What works to promote children’s educational access, quality of learning, and wellbeing in crisis-affected contexts


This rigorous review surveys research on education in emergencies to assess “what works” to promote access, quality, and wellbeing for improving learning outcomes in acute and protracted crises, as well as in post-crisis contexts. The review team conducted a systematic search of existing library databases, solicited grey literature from international organisations directly and through the Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), and reviewed open source databases to gather articles published since 2000. We reviewed this literature for rigorous and robust empirical research to present evidence of effective practices and programme interventions. The review identified (1) most robust findings (strong), (2) emerging evidence (promising), and (3) future research questions (gaps). We highlight areas of consensus on mechanisms that indicate strong and promising results, and those that should be tested with future research.

In addition to literature from crisis-affected contexts, we include research from stable, low-income countries, as well as from developed countries. Given that the majority of the most rigorous education research has been carried out in non-crisis contexts and that many of these studies provide robust answers to similar questions, it is important to consider how these existing findings may apply to different contexts. We use these studies of interventions from stable countries as a point of departure to consider how this research may translate into testable hypotheses in areas of conflict and natural disaster.

Although we identify promising innovations where possible, our review is limited to literature that focuses on research outcomes and typically omits detailed descriptions of interventions. In addition, space constraints and the primary focus on evidence further limit what we can say about both innovations and interventions.

This assessment of “what works” is based exclusively on existing evidence. This does not include questions that we and our practitioner colleagues believe should be asked in the future, but have not yet been studied. The prominence of particular programmes reported here is a result of the state of the evidence; it is not a statement on the types of programmes we believe should be prioritized. In other words, for example, when we devote space to discussing conditional-cash transfers (CCTs) it is because significant evidence exists to show the effects of these programmes, not because we believe they should receive more attention (or funding) than others. In fact it is quite likely that there are many interventions that have as strong or stronger effects than CCTs, but there are no studies to show their effects. In many cases, researchers may not be aware of these interventions since research on education and protection in these contexts lags dramatically behind programme innovations.

There are many questions that existing research does not yet address. We attempt to capture the promising programmes and gaps in the literature by discussing emerging evidence and future research questions throughout each section. We summarise future research questions in the conclusion.


Burde, D.; Guven, O.; Lahmann, H.; Al-Abbadi, K. What works to promote children’s educational access, quality of learning, and wellbeing in conflict-affected contexts. Department for International Development, London, UK (2015) 93 pp. [Education Rigorous Literature Review]

What works to promote children’s educational access, quality of learning, and wellbeing in crisis-affected contexts

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