Log in

    2019 GEM Report Primer • Migration, displacement and education: Building Bridges, Not Walls

    2019 GEM Report CoverLast fall, UNESCO published the 2019 GEM-Report • Migration, displacement and education: Building Bridges Not Walls. I’ve been waiting for this report ever since it was announced in early 2017 and we were launching Hope Beyond Displacement as the FAWCO Target Project. I thought “Oh, if only I had this now!” But the wait is over... In December, Laurie Richardson (AWC Vienna) FAWCO UN Liaison attended the launch of the report in Vienna, Austria and kindly secured a print copy of the report for me. Thanks Laurie!

    The report is also available online in various formats:

    Full Report (362+ pages)

    Summary (64 pages)

    Youth (41 pages)

    You can see that with well over 350 page this report is in-depth and covers a lot of ground. If you don’t have the print copy, I recommend starting with the Summary and also have a look at the Youth Report. Then if there is an area that you want to learn more about, go to the Full Report.

    In this blog we’ll cover the key messages of several chapters leading with the Executive Summary...

    Migration, displacement and education: Building Bridges, Not Walls

    2019 GEM Report info 1Let’s outline what the 2019 GEM-Report covers…

    • The first six chapters discuss the ins and outs of migration (both internal and international), displacement (in its many forms), diversity (stereotypes, discrimination and attitudes) and the impact of education and educational system.

    • Chapters 7-17 examine the 10 targets of SDG 4 in general and provide a policy focus for the unique circumstances of immigrants and refugees.

    • Chapter 18 looks at education in the other SDGs with a focus on decent work, cities, police and justice.

    • Chapter 19 is all about the money.

    • Chapter 20 offers conclusions and recommendations.


    Executive Summary

    “Leave no one behind. This is among the most aspirational global commitments of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Migration and displacement are two global challenges the agenda needs to address in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG 4: ‘Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’.

    Migration and displacement interact with education in many ways. These links affect those who move, those who stay and those who host immigrants, refugees or other displaced populations. Internal migration mainly affects many rapidly urbanizing middle income countries, such as China, where more than one in three rural children are left behind by migrating parents. International migration mainly affects high income countries, where immigrants make up at least 15% of the student population in half of schools. It also affects sending countries: More than one in four witness at least one-fifth of their skilled nationals emigrating. Displacement mainly affects low income countries, which host 10% of the global population but 20% of the global refugee population, often in their most educationally deprived areas. More than half of those forcibly displaced are under age 18.

    Migration and displacement affect education. They require systems to accommodate those who move and those left behind. Countries are challenged to fulfil the international commitment to respect the right to education for all. They must often act quickly, under severe constraints or even opposition from some constituencies. They need to address the needs of those cramming into slums, living nomadically or awaiting refugee status. Teachers have to deal with multilingual classrooms and traumas affecting displaced students. Qualifications and prior learning need to be recognized to make the most of migrants’ and refugees’ skills.

    Education also affects migration and displacement. It is a major driver in the decision to migrate. Domestically, those with tertiary education are twice as likely to migrate as those with primary education; internationally, they are five times as likely. Education affects not only migrants’ attitudes, aspirations and beliefs but also those of their hosts. Increased classroom diversity brings both challenges and opportunities to learn from other cultures and experiences. Appropriate education content can help citizens critically process information and promote cohesive societies; inappropriate content can spread negative, partial, exclusive or dismissive notions of immigrants and refugees.” - Page xvii

    Internal Migration

    Key Messages from Chapter 2

    • Internal migration peaks among those in their 20s, who often migrate to learn new skills or make the most of those already acquired. In Thailand, 21% of youth said they migrated for education.

    • People with a primary education are twice as likely to migrate as those with no education at all; those with secondary schooling are three times as likely and those with tertiary four times as likely.

    2019 GEM Report info 2

    • To curb rural to urban migration, many countries made it harder for migrants to enter school. In China, residence restrictions led to unauthorized migrant schools. Since 2006, the government has made major reforms to ease these restrictions and provide public education to all migrants, but challenges remain – migrant children have to provide five different certificates to enroll in schools in Beijing.

    • Children whom migrating parents leave behind may benefit from stability and remittances but their education and well-being often suffer. In Cambodia, children left behind, especially girls, were more likely to dropout of school.

    • The education needs of nomads and pastoralists are not served by traditional school systems whose curricula and schedules do not fit their way of life. School spot checks in remote areas of Somalia indicated high seasonal fluctuation in attendance: 50% more children were in school in May than in November and December at the end of the dry season.

    International Migration

    Key Messages from Chapter 3

    • The number of international migrants increased from 93 million in 1960 to 258 million in 2017.

    • The more educated are more likely to emigrate. Global emigration rates were 5.4% for those with tertiary education, 1.8% for those with secondary and 1.1% for those with primary.

    • Migrants often find their education constrained by legal, administrative or linguistic barriers.

    • Migrants’ education attainment and learning improve faster than those of people left behind.

    • Educational gaps between immigrants and natives tend to persist across generations.

    2019 GEM Report info 3


    Key Messages from Chapter 4

    • There are 87 million displaced people in the world: 25 million refugees, 3 million asylum-seekers, 40 million internally displaced due to conflict and 19 million displaced due to natural disasters. Their vulnerability is exacerbated when they are deprived of education.

    2019 GEM Report info 4

    • More than half of all refugees are under the age of 18. At least 4 million refugee children and youth aged 5 to 17 were out of school in 2017.

    • Alternative education programmes help children whose education was interrupted by displacement.

    • Major displacement poses challenges for teacher recruitment, retention and training. If all refugees enrolled, Turkey would need 80,000 additional teachers, Germany would need 42,000 teachers and educators, and Uganda would need 7,000 additional primary teachers.

    2019 GEM Report info 5


    Key Messages from Chapter 5

    • Education shapes attitudes towards immigrants and refugees by providing critical skills to enable engagement with different cultures. It also provides an opportunity for students to engage with immigrants and refugees in school and challenge their own stereotypes. 

    2019 GEM Report info 6

    • Public attitudes can affect migrants’ and refugees’ sense of belonging. Research in the United Kingdom showed that recognition by native peers motivated refugee and asylum-seeking adolescents to study harder.

    • Critical thinking skills and room to explore sensitive issues in an inclusive and non-discriminatory way can help break down cultural barriers. Generation Global, a safe online space for interaction among individuals from different cultures, which reached over 230,000 students in 20 countries, had a positive impact on student open-mindedness to others. 

    • Teachers often feel they lack support and are ill-prepared to teach in diverse, multilingual, multicultural classrooms and to provide psychosocial support. In six European countries, 52% of teachers felt they had insufficient support for managing diversity.

    2019 GEM Report info 7

    Mobility of Students and Professionals

    Key Messages from Chapter 6

    2019 GEM Report info 8

    • The internationalization of higher education concerns more countries than ever and has major implications for the flow and exchange of ideas and knowledge.

    • Students base decisions about where to pursue higher education on availability of a university place at home, the costs, and the relative quality of education at home and abroad. Half of all international students move to five English-speaking countries.

    • Governments often see student mobility as a way to foster closer ties with other countries. The US Fulbright Scholar Program supports about 8,000 people in over 160 countries each year. Some countries subsidize students’ studies abroad in disciplines relevant to national economic growth. The Brazil Scientific Mobility Program funded 101,000 tertiary students to study abroad in 2011–2016.

    • Regional qualification frameworks and transferable credits help student mobility, avoid wasting potential and contribute to employment and wage gains. UNESCO has drafted a Global Convention on the Recognition of Higher Education Qualifications for adoption in 2019.

    • Under the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, governments commit to facilitate recognition of skills, qualifications and competences. Yet less than one-quarter of migrants globally are covered by a bilateral recognition agreement.

    • Emigration rates of the highly skilled are above 20% in about one-third of 174 countries,including Albania, Eritrea and Grenada. Such mobility can have adverse consequences for poorer countries, but these are tempered by the fact that the very prospect of emigration to prosperous regions spurs education investment in sending countries.

    2019 GEM Report info 9

    Monitoring Education in the SDGs

    Key Messages from Chapter 7

    • As of 2018, there are four new indicators for measuring progress towards SDG 4, bringing the total number to 33 out of 43.

    • 2019 will be a key year for reporting on SDG 4, as the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development will review SDG 4 for the first time.

    • With data now available up until the end of 2015, there are two key findings on the Education for All era:

      • Progress stalled in primary education completion after 2008, meaning goal 2 on universal primary completion was missed.

      • There was a steady move towards gender parity in primary and secondary education,which was achieved in 2009, four years later than the target date of 2005.

    • Migrant and displaced populations are heterogeneous in terms of identity, journeys and legal status. Migration and displacement flows can change rapidly and sampling frames may not keep up. Global monitoring of their education status will no doubt remain a patchwork of approaches for some time.

    • Data on displaced populations tend to be collected in camps, where less than 40% of refugees and even fewer internally displaced people reside.

    • Flexible approaches to collecting data on migrants and refugees should be considered. Examples include the Latin American Migration Project and the Refugees in the German Educational System study.

    Education in the other SDGs - a focus on decent work, cities and police & justice

    Key Messages & Conclusion from Chapter 18

    • To achieve SDG 8 on decent work, many countries need to recruit and train social workers, who are at the forefront of dealing with rights violations. Yet in 2014 there were 116,000 people per government social worker in Nepal. China formalized social work in the late 1980s, and more than 250 universities now offer social work programmes. The national target is 230,000 new social workers by 2020.

    • To achieve SDG 10 on cities and sustainable urbanization in informal settlements, it is important to address the acute shortage of urban planning professionals in Asia and Africa. There is only one urban planner for every 200,000 people in Kenya and for every 400,000 people in India. United Cities and Local Government, the main global network of local government actors, coordinates peer learning exchanges, engagement with universities and resource materials to support city administrator capacity.

    • To achieve SDG 16 on peaceful societies, better education and training are needed for (a) law enforcement officers, to help build trust and limit the use of force, and (b) the judiciary, to meet the needs of the estimated 4 billion people globally who lack access to justice. Average police officer training takes 130 weeks in Germany but 19 weeks in the United States – less time than many trade jobs require.


    The Global Education Monitoring Reports have elaborated on the interactions between education and other SDGs and the need to review them on a regular basis. The agenda is vast, and these reports can look at only a limited number of goals at a time. This year it focuses on decent work, cities, police and justice, doing so from two angles. First, it reviewed selected examples that showcase the richness of reciprocal effects and serve as a reminder of education’s key role or, in some cases, of missed opportunities. Second, it showed multiple ways through which education and training build the professional capacity of those entrusted with the achievement of other goals, in this case social workers, urban planners, police and judicial officers. The message remains clear: Capacity development through education needs to be at the centre of the 2030 agenda for Sustainable development.


    Key Messages from Chapter 19

    • Multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, have been reducing the share of education in their loans to middle income countries. A proposal for an International Financing Facility for Education aims to address this issue, but loans would need to be equity-oriented.

    • Humanitarian and development aid provided about US$800 million for refugee education in 2016, but without joint planning.

    • The Education Cannot Wait fund set up in 2016 is indicative of recent efforts to bridge humanitarian and development aid.

    • Remittances increased education spending by up to 35% in 18 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and Southern Asia and South-eastern Asia. Lowering the cost of remitting from 7.1% to the SDG 10.c target of 3% would provide households with an extra US$1 billion a year to spend on education.

    2019 GEM Report info 10



    Related issues of Let’s Get Schooled

    Education and Violent Conflict - November 2016

    Displaced Persons and the Education Crisis - November 2017

    Getting an Education in Jordan - January 2018






    Visit Our Partners

    © 2022 FAWCO

    Please publish modules in offcanvas position.