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Promoting access to quality, safe, and relevant education for all persons affected by crisis

The INEE Minimum Standards: Raising the Profile of Education in Emergencies

24 July 2014

An interview with Alberto Biancoli, Education Programme Specialist, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Amman

As the Education Programme Specialist for UNRWA, Mr. Alberto Biancoli speaks to Katie Zanoni, INEE Minimum Standards Team Member, to discuss how the INEE Minimum Standards (INEE MS) have impacted his work on both a personal and professional level.  Mr. Biancoli shares how the INEE MS are an integral part of the educational strategy employed by UNRWA, a United Nations agency that supports displaced Palestinian refugees.  According to Mr. Biancoli, the INEE MS have been a useful tool to reflect on what constitutes as quality education in emergency contexts and offers examples of how proper training and knowledge of the Standards have helped to prepare systems to respond in a more efficient manner in the event of a crisis. 

See more interviews with INEE Working Group members here.

Reflecting back on the last ten years, please share some ways you have successfully utilized the INEE Minimum Standards and any lessons you have learned while working with the Standards.

I will answer these questions as both a professional working in the education in emergencies (EiE) field and as an education specialist working with UNRWA, an agency that has over 60 years of experience delivering education to Palestinian refugees in contexts that are categorized by different stages of emergencies. 

Quality service provision is required to enable access to education for all and should be the same everywhere, however, additional attention to education is required in the context of emergencies.  The INEE Minimum Standards (INEE MS) have allowed practitioners an opportunity to reflect on what constitutes as quality education in the context of an emergency.  These Standards are a result of a consultative process and the characteristics of the INEE MS are very broad to include various dimensions of what quality education is in emergency or crisis contexts.  When an EiE practitioner is new to the field, the INEE MS are helpful to be used as a tool of reflection and as a reference point.  The INEE MS are a set of tools that have helped institutions raise the level of responsiveness towards emergencies.  For example, at UNRWA, our mandate includes working in very challenging environments and the INEE MS have become a structural component of UNRWA’s education response in emergencies. 

In addition, UNRWA provides basic education to almost 500,000 Palestine Refugee Children operating 700 schools and has contributed to the contextualization of the INEE MS in Gaza and the West Bank.  In other contexts we are participating in discussions with UN agencies and NGOs on how quality education is defined in the context of emergencies.  Lastly, as part of the 2014 Global Consultation of the INEE Working Group, UNRWA is guiding the regional consultation events with partner agencies and global communities from the region. 

For more about the contextualization of the INEE MS in Gaza and the West Bank see the blog post entitled, Contextualization of INEE Minimum Standards Underway in occupied Palestinian territory by Amy Kapit, INEE Consultant for oPt Minimum Standards Contextualization

How have the INEE Minimum Standards strengthened the ability for education to be realized during crisis situations and/or development contexts?

The INEE MS have worked in developmental contexts to raise the level of preparedness for understanding EiE and has allowed for experts to increase the readiness of any system.  The more a system is ready in the case of an emergency the more it is resilient when an emergency actually arrives.  However, the INEE MS are particularly relevant in the event of a crisis. 

The UNRWA education system has been able to adjust itself to be much more responsive to a crisis due to its comprehensive and strategic approach, which is based on the INEE MS.  In the context of an emergency, the INEE MS is the reference point for the main content of the service delivery.  It is necessary to include policy, coordination, and partnering organizations in the response focusing on teaching and learning and professional support; all of these elements and others are structured within the INEE MS and included in the domains.  The focus on quality education as well as the interrelation between the key areas of intervention make the INEE MS and the other related tools quite powerful as a reference.  The INEE MS can offer a holistic approach for EiE practitioners to look at the values and required elements of education service delivery.

What impact do you believe the INEE Minimum Standards have had in shaping the Education in Emergencies field?

The INEE MS have raised the profile of the importance of education in the contexts of emergency.  We need to raise the awareness on the importance of investing in quality and inclusive education as a means for mitigating conflict and supporting the wellbeing of children.  Education also helps people move forward enabling a vision that goes beyond the conflict or the crisis.  Tools like the INEE MS enable practitioners to encourage this kind of thinking, reflection, and discussion to improve quality education and raise the profile of education in a crisis or an emergency.

What challenges have you witnessed in the application of the INEE Minimum Standards? Do you have specific suggestions in addressing these challenges you might offer?

The advantage of the INEE MS is that they address the main challenges related to education in emergencies and identify how EiE is defined.  While the INEE MS are broadly defined, the INEE Secretariat has engaged partners to participate in the contextualization of the Standards which has offered a deeper understanding of how the Standards can be applied in a specific field.  In the context of an emergency, there are so many challenges and needs that cannot always be addressed through the implementation of the INEE MS.  In this context, the INEE MS should be considered more as a starting point that enables the discussion around what constitutes as quality education; here interventions should be strategically formulated based on evidence that might require additional assessment.    

What do you envision for the future to enhance the use of the INEE Minimum Standards?

There needs to be more awareness about the use of the INEE MS to continue the work of raising the profile of the importance of EiE.  However, the discussion needs to be deeper and requires further reflection on lessons learned within the EiE field.  While the Standards are a reference tool, the INEE MS need to be further informed by practices around the world that promote innovative, creative, and flexible delivery mechanisms that address the current challenges of EiE.  We need to conduct research about the methodology used in the field to identify educational practices applied in a crisis that have been successfully implemented.  What works in one country doesn’t necessarily work in another, but we can use these case studies to feed into the global community and inform adaptations around the INEE MS to promote a reflective practice in providing EiE.

How can the INEE Secretariat be of support to your work and your organization?

The INEE Secretariat has done a great job at advocating for the INEE MS and bringing together partners and expanding the discussions within the global community about what constitutes as EiE.  The INEE Secretariat has been the facilitator for practitioners to share experiences and to engage in discussions with stakeholders in high levels in the North and the South and between international partners within the South.  Moving forward, it is now important to identify what is working in different emergency contexts to determine how this could be tested and applied in another context.

During the last ten years, INEE partners have conducted numerous trainings and contextualizations of the Minimum Standards.  Can you offer specific strategies employed that have resulted in improved programming to strengthen preparedness, response and recovery efforts?

Within the context of the Syrian crisis, the INEE MS and the related tools have been applied since the very beginning of UNRWA’s response to the crisis.  The INEE MS are embedded into UNRWA’s education emergency strategy and as a result the UNRWA educational system was able to adjust and be more resilient to the challenges of the recent Syrian conflict.  The majority of Palestinian refugees inside Syria have been displaced for the second or third time and have fled to Lebanon or Jordan.  As a result, UNRWA has had to adapt to this very complex crisis which is characterized by internal displacement, disruption of education, and the forced movement of Palestinian refugees to another country.  The INEE MS were helpful to address these kinds of operational challenges as the idea of preparedness is emphasized within the INEE trainings.  UNRWA is an example of an agency that is providing services to continue the provision of education in areas inside Syria where otherwise education is not being delivered. 

Alberto Biancoli works as Education Programme Specialist at UNRWA Headquarters-Amman. In addition to his work on the UNRWA Education Reform (2010-2015) for Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan he is currently providing technical and programmatic support in the UNRWA educational response to the Syrian regional crisis. Prior to his appointment at UNRWA, he worked at UNESCO Iraq and Jordan Offices, developing and managing education programs related to access and quality of education, curriculum development and literacy. As part of his work, he has engaged in the different dimensions of education in emergencies and crisis-sensitive planning covering areas related to: educational planning, capacity building and technical advisory support in emergencies and post conflict environment in the Middle East.

The INEE Minimum Standards Team is currently conducting interviews to celebrate 10 years of the INEE Minimum Standards. If you are a practitioner in the field and wish to share how the INEE Minimum Standards have guided your work, please contact Katie Zanoni at [email protected].