Private Sector Engagement in Refugee Education

Zeena Zakharia and Francine Menashy

Forced Migration Review 57, February 2018, pp. 40-41


Of the 144 non-state organizations engaged in Syrian refugee education in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (in the second half of 2016), 32 percent were businesses and 10 percent were foundations. Of these, 77 percent were headquartered in high-income countries and 62 percent did not have education as part of their mandate. The private sector has an important role to play in strengthening advocacy for refugee education and addressing educational gaps, however there are several concerns about their engagement in refugee education, including: (a) lack of coordination and knowledge sharing among actors; (b) over-emphasis on technology; (c) bypassing the public sector and establishing privately run schools, that lack accountability, often hire non-unionized and poorly trained teachers, and lack an exit strategy; and (d) ethical tensions between humanitarian and profit motivations. Nevertheless, given the scale of the impact of the Syrian crisis, reliance solely on traditional public sector engagement in education is both limiting and unrealistic. The key question is how to harness the expertise and funds of the private sector in a coordinated and ethical way that is mindful of the state’s responsibility to be the primary provider and regulator of quality education.