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

Using INEE Tools to Teach Education in Emergencies

by Carine Allaf, Teacher College, Columbia University, USA

The first education in emergencies (EiE) class I taught was in 2010, a few months after I had left working with Save the Children in Iraq. The three main objectives of this graduate level course were:

  • Exploring the theoretical and practical foundations of the EiE field & bridging the gap between the two;
  • Providing students who plan to work as practitioners in humanitarian/development organizations or government institutions with the proper tools and knowledge to succeed.

The course emphasized bridging of the gap between the theoretical (what I assigned as in-class readings) and practical practices of the realities of being in the field. In my first graduate level class of 46 students, none had worked in EiE; consequently they appreciated the anecdotes and stories from my own experiences working in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. As a result, I found that the most effective teaching method was bringing the field to the classroom, whenever possible. The INEE website, and primarily its tools and resources, was critical in complimenting my teaching and allowed me to bring tangible and relevant aspects of the EiE field into the classroom. After teaching this course for the past three years, I find that I utilized three main INEE tools: 1) INEE Minimum Standards Handbook; 2) Case Studies; and 3) Academic Space. Each of these served a specific purpose, but collectively brought real world problems and applications to the classroom.

INEE Minimum Standards Handbook
Early on in a semester, I always dedicated a session to the INEE Minimum Standards Handbook so that students could appreciate the purpose and role of having global standards for humanitarian practices. Using the Handbook in conjunction with 3 additional resources, an article by Ligon, Laub, and Anderson (2012) on the application of the INEE Minimum Standards (INEE MS) in Thailand; an article by Bromley & Andina (2010), a neo-institutional analysis and critique of the INEE MS; and the 2012 MS Assessment Report, students were asked to examine the benefits and challenges of using Standards in humanitarian work. Allowing students to explore the Handbook and also read articles with competing views on the benefit of using such Standards pushed them to think about the Handbook’s purpose in theory and in practice.

INEE Minimum Standards Case Studies
Students were also assigned a paper drawing on one of the INEE Case Studies. This ten-page paper gave students an opportunity to reflect on a real context by highlighting some of the challenges associated with the implementation of the INEE MS (i.e. political & community buy-in; navigating the local culture and religion; or engaging appropriate stakeholders). Using the list of case studies, each student was asked to choose one and conduct an in-depth analysis of the issue and case. For example, if a student chose the case study on non-formal education in Haiti, then their paper would require them to do an in-depth analysis of non-formal education and the context (tradition, religion, culture, etc.) of Haiti and then reflect on the details of the case study and the Standards used (or not used). Students wrote these papers in light of the INEE MS, class readings and their own in-depth research. This assignment also offered students the opportunity to interact directly with the field. Many times, students reached out to the authors of the case studies and engaged them in informational interviews and in-depth discussions about the situation beyond what was captured in the two-page write up.

INEE Academic Space
Despite limited to no experience in the field of EiE, students have contributed thoughtful and well-written papers on a variety of relevant topics, many drawing from the INEE’s tools and wide network. Initially, I encouraged students with excellent case study papers to submit to INEE Academic Space and eventually encouraged them to submit other papers (including Masters’ theses) that utilized the INEE MS and/or focused on EiE. The Academic Space gave students a venue to publish class papers while contributing to the on-going dialogue on EiE.

I encourage all my students to partake in internships and research that allows them to go into the field to see how things are actually done. But such opportunities are limited (and paid opportunities are even less available) due to a variety of reasons, including security and liability. As a result, it is important to use the INEE tools and network available to help prepare the future generation of EiE researchers and practitioners in the most realistic way possible so that they enter the field with a sense of realism and nuanced awareness and understanding of the realities in this line of work. There is no one way to work in EiE but we can offer students an understanding of the various tools available and give them the space to be critically aware and reflective of the realities of the field.

Works Cited:
Bromley, P. & Andina, M. (2010). Standardizing chaos: a neo-institutional analysis of the INEE Minimum Standards for Education in Emergencies, Chronic Crises, and Early Reconstruction. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 40(5), 575- 588.

INEE. (2010). Minimum standards for education: Preparedness, response, recovery. New York: INEE.

INEE (2012). INEE Minimum Standards Assessment Report. Retrieved from: /uploads/documents/store/2012_MS_Assessment_Report_FINAL.pdf

Ligon, F., Laub, T., & Anderson, A. (2012). Global Aid Frameworks: Application of INEE Minimum Standards for Advocacy, Coordination, and Quality Education Provision for Burmese Refugees in Thailand. In Karpinska, Z. (ed.) Education, Aid, and Aid Agencies. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 33-50.


Carine Allaf has over ten years of experience in education and development as a teacher, scholar, and practitioner in the United States and overseas. In Teachers College, Columbia University’s International Education Development program, Carine taught courses centered on women in the Arab world, education in conflict and emergency settings, strategic planning in international settings, and international development. These courses are an outgrowth of her research agenda that looks at women’s positioning in development specifically in the Arab world and on education in conflict and post conflict situations. Carine has also worked at the American Community School in Beirut, Lebanon; for the Center for International Development and Education (CIDE) at UCLA; Save the Children in Iraq; and UNICEF in Jordan, Sudan, and Palestine; and currently manages the Arabic Language and Culture Initiative at Qatar Foundation International. She is the Co-Chair of the INEE Minimum Standards Working Group. Carine obtained her Ph.D. in Comparative and International Education from the University of California, Los Angeles. Carine also has a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Teachers College, Columbia University.


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