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Evaluating innovations to scale up education interventions in refugee contexts

Our work aims to assess and analyse implementation processes, factors contributing to scale and emerging outcomes from the innovations to develop scalable education initiatives for refugees and displaced communities.

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Maheen Shakeel

The Humanitarian Education Accelerator (HEA) is an Education Cannot Wait-funded programme led by UNHCR, which supports promising humanitarian education innovations to transition from successful pilots to programmes that can operate at scale. We are conducting an evaluation of the three final education innovations, selected through a stage-gated approach by the HEA. These innovations focus on the scaling up of education interventions in refugee contexts and are carried out by the following organisations: iACT, Madrasati, and Cohere (formerly known as Xavier Project) based in Chad, Jordan, and Uganda respectively.

The Challenge

In humanitarian and protracted crisis settings, consistent access to quality education is a major challenge faced by children and young people. According to UNHCR’s Annual Education Report 2020, 52% of all school-going age refugee children are enrolled in school. 77% of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, while only 31% of adolescent refugees attend secondary school and just 3% of refugees attend higher education. Issues of access and retention of refugee children in education have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted formal, in-person, classroom-based learning, with many refugee learners unable to access online learning.

Refugees and host communities, teachers, private sector partners, national and local authorities, innovators, and humanitarian agencies have found numerous ways to keep education going in the face of the pandemic. However, very little evidence is available on the impact and sustainability of such innovative solutions and how they improve the quality of learning outcomes, in the face of the pandemic and beyond, particularly in humanitarian contexts.

Evidence on what does and does not work in education is particularly needed in humanitarian contexts, where education spending continues to lag other sectors. To address some of the evidence gaps outlined above, the HEA was launched in 2016. Its aim is to generate rigorous evidence to understand how to transform high-potential pilot projects into scalable education initiatives for refugees and displaced communities worldwide.

Our Approach

Under this project, we aim to critically assess and analyse implementation processes, factors contributing to scale and emerging outcomes from the three innovation teams to generate evidence on the following aspects:

  • The assessment of education solution and its delivery model that the innovation team has developed (including the problem it seeks to address, how effectively it has been implemented, and the results that it has achieved);
  • The assessment of innovation process by which education solution has been developed (how effective was the learning process, and how was the education solution adapted during this process in response to evidence and experience); and
  • The assessment of scaling model by which it is intended that the education solution should be more widely adopted (what are the requirements for successful scaling up, and how likely are these to be met).

The evaluation is largely qualitative, with some quantitative analysis around learning outcomes, where feasible. Methods of data collection incorporate literature review, key informant interviews (KIIs), in-depth interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs), and observations.

Outcomes and Wider Impacts

Evidence from this evaluation is critical to stimulate sustainable funding and increased uptake of scalable innovations by government and other education actors worldwide. Emerging results and good practices will be documented and shared widely across the Education in Emergency sector, including with donors.