Asking “Why” and “How”: A Historical Turn in Refugee Education Research

History has much to offer education in emergencies (EiE) scholars and practitioners. Most EiE research comprises qualitative case studies and, to a lesser extent, quantitative experimental studies, both of which tend to focus on either the impact of interventions or whether education processes or structures are a cause or effect of conflict. I argue that historical approaches enable researchers to ask different questions, to construct a narrative that establishes why specific policies and programs for refugee education were developed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or in particular refugee camps or settlements, and to determine why and how the field has changed over time. This enables the researcher to consider why and how policy and programmatic changes often have not brought lasting change to the challenges of refugee education, and to critically consider what future changes might be possible. In this article, I make the case for a turn to historical approaches in refugee education research by providing an example of how I used historical methods to reconstruct the education narrative of Kenya’s Dadaab and Kakuma refugee camps.


The authors discuss their work in the Behind the Pages podcast episode embedded below:

Resource Info

Resource Type

Journal Article


Published by

Journal on Education in Emergencies (JEiE)

Authored by

Christine Monaghan


Education Policy
Research and Evidence

Geographic Focus