Education Interrupted: Enrollment, Attainment, and Dropout of Syrian Refugees in Jordan

Maia Sieverding, Caroline Krafft, Nasma Berri, Caitlyn Keo and Mariam Sharpless

Economic Research Forum Working Paper Series, Working Paper 1261, December 2018


Syrian refugees experienced disruptions in their education in Syria due to the conflict, and in Jordan they have encountered impediments to enrolling and remaining in school. This paper examines educational outcomes for Syrian refugees in Jordan, and assesses how these outcomes have been affected by conflict, displacement, and educational opportunities and experiences after arrival to Jordan. The analysis is based on the Jordanian Labor Market Panel Survey (JLMPS) of 2016, in-depth interviews with 71 Syrian refugee youth in November 2017, and comparisons with the 2009 Syria Pan Arab Project for Family Health (PAPFAM) survey, which captures national data in Syria prior to the conflict. Key findings include:

  • JLMPS data indicates that enrollment and progression rates (as of 2016) have recovered to pre-conflict levels for basic education among Syrian refugees in Jordan. However, Syrian refugees in Jordan come from an educationally disadvantaged population within Syria, and net enrollment rates for basic education (80 percent) are well below universal and substantially worse than Jordanians.
  • Enrollment rates in secondary education among Syrian refugees were low even before the conflict, and have not recovered to pre-conflict levels. However, those who managed to successfully transition to secondary school persist at higher levels than pre-conflict.
  • Patterns of enrollment by age reveal that Syrian refugee children experience delayed entry into school (among the cohorts of children starting school in Jordan) and early exit, with enrollment rates dropping noticeably from around age 12.
  • There was accelerated dropout during basic education in the peak conflict years (2011-2013) when most refugee children were in Syria or in the process of moving to Jordan.
  • Syrian refugees face numerous challenges entering and remaining in school in Jordan, including: school interruptions leading to students being older than their classmates; discrimination from peers and teachers; and academic difficulty, particularly at the secondary level. For male youth, the pressure to work to support their families also contributes to non-enrollment decisions.
  • For adolescents of later basic and secondary ages, parental education (a proxy for wealth) and alternative sources of financial support for the family play a critical role in keeping adolescents in school.