Special Issue - Education in Humanitarian Contexts: Evidence from Impact and Process Evaluations

Guest Editors: Thomas de Hoop, Andrea Coombes, and Hannah Ring

As part of the Humanitarian Education Accelerator work conducted for UNICEF, UNHCR, and FCDO, AIR conducted three impact and five process evaluations of education innovations in humanitarian contexts. Based on the expertise gained from this work, AIR partnered with the Journal of Development Effectiveness to develop a special issue on education in humanitarian contexts.

The papers in this special issue describe evaluations of the scaling journey of five different education programs operating in humanitarian crises. This introduction first presents the research context for these evaluations followed by a synthesis of the overarching barriers and facilitators to scaling across three domains: (1) context, (2) business model, and (3) advocacy and ownership based on a qualitative synthesis. The synthesis showed that implementers often started multiple pilot projects in different contexts rather than scaling-up in one context.

We also present a summary of impacts on learning outcomes from impact evaluations of three of the five education programs. The other papers discuss three impact evaluations and five process evaluations of education programs in humanitarian contexts.


Scaling Education Innovations in Complex Emergencies: A Meta-evaluation of Five Process and Three Impact Evaluations

Thomas de Hoop, Andrea Coombes, Hannah Ring, Kelsey Hunt, Victoria Rothbard, and Chinmaya Holla

In protracted crisis, many children and youth lack access to high-quality education: only 63% of all refugee children are enrolled in primary school. Identifying and scaling effective education innovations could rapidly increase access to and quality of education. However, major evidence gaps limit our understanding of what works in humanitarian contexts. This special issue led by AIR staff contributes to addressing those evidence-gaps based on three impact and five process evaluations in Bangladesh, Jordan, Kenya, Rwanda, and Sudan.

Research Articles

The Effects of Booster Classes in Protracted Crisis Settings: Evidence from Kenyan Refugee Camps

Andrew Brudevold-Newman, Thomas de Hoop, Chinmaya Holla, Darius Isaboke, Timothy Kinoti, Hannah Ring and Victoria Rothbard

Refugee and internally displaced children face a range of barriers to education which are particularly pronounced for girls. Having shown promise in other low- and middle-income settings, booster education programing—such as tutoring or remedial education—is one promising approach to improve learning outcomes. While AIR’s study showed that a remedial education intervention in Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya did not have positive impacts on learning outcomes, qualitative evidence documented the many challenges facing girls in Kakuma and highlighted how the program could potentially improve its effectiveness.


Building Community Engagement and Teacher Support in Education: Qualitative Findings from Process Evaluations in Two Exceptional Settings

Andrea Coombes and Oriana Ponta

Many countries struggle to provide quality education in emergency or other exceptional settings where children face significant barriers to enrolling and benefitting from education,. In addition, many such children are traumatized. A lack of resources in humanitarian crisis often result in low teacher-pupil ratios, poorly trained teachers and insufficient infrastructure. This AIR study shows that local ownership and continuous staff mentorship are key to improving the quality of education in Bangladesh and Romania. The study also discusses practical approaches to community engagement.


Can’t Wait to Learn: A Quasi-Experimental Mixed-Methods Evaluation of a Digital Game-Based Learning Program for Out-of-School Children in Sudan

Felicity L. Brown, Alawia I. Farag, Faiza Hussein Abd Alla, Kate Radford, Laura Miller, Koen Neijenhuijs, Hester Stubbé, Thomas de Hoop, Ahmed Abdullatif Abbadi, Jasmine S. Turner, Andrea Jetten, and Mark J.D. Jordans

Innovations are needed to address the global issue of access to high-quality education, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, especially if also affected by conflict. This study led by War Child Holland with contributions from AIR shows quasi-experimental evidence that a digital game-based learning program (‘Can’t Wait to Learn’) led to significantly greater improvements in mathematics competency, Arabic literacy competency, and psychological wellbeing of children aged 7–9 in Sudan, compared to state-provided education for out-of-school children, six months after the start of the program’s implementation.


Employer Attitudes Toward Hiring University-Educated Refugees: Evidence from Rwanda

Thomas de Hoop, Andrea Coombes, and Chinmaya Holla

Refugees face several barriers in finding work, such as lack of paperwork (like diplomas), making it difficult for employers to vet refugees’ qualifications. In addition, many host countries have restrictive or ambiguous regulations regarding migrants’ right to work. This paper (link TK) adds to existing literature by showing that survey vignettes indicated that employers reported a 6% lower likelihood of hiring relatively well-educated refugees than to hire Rwandans with otherwise identical characteristics. This finding was driven by the 50% of the employers who found it more complex to hire refugees.


Image of Thomas de Hoop
Managing Economist and Program Area Lead, Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition
Andrea Coombes
Principal Researcher
Hannah Ring Headshot
Managing Director