Of the 57 million children worldwide without access to education, over one third lives in settings of conflict and fragility (UNESCO, 2015). The escalating crisis in Syria has contributed significantly to this out-of-school population, with well over half of 1.4 million Syrian refugee children and adolescents not in school (UNICEF, 2016). While education in emergencies has risen as a policy priority in the mandates of international organizations (Menashy and Dryden-Peterson, 2015), the share of total overseas development assistance to education has declined sharply in recent years, with funding persistently low in conflict-affected states (UNESCO, 2015; 2016). Within this context, private sector engagement in education has become increasingly appealing to a growing portion of the international community. Private actors have responded in turn, spurring new initiatives, funding commitments and partnership arrangements to advance the cause of educating refugee children. Such commitments are indicative of the growing role of private entities as both educational funders and providers in contexts of crisis. This study explores the complex interrelationship between conflict and private sector participation through a case study of the education of Syrian refugees. It is estimated that 900,000 Syrian refugee children and adolescents are not enrolled in school, with enrolment rates for Syrian refugees at only 70% in Jordan, 40% in Lebanon, and 39% in Turkey (UNHCR, 2016b). Although private engagement in this context is evidently expanding, the exact nature and scale of this involvement has been unclear. This research seeks to better understand which private entities are engaging in the sector, the activities through which private companies and foundations support education, and the rationales and motivations that drive their involvement.
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