants’ educational background and competences, even in absence of documentation, should be promoted.

Available evidence analysed in the report stresses the important role of education with regards to helping migrants and refugees integrate and develop their full potential, but also more broadly, building inclusive societies. Yet, many teachers and education personnel feel ill-equipped to address diversity in their classrooms and schools. It is urgent to increase support for both teaching and administrative staff through pre- and in-service training aiming to develop the skills and approaches they need to accommodate diversity and integrate newcomers, as well as provide them appropriate resources to fulfil their mission (curricula and pedagogical material). In many countries, education unions have developed a valuable experience in terms of transforming schools into welcoming environments, through supporting staff peer-learning and a 360-degree approach to integration. As the report underlines, putting in place the extra support measures needed to meet these challenges requires that governments and donors significantly increase and improve funding channels to schools and education systems enrolling significant numbers of migrants and refugees.

In addition to this year’s policy focus on migration and displacement, the GEM report, as usual, takes stock of the progress made across SDG4’s ten targets and the education targets in other goals. It is shown that“progress is under way, but stronger commitment is needed”. Three years into the global agreement, 33 of the 43 indicators under SDG4 are now being reported on, but the often limited data coverage make it difficult to assess progress. The report notes that the SDG monitoring framework needs to be further strengthened to provide clearer guidance to countries and help them to improve their public education systems, something which Education International is advocating for within the SDG Technical Cooperation Group developing the indicators. Unfortunately, one of the continued monitoring challenges is that quality data on the teacher indicators remain “surprisingly scarce” and EI repeats its calls for urgent progress to be made on the teacher indicators and related data collection.

Education financing is core to Education 2030 and central to the realisation of SDG4. The GEM report points out that inclusive, equitable quality education has a price tag, yet as many as 43 countries are not hitting the government spending targets for education laid out in the Education 2030 Agenda. Globally, household spending on education accounts for 20% of education spending – in Uganda it is as much as 63%. Governments need to make adequate investments in education to show their commitment to meet the targets as, globally, we are still far from achieving the goal. For instance, completion rates for upper secondary education are still only at 49%; there has been a global decline in trained primary teachers since 2013 according to current measures; and only 17% of countries include issues relating to Human Rights, global citizenship and sustainable development within in-service teacher education. If we are to achieve the SDG targets related to education, we need to work together globally to rapidly speed up progress.

In a video message released at the global launch events of the report, EI General Secretary, David Edwards, recalled that, despite the fact that education unions have long insisted on the need for governments and the UN to guarantee the human and education rights of migrants and refugees, this was yet to happen in a meaningful way.

“The 2019 GEM Report reminds us of the urgent need to make our education systems, schools and all education institutions more inclusive, sensitive and responsive to the needs of people and children on the move”, he stressed. Edwards went on to stress the need to empower and support teachers and education support personnel so that they are able to meet the diverse needs of students.

Edwards urged all governments around the world to ensure full implementation of the United Nations’ global compacts on migration and refugees, which will be adopted before the end of the year. “This will require immediate and concrete action by governments, the UN and all of us”, he concluded.

The 2019 GEM Report is available here