Centring the Margins: How Connected Learning is Transforming Education for Refugees

Tuesday, 02 July 2024 |

Centring the Margins:
How Connected Learning is Transforming Education for Refugees

by Diba Safitri, Publication and Multimedia Specialist, SEAMEO Secretariat (Thailand)


The rigid structures of the traditional education model are increasingly failing to meet the demands of the 21st century. This is particularly true for marginalised communities across the globe, including refugees, who face significant challenges in accessing and completing their education.

Recognising this need, the Connected Learning in Crisis Consortium (CLCC) has been formed and is committed to using innovative ways to bridge these education barriers, with a particular focus on expanding refugees’ and host communities’ access to learning.

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Francis Randle, UNHCR’s Connected Higher Education Specialist, shared his view on CLCC’s work to champion connected learning for marginalised communities worldwide.

“The CLCC champions a principled approach to education that goes beyond just technology or online learning. Connected learning emphasises the connection between people and information, and between people and each other. Technology can facilitate this, but it’s not the only focus,” he states.

The CLCC’s core principle is ensuring inclusive education that caters to the diverse needs of refugee learners. “We don’t just think about the technology or hardware,” says Randle, “but also the social barriers to education that refugees face.” The consortium achieves this by partnering with a wide range of educational institutions and organisations.

Depending on the conditions prevailing in a country, CLCC members aim to prioritise “durable solutions” for refugees, such as resettlement in a third country, repatriation, or integration within their host nation. Post-secondary education is seen as a critical tool in facilitating these solutions, and the CLCC works to address the specific challenges faced by refugees, such as a lack of formal documentation or certifications.

Considering the unique challenges faced by refugees in Southeast Asia, particularly those residing in resource-strained remote or border regions such as the Thailand-Myanmar border, innovation is at the heart of the CLCC’s approach. In low resource places with limited internet connectivity, for example, the consortium employs “offline-first” activities delivered in partnership with local organisations.

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Another innovative approach is the development of AI tools that can map open educational resources to national curriculums, making it easier for both learners and teachers to navigate complex educational landscapes, especially in low-resource environments.

Randle also highlights the importance of recognising the role of host countries and communities. “Refugees are often located in regions with already strained educational systems,” he explains. “The CLCC works to develop programmes that meet the needs of both refugees and their host communities, fostering a more collaborative and inclusive educational environment.”

While the CLCC members have worked in various regions, including in Malaysia and the borders of Thailand-Myanmar, there is a significant need for expansion in Southeast Asia. “Scalability is a major challenge,” says Randle. “The number of refugees keeps growing, and there are only so many we can reach with our current programmes. We’re actively looking to expand our reach and impact in this critical region.”

Despite the challenges, the CLCC’s work represents a significant step forward in education for refugees and other marginalised groups, including in Southeast Asia.

“Global secondary school enrolment rates for refugees are currently at 41%,” says Randle. “Post-secondary education can provide refugees with motivation to enrol in and complete secondary education, as it provides opportunities for self-reliance after graduation.”

Organisations like SEAMEO have a crucial role to play in supporting the CLCC’s mission. “Collaboration with national governments and regional institutions is essential,” emphasises Randle. “Partnerships with universities, knowledge-sharing initiatives, and strong regional networks are all key to ensuring that connected learning empowers refugees in Southeast Asia and shapes a more inclusive future of education for all.”

To learn more about the CLCC’s work,
visit: connectedlearning4refugees.org/