First of Its Kind Global Refugee Study Shows a Gap Between Policy and Practice

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Columbia University researchers share with CMRubinWorld the gap between policy and practice in educating displaced refugees worldwide.

In a first of its kind new global study of urban refugee education, researchers at Teachers College, Columbia University have revealed a gap between policy and practice. “Even in countries with strong national policies and laws,” says co-author Susan Garnett Russell, “several factors result in an implementation gap including lack of capacity in government schools, low levels of capacity among civil servants, autonomy of local and school administrators, and discrimination and xenophobia by the host communities.

According to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the forcible displacement of individuals and families has grown at an unprecedented rate in the past two decades, reaching more than 65 million in 2016—a number not seen since after World War II. The study is based on a survey of 190 professionals working with UN agencies and national and international NGOs in 16 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia, as well as on an in-depth study of refugees in Beirut, Nairobi, and Quito. “The divide between “refugees welcome” and “refugees not welcome” seems to be a global phenomenon in which refugees are viewed as outsiders and the public education system is understood as primarily serving national citizens,” says Elizabeth Bruckner.

“There are opportunities for governments, donors, international organizations and local community members to work more closely together to support both policy implementation and more welcoming schooling practices for refugees,” adds Mary Mendenhall. The authors share steps required to achieve implementation and cite promising case studies.

Assistant Professors Mary Mendenhall, Susan Garnett Russell, and Elizabeth Bruckner of Teachers College, Columbia University are the authors of “Urban Refugee Education: Strengthening Policies and Practices for Access, Quality, and Inclusion.”

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CMRubinWorld launched in 2010 to explore what kind of education would prepare students to succeed in a rapidly changing globalized world. Its award-winning series, The Global Search for Education, is a highly regarded trailblazer in the renaissance of 21st century education, and occupies a widely respected place in the pulse of key issues facing every nation and the collective future of all children. It connects today’s top thought leaders with a diverse global audience of parents, students and educators. Its highly readable platform allows for discourse concerning our highest ideals and the sustainable solutions we must engineer to achieve them. C. M. Rubin has produced over 500 interviews and articles discussing an extensive array of topics under a singular vision: when it comes to the world of children, there is always more work to be done.

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