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

Helping to Build the Evidence-Base: Reflections on Save and UNICEF’s Research Agendas

by Caroline Keenan, UNICEF, USA

I have recently begun work with the Education in Emergencies hub at UNICEF in New York after two years with Save the Children Canada as the Toronto (and various airplane) - based Education in Emergencies technical advisor. Prior to joining the team at Save, I was with UNICEF, working as a consultant with the Education Cluster Unit in Geneva. Through these experiences, I have had the opportunity to begin to understand the field of education in emergencies from the perspective of the two cluster lead agencies and from both the HQ and field-level.

The Education Cluster is the only cluster led jointly by a UN agency and an NGO. As co-leads, Save the Children and UNICEF work closely together to further our work to ensure children are able to realize their right to education – even in the most difficult circumstances. In addition to the myriad benefits this partnership has for our work for children, our partnership enables us to speak with a louder voice on education in emergency issues and to reach out to different audiences.   While not a perfect marriage, there are instances where Save the Children staff have pushed UNICEF staff to perform more effectively as the Education Cluster co-lead and cases where UNICEF staff have held Save the Children colleagues to account when necessary. Over the last few months, UNICEF and Save the Children have come together to develop a complementary research agenda building on the strengths of each of our agencies to develop a stronger evidence base for education in emergencies.

When we are working to develop our research priorities we need to consider the various different goals for our research:

  • For advocacy – to continue to make the case for education in emergencies and increased funding for our work
  • To help us better understand the impact of our exiting programming and improve our work moving forward
  • To better understand the root causes of the challenges we are facing in our work
  • To understand how the work in our sector, together with other sectors, can help to deliver the best results for children

The discussions on this shared agenda are still ongoing but some of the bigger research questions we are looking to address though our work include:

Looking at the long term implications for children’s learning when they are denied access to education 

  • Calculating the long term costs – both financial and social - to a society when children do not have the opportunity to go to school
  • Conducting research to better understand the consequences for health – both for individual children and the wider community

Getting a better understanding of the nature of humanitarian financing and how we might increase financing to the education sector

Working across borders to respond to the education and protection needs of children affected by emergencies

  • We need to develop a strong body of evidence that help us in identifying effective programming and policies for children and youth who have travelled across borders related to curriculum, language of instruction, examinations, teacher training and how to develop effective regional education strategies
  • Ensuring we are providing educational opportunities for IDPs that address not only their academic needs but also their unique social and emotional needs

How can we best ensure our education programmes are resilient and both vehicles and catalysts for peace and conflict-sensitivity

In her earlier post as part of this discussion, Allison Anderson mentioned the importance of making better use of INEE’s Strategic Agenda as part of our efforts to strengthen the links between academia and our work to support our colleagues in the field. The Save the Children and UNICEF research agendas will be included on this site and it is our hope that through this forum, we will be able to ensure we are all moving in the same direction toward making the strongest case possible for education in emergencies.

Are there other topics of inquiry you think it might be useful for us to explore?

How would you see your work as a student of EiE further the Education in Emergencies Research Agenda?


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