Why this matters

GERE was designed to address evidence and methodological gaps in refugee education research.

The benefits of education for refugee youth are well documented – whether they remain in protracted displacement, return to their country of origin, or resettle to a third country. Education can equip young refugees with life-saving knowledge and enhance their psychosocial wellbeing (Gladwell and Tanner, 2014). It can transform communities, building resilience at the individual and group level (UNESCO, 2016), creating opportunity for the future through facilitating integration into local labour markets (Bonfiglio, 2014) and training leaders for post-conflict societies that can thrive politically, socially and economically (Anselme and Hands, 2011).

Overview of the research gap

Despite an increased global awareness about the critical importance of education, many refugee children and young people do not have access: data from 40 countries reveal that only 68% of refugee children are enrolled in primary school, dropping sharply to 37% at the secondary level and 6% at tertiary level (UNHCR, 2022). For those who can access it, the quality of refugee education is often poor due to a lack of understanding, at both a policy and practice level, of the specific educational needs of refugees in different contexts (Dryden-Peterson, 2015). If access to and quality of education for refugees are to be increased, a range of sector actors need to have a deeper understanding of ‘what works’ in education policy and practice to deliver the best outcomes for refugee children and young people.

A core aspect of the GERE mission is therefore to conduct rigorous research studies on specific evidence gaps within the participating countries and generate academic and applied outputs to shape policies and practices.

Overview of the methodological gap

Youth, and specifically refugee youth, have long been left out of conversations about issues that involve them (Clark 2004; Women’s Refugee Commission 2022). This issue has been recognised in declarations such as the Transforming Education Summit’s 2022 Youth Declaration, which advocate for the meaningful engagement of young people in education policy and decision-making. Within the current global research landscape, the opportunities for refugee young people to engage meaningfully in evidence building are extremely limited. Failing to include young refugees not only negatively impacts the quality and contextual relevance of research; it also denies young refugees the opportunity to build their own futures.

To this end, GERE will position refugees at the centre of our research, catalysing a power shift that will help to ensure that the sector engages more with refugees when building evidence and making decisions.

Benefits of participation

Participatory approaches to research are diverse, but all are underpinned by the core principles of democratic decision-making, inclusion and amplification of marginalised voices, and opportunities for mutual learning among participants (Duarte et al. 2018). es et al., forthcoming).

The approach adopted by GERE offers refugee researchers options to play both consultative and decision-making roles depending on their levels of experience and motivation at different stages of the research process.

This participation is decided upon collaboratively and is facilitated by a rigorous training programme, which prepares refugee researchers for different levels of involvement. 

Adopted previously for the Voices of Refugee Youth initiative, this flexible approach carries significant benefits. The consultative participation of refugees facilitates a more comprehensive understanding of the research context across the whole research team, while also ensuring that findings are made relevant and useful to participants. When refugee youth have access to higher levels of decision-making in activities such as data collection, they are able to use their ‘insider’ status to increase participant trust, thereby strengthening the quality and equity of the findings (Barnes et al., forthcoming).

This participatory approach does not only improve the quality of research; following Voices of Refugee Youth, refugee researchers reported that the practical training they received dramatically enhanced their research knowledge and skills, which they feel will enable them to participate in future research, and increases their employability more generally. These skills, in combination with a greater understanding of the educational issues experienced by their own communities, will also enable them to confidently drive educational advocacy for those communities in the future (Barnes et al., forthcoming).