From Barriers to Breakthroughs: Progress in Primary Education for Refugees

This paper explores how primary education for refugees can be improved: in terms of access, quality, finance, and policy. Based on the evidence gaps identified, UNHCR sought to answer three overarching questions. 

  1. What are the breakthroughs and successes in the inclusion of refugee students in national education systems at the primary education level in terms of access, quality, financing, and policy parameters? 
  2. What were the key drivers and enabling factors contributing to these successes? 
  3. What are the contextual considerations that countries, donors, and international actors need to take into account when planning reforms to support the inclusion of refugee students at the primary education level? 

It explores successes achieved within different policy environments, ranging from contexts where refugee children have no access to national education systems to full inclusion where refugee children attend public schools with the same rights and financing as national children. 

This review used a “most significant change” approach, asking stakeholders to identify examples of breakthroughs in primary education for refugees at a range of levels: individual, local, regional, national, and global. Desk-based country studies were conducted for nine refugee hosting countries and field-based case studies were conducted in Rwanda and Bangladesh. Remote interviews were conducted with representatives of global organisations involved in refugee education and with UNHCR education staff working at the regional and country office level. In-country data collection involved interviews and focus groups with UNHCR staff and partners, students, teachers, head teachers, supervisors, parents, and government representatives. 

Resource Info

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Published by

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Authored by

Ruth Naylor


Levels of Learning - Primary Education