You are cordially invited to listen to OECD’s podcast on the need to enable refugees to continue their education.

This episode’s guests, an expert from the Estonian ministry of education and an OECD expert on refugees, discuss the need for refugee education and the reasons for enabling them to take part in the education systems of receiving countries. Security and the provision of basic living and medical needs is crucial for the ongoing functioning of refugees. However, the possibility of continuing one’s education is equally important, especially in regard to children and youth, as this is a way of securing stability and a sense of normality. Additionally, refugee students should not have long breaks in their education. They should also be given the opportunity to connect to their new environments and make new friends and acquaintances. This builds a feeling of belonging, which is very important for short and long-term refugee integration.

The Estonian expert mentions important problems facing receiving countries in ensuring appropriate education for refugees. The greatest challenge in the current situation of Ukrainian refugees is the lack of certainty about the conflict’s future and not knowing how long will they have to stay in the receiving country, especially in the context of preparing for the school year beginning this autumn. The uncertainty about the war in Ukraine limits the planning and decision-making of the refugees themselves about their stay in the receiving country.

As the OECD expert notes, the priority for the education of refugee children should not only be to teach the language of the receiving country, but also to develop competences in their native language; this is important for personal identity and development integrity. Another priority is not only to catch up and develop specific competences and skills, but also to get to know and adjust to the new education system. The situation is especially difficult for older students, because the knowledge and skills they should master are linked to specific fields and subjects as well as with the pressure of completing an educational stage. A large part of this refugee group is outside the education system of receiving countries and there is no data on their situation.

The podcast’s guests also discuss teachers and the need to engage refugee teachers in the work with refugee students. Special training programmes with elements of psychological support for students in trauma can help such specialists. Another important issue they mention is the problem of unaccompanied minors in receiving countries who need not only assistance in continuing their education, but also social and psychological support. The lower age of compulsory education in Ukraine is yet another issue discussed in the podcast that relates to the difficulties in finding employment in receiving countries.

The Estonian education ministry representative also mentions the engagement of local Ukrainian communities functioning in the country before the war, which can help reach new refugees with the educational offer. The OECD expert presents examples of programmes effectively including young people in education as well as those from different receiving countries that support teachers in working with refugees.

The last part of the podcast discusses ways of integrating refugees in the education system of receiving countries, especially in the context of preparatory classes. The need for a holistic and individualised approach to refugees ensuring the best possible social, psychological and educational support is emphasised. Such an approach should engage students and their parents, as well as the school and other local and central institutions.

The podcast can be heard at the OCED website.