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Mapping exercise on promoting education for Syrian young people (aged 12–25)

Hany, a refugee from Syria, holds his most precious possession – his high school diploma certificates © UNHCR / A McConnell / March 2014
Hany, a refugee from Syria, holds his most precious possession – his high school diploma certificates

The Syrian humanitarian crisis is the largest of the last 60 years. More than half of the 2.7 million Syrian refugees are children and young people. Those who have sought refuge in Turkey, northern Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan have found host facilities grossly overstretched. Funding for the crisis has been limited, and education in particular has been given only limited support, with the focus seemingly mostly on formal education for younger children.

Many agencies and projects have emerged, attempting to tackle the issue of these limited education opportunities for young refugees from Syria. UN agencies, INGOs and local NGOs try to cooperate and coordinate, but there remains confusion about who is doing what, limited resources for agencies to share technical approaches and knowledge, and confusion about funding mechanisms and availability of resources. Moreover, not all agencies have experience in the Arab world and particularly in Syria.

There are also many well-intentioned efforts by external informal groups, many of whom seem to have limited understanding of the needs on the ground and how to address them using best practice, resulting in further scattering of already scarce resources. The educational needs of young refugees and the obstacles they experience in each host country is different, and responses are too, whether in terms of curriculum development, access, quality, host community support and government responses etc. Moreover, there are serious gaps in educational provision.

The education of young people aged 12–25 seems to be one of these gaps; many young people have been out of school for several years now. This project aims to address that gap and help ensure the limited funds available for education are used as effectively as possible so that as many 12–25 year olds can resume their education, whether academic and formal, or through technical and vocation training. (This project will not consider higher education as that seems to be covered by numerous international efforts including the IIE.) The 12–25 age group in particular faces a range of considerable blockages and bottlenecks in accessing education. Moreover, this group is particularly vulnerable and significant for various reasons, including:

  • in host countries where refugees speak a different language than the host community, or than the medium of instruction, re-entering schooling is particularly difficult for this age group and impossible for those over 18; 
  • as refugee families’ assets run out, they increasingly rely on this age group to enter the informal labour market. With no special skills or technical training the young people are relegated to general unskilled work with no future advancement;
  • in most humanitarian crises this age group is overlooked because they fall outside the more vulnerable category of school age children and compulsory education (primary school) and limited resources tend to restrict aid to younger children; 
  • with few other options available to them, and the levels of traumatisation, frustration and personal safety experienced, some young men are drawn into fighting and some girls are now forced into marriage before age 16; 
  • given the transitional stage they represent between childhood and adulthood, young Syrian refugees need to be recognised as potentially agents of change, and instruments to fostering social cohesion, once return is possible. While in exile, meanwhile, young people could be a part of designing and implementing educational projects, rather than being passive recipients of them.


The overall goal of this initiative is to contribute to successful mechanisms that ensure that each Syrian young person (12–25) has access to quality formal or non-formal education (academic, vocational or technical) with a clear link to employment, whatever his or her circumstances and wherever they are located, in order not to permit the emergence of a ‘lost generation’.

The specific objectives are:

  • To identify what educational responses for Syrian young people aged 12 – 25 and their families are currently being set up as well as the obstacles to meeting those needs in each host country; 
  • To map the current educational and humanitarian response for this specific age group (whether from UN agencies, INGOs, local organisations or others), and to identify potential examples that might be further examined at or after the regional workshop either as an example of good practice for duplication or scalability with clear qualitative and quantitative indicators set; 
  • To identify gaps in current provisions and design possible responses;
  • To encourage donors to fund the scaling up of existing or start of new responses for young Syrian refugees;
  • To facilitate higher quality coordination and networking between agencies on education for Syrian young people to ensure technical learning, knowledge sharing, advocacy for young people across the region and on policy, and to allow for an identification of which technical topics need to be shared and refined;
  • To add to the international debate on good practice on education of young people in emergencies, and of educational practice in the Arab world in general.


To conduct a mapping exercise that addresses:

  • Educational demand: to identify the educational needs and wishes of Syrian young people and their families in the four neighbouring host countries (Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan), differentiating between the different contexts within those countries (camp, self-settled) as well as educational types and levels (intermediary, secondary, vocational and technical training, formal and informal);
  • Educational supply: to identify current practices by local, regional, international and UN organisations in the host countries in both formal and non-formal education, curriculum development, literacy courses, teacher training and hiring practices, as well as technical and vocational training opportunities; including some idea of what potential resources might be available within the Syrian refugee community (eg existing teachers, skilled young people). (Considerable use will be made of mapping exercises already conducted); 
  • Good practice: To identify practices that appear to be effective and scalable (using both qualitative and quantitative indicators), for presentation at the regional workshop where agreement might be reached for a more in-depth study with the goal of sharing the findings (good practice) with other NGOs and donors. These may include gender specific approaches, projects with host community engagement and benefit, and projects that link to employment and livelihoods, community building, and youth empowerment and development. 
  • Gaps: To identify gaps in provision vs needs, and how they might be addressed referring, where relevant, to particularly useful experiences from elsewhere including (but not limited to) UNRWA and other organisations for Palestinian refugees, and UNESCO’s INEE on education in emergency. 
  • This mapping exercise will be commissioned by the co-convenors in the four main locations where refugees from Syria have collected (Turkey, Northern Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan). It will be commissioned in May 2014 followed by a specialist workshop in early September. Where possible Syrian researchers will be used.

To hold a specialist workshop on promoting education for Syrian young people

The main objective of the specialist workshop will be to consider how to provide the most relevant and useful education opportunities to young (12–25) refugees from Syria. The attendees at the specialist workshop will include potential funders and implementers, refugee education specialists, and academics with special knowledge of the region. The workshop will include:

  • on the first day, presentation of the results of the mapping exercise regarding education of young people in each of the four neighbouring host countries and in Syria, followed by presentations of some of the most effective projects;
  • on the second day, a smaller workshop for the development of practical ideas drawn from examples of good practice which can be transferred to other regions and/or scaled up as well as identifying project opportunities to address gaps. The key proposition is a working day between effective projects, interested donors willing to commit funds, and experts.

The main outcomes of the workshop will be a checklist of priorities in education for Syrian young people as well as a prioritisation of initiatives which could be further supported both in individual sites and across the four fields. Ideally, implementers would indicate projects they may be able to take forward, while donors present would indicate a willingness to fund one or more of the proposed solutions. The workshop would be held in Lebanon or Jordan.


The project will be managed by the Refugee Studies Centre, which will appoint a Mapping Coordinator and an Administrative Assistant. In the four host countries, country coordinators will be identified who will work together with a local field researcher who will conduct the mapping with the coordinator writing up the results (in addition to desk review and analysis of documents). The local researchers will be hired on contracts at the University of Oxford research grade 6/7 for twelve weeks to conduct the mapping exercise by collecting the relevant data through electronic and hard copy surveys as well as semi-structured interviewing of significant practitioners and policymakers in each site and focus groups with young people.

A one-day research methods workshop will be held in Beirut to make sure that all the researchers and experts have the same perceptions regarding the methodology and methods to be used to collect the data, to analyse the material and to prepare their reports in the same format to form one coherent report for the workshop participants to review. It is expected that field research will take eight weeks and the analysis and writing a further four weeks. The project has been designed in close cooperation with the Asfari Foundation which is a key donor to the project as well as providing technical input and networking with its contacts in the region.

Our team

  • Dawn Chatty
    Dawn Chatty

    Emerita Professor of Anthropology and Forced Migration; former Director of the Refugee Studies Centre, 2011-2014