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Supporting education in refugee settings

Supporting teachers in refugee settings: improving teacher professional development in refugee settings

The work of all teachers around the world is vitally important, but those working in refugee settings play a particularly crucial role. In this article, the third in a series on sustainable solutions to the challenges faced by teachers in refugee settings, we explore the opportunities for improving pre- and in-service professional development opportunities, and make several recommendations, based on insights from four countries from our research with IIEP-UNESCO.


Recommendation 1: Expand the offer of pre-service teacher training and recognised bridging and upgrading programmes 

Potential teachers from host and refugee communities face a range of barriers which limit their opportunities to gain qualified teacher status. National candidates from remote refugee-hosting regions often achieve lower levels of education than candidates from more advantaged areas and may not meet the entry requirements for teacher training colleges. Providing recognised bridging and upskilling programmes would support both refugees and nationals from the hosting regions to become teachers through an alternative route. In countries where unqualified refugees are recruited as teachers or teaching assistants, a pathway to upgrade to qualify as a teacher should be provided.  

In Kenya, for example, the Borderless Higher Education for Refugees (BHER) project delivered a one-year Certificate in Education Studies (CES-E) for refugees who did not have any post-secondary qualifications. The CES-E was accredited by York University in Canada and recognised internationally. Credits from the CES-E could also be put towards a Diploma in Teacher Education delivered by Kenyatta University.i  


Recommendation 2: Include psycho-social skills training in national pre- and in-service training programmes  

Teachers in refugee settings – in both host community and camp schools – are responsible teaching children who may have experienced trauma in overcrowded, multilingual classrooms. There is a need for national teacher training institutions to include these areas in both pre- and in-service curricula to both prepare and provide ongoing support to teachers working in these conditions.   


Recommendation 3: Provide meaningful induction and regular mentoring to new teachers

“A new teacher needs to learn how to prepare before delivering lessons to learners.” – Headteacher, Kenya

Induction should be provided to prepare teachers as they start their teaching career and when they change schools. Induction requires more ongoing support than a general introduction and involves helping new teachers to better understand the school's culture and ethos, as well as the different roles and responsibilities of the school community. A key part of induction should be the signing of a code of conduct and teacher-teacher mentoring. The practice of an experienced teacher mentoring a new/unqualified teacher, whether these teachers are refugees or from the host community, should be systematically employed to enable all teachers to benefit from the support of more experienced colleagues.  


Recommendation 4: Ensure equal access to professional development opportunities for teachers in remote host community areas 

As refugee-hosting areas are often in remote and challenging settings, teachers in these regions often have limited access to professional development. Efforts should therefore be made to provide practical and logistical support to enable teachers of refugees to access meaningful professional development opportunities. This may include providing stipends to facilitate transportation, creating satellite campuses to reach those in more remote areas, or providing transport or fuel allowances to enable government officials to support the most remote schools.  


Recommendation 5: Deliver programmes which are nationally recognised and aligned to national standards 

Education partners play a key role in providing professional development to teachers in host community settings, as national teacher training centres are often quite far from refugee-hosting regions. However, a lack of coordination and accreditation of the programmes these partners provide by national bodies can lead to ad-hoc and uncoordinated training which is not formally recognised. This in turn affects the motivation of teachers to take part in continuous professional development (CPD). Ensuring that training is both guided and signed off by accredited bodies would raise standards, ensure that training is delivered in line with government priorities, and help to avoid both duplication of and gaps in training opportunities across different regions.  

In camp settings where it is not yet possible to deliver nationally accredited CPD, those stakeholders who manage teachers should ensure that, as a minimum, training is aligned to government programmes. This means that as progress is made towards inclusion, it can be demonstrated that teachers in camp settings have received similar CPD to those in government schools.   


These insights are drawn from a series of research reports conducted in partnership with IIEP-UNESCO as part of multi-year study. The reports and accompanying policy briefs can be accessed using the links below: