Key resource

Early childhood, defined as the period from birth to eight years old, is a crucial time for the physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth of children. Access to quality early childhood care and education (ECCE), therefore, can be vital in laying the foundations for children’s long-term development, well-being, learning, and health. Despite this, universal and equitable access to free, quality, and compulsory pre-primary education is one of the major education challenges. One out of two children does not receive pre-primary education. While access to quality pre-primary education is inadequate globally, the opportunities for pre-primary education are drastically restricted for migrant children. Significant inequalities exist between migrant and local-born children in terms of quality access to pre-primary education.

This brief focuses on some of the important issues related to young migrant children’s access to ECCE and pre-primary education, and the key challenges in the existing legal framework.  It further proposes to strengthen the legal framework and policy development for the inclusion of ECCE in-migrant response strategies.

This paper, aimed at education policymakers, provides analysis and insights on how the right to education for refugees could be ensured from a policy perspective. It does so by reviewing the current status of access to education of refugees, using the scant data that is available in this area. It also outlines some of the extensive barriers to education that refugees face, with recognition of the multifaceted, interlinked and complex nature of exclusion. It provides an overview of the international normative frameworks and global agendas on education that can be applied to refugees to ensure their right to education and achieve SDG 4. Additionally, this document presents practical examples, good practices, and promising measures taken by countries in order to ensure the inclusion of refugees in their national systems and better guarantee the fulfilment of their right to education. As a result of this research, collaboration and the invaluable contributions from the participants in a dedicated Expert Meeting in Barcelona (2018), a set of policy recommendations are provided in the last chapter which aims to guide policymakers to ensure equal access to good quality education for refugees.

The number of forcibly displaced persons is on the rise worldwide, and they are displaced for increasingly protracted periods. Access to education for refugee children and youth remains a major concern, including at the higher education level. While data on refugee access to higher education remain scarce and incomplete, it is estimated that only 3 per cent of refugees were enrolled in higher education in 2021. This figure stands in contrast to a global gross enrolment ratio (GER)1 in higher education of 38 per cent worldwide in 2018. Against this background, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has set the 15by30 target, meaning that by 2030 15 per cent of refugees should gain access to higher education. In order to reach this target, the access to host countries’ higher education systems is of particular importance, as 83 per cent of refugee youth who are enrolled in higher education (for whom data are available) are enrolled in their host countries. The present Policy Paper has analysed the empirical literature on the benefits of access to higher education for refugees. It shows that there are considerable direct benefits for refugee youth themselves, and also clear advantages for the host countries’ economies and social development, to which refugees contribute. Access to higher education enhances their motivation to succeed in pre-university education. It offers identity and social position, and access to skills development and economic opportunities, including through entrepreneurship, and therefore greatly enhances their social and economic integration and life chances.

This Policy Paper presents inclusive policies  and good practices from these countries and their HEIs, organized by type of obstacle to access. It concludes by presenting 15 recommendations on how host countries can support refugees’ access to their national systems, arguing strongly for an ‘equality of opportunity approach’ in terms of national policies, and also for caring measures at the level of HEIs. The 15 recommendations are made mainly for national policy-makers and planners, but also for HEIs, who share a combined responsibility and whose actions can mutually reinforce each other.

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