EiE and Crisis-Sensitive Planning
The world is currently facing a host of complex, often interconnected, crises. Conflicts, natural hazards, climate change, as well as pandemics and epidemics, have severe consequences on the economic and social development of affected countries. They can also have significant effects on education and so threaten the future of a generation of learners. Crucially, crises such as conflicts and natural disasters interrupt the education of millions of children and youth: it is estimated that currently, 72 million primary and secondary school-aged children in crisis-affected countries are out of school; another 127 million go to school, but do not reach the minimum proficiency level in reading or math.[i] Other effects of crises on education include the destruction or damaging of school infrastructure, a reduction in the number of teachers, diminished well-being among learners and teachers, and an increase in gender disparities and other forms of inequity.
One key tool to address the detrimental effects of crises on education is advance planning. In recent years, crisis-sensitive educational planning has therefore become a priority for education authorities in many crisis-affected countries. It serves to strengthen the resilience of learners, education personnel, and education systems, and ensure educational continuity. Crisis-sensitive educational planning supports the identification of risks that crises such as conflicts, natural hazards, and epidemics pose to education. It also helps to assess their potential impacts and determine how education systems can better prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from crisis, and so ultimately ensure educational continuity.[ii] At the same time, effective crisis-sensitive planning fosters the development of education policies and programmes that help prevent crises arising in the first place.
Crisis-sensitive educational planning entails the analysis of capacities and existing resources for risk reduction and emergency response in the education sector. It considers the capacities of teachers, school leaders and other education personnel, as well as education stakeholders at the national and sub-national levels. It also encompasses the identification and overcoming of patterns of inequity and exclusion in education, to reduce risks of conflict and violence. This last step is particularly important as conflict and violence, which often disproportionally affect the most vulnerable and marginalised populations, can themselves further exacerbate already existing disparities within the education system.
Crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic have emphasised the need for more significant investments in prevention of and preparedness for all types of crises within the education sector.[iii] Crisis-sensitive planning, which has already been adopted by many governments and humanitarian and development partners, should therefore be promoted further and become a priority for education authorities in all countries. It is key to safeguarding education and learning of children and youth, ensuring educational continuity in times of crises. Furthermore, it will also help countries achieve Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals, which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education, and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”. *The members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies contributed their knowledge and expertise to this document. Contact us.
What We Know
Educational planning that addresses the risk of conflicts or disasters, including those due to climate change, is cost-effective. For example, it can save the cost of rebuilding or repairing expensive infrastructure and education materials. In the long term, crisis-sensitive planning also strengthens the resilience of education systems and contributes to the safety and social cohesion of communities and education institutions.
Past experience demonstrates that inequalities and the exclusion of the most marginalised populations, including in education, are exacerbated during crises. Crises disproportionally affect marginalised populations such as girls, learners with disabilities, and children and youth from forcibly displaced populations, who are more likely to face discrimination. The resulting educational inequality can lead to imbalances in the social fabric and exacerbate tensions between ethnic, religious, and subnational groups: for instance, the inequitable distribution of qualified teachers or learning resources can create social grievances and even become a driver of conflict. Crisis-sensitive planning, which places a strong emphasis on the equitable distribution of resources and the provision of access to quality education for all populations, even the most marginalised, can contribute to addressing this problem. It can also help to ensure that marginalised groups are engaged in all stages of the crisis response to ensure that their views and expressions are taken into account.
By including decision-makers and education actors from all levels (including the sub-national and local levels) in the planning process, crisis-sensitive planning can profit from their knowledge of local risks and capacities and establish strong communication and coordination mechanisms across all levels, as well as across sectors. This can help create a sustainable foundation for leaders to advocate for the provision of education before, during, and after crises.
Education authorities and partners increasingly recognise the need to adopt evidence-informed crisis-sensitive educational planning. In many countries, the ability of Ministries of Education to collect and use relevant data has proven very helpful in responding to the COVID-19 crisis, for example. Consolidating and using data and information from a range of stakeholders, including humanitarian partners, but also school leaders and teachers, as well as from affected populations themselves, who are at the centre of education responses, is therefore essential to evidence-based programming. Data collection and use should move beyond access issues to also assess the learning of crisis-affected learners.
Education can provide a safe environment for learners and protect them from violence, abuse and exploitation. It can also protect adolescent girls from forced marriages and early pregnancies. Additionally, school staff play an important role in identifying children’s needs and linking them to appropriate protection services.
Including crisis risk reduction and management in education planning processes can assist education authorities in better anticipating crises and in planning and delivering education before, during, and after crises. This includes putting in place measures that address vulnerabilities to potential risks. Integrating crisis and risk management into education systems, notably by having a dedicated team of education staff that is tasked with developing and implementing crisis and risk management policies, as well as strong coordination mechanisms, can strengthen the resilience of education systems and ensure that Ministries of Education can respond adequately to crises.
MoEs are in a stronger position to provide leadership in times of crisis when they have already invested in appropriate human resources and organisational structures such as risk and crisis management units across various governance levels. Such structures can facilitate coordination across different levels of the government and with partners. Strengthening human resources at the national and sub-national levels, as well as the school level, is essential to putting in place education systems that are adaptable and resilient to crises. Strengthening MoE capacities for crisis management will ensure that they are prepared for and can lead sector-wide crisis responses, and that priorities for shorter-term humanitarian assistance are aligned with longer-term recovery and development.
Education leaders need to have the ability to set and achieve goals, but also to adapt to ever-evolving challenges. Effective MoE leadership should focus on equity and inclusion, but also capitalise on a pre-existing culture of risk reduction and management within the respective MoE, on its prior experience responding to emergencies, as well as on existing emergency response strategies. The recognition of the leadership of the national administration at all levels by other entities is also crucial. This may require humanitarian and development actors to reflect on the extent to which their actions either support or undermine local leadership in crisis settings.
Detailed, granular data can show who is affected by a crisis and where. This can facilitate an effective and targeted response, as well as help to mobilise funding. Ensuring that risk-related indicators are integrated into planning tools such as EMIS will make sure that reliable, timely and updated information about schools, students and teachers are available to inform decision-making on emergency responses, as well as medium and long-term strategies. This should go hand in hand with support to Ministry of Education officials to equip them with the knowledge and skills to use the data and information to plan and manage quality and equitable education services in emergency contexts.
This includes ensuring that strong communication and coordination mechanisms are in place that are balancing bottom-up with top-down approaches that are participatory and inclusive. Enabling the participation and representation of crisis-affected populations, including refugees, internally displaced persons and other marginalised groups, helps to ensure that their views are included at all stages of crisis response.
While education for emergency-affected populations, including for refugees and IDPs, has traditionally been financed by short-term humanitarian funds, there is a recognised need to improve the humanitarian-development coherence, including through longer term planning, to ensure sustainable access to quality education, regardless of the type of emergency. In addition, there is a recognised need to promote peaceful and inclusive societies, which is embodied by the so-called “New Way of Working” (NWOW) approach that aims to create synergies between humanitarian assistance, development activities, and peacebuilding.
Get the facts:
In addition to saving lives, crisis-sensitive planning is cost-beneficial and cost-effective. However, funding for it is currently still limited.
- According to UNDRR, every US$1 invested in risk reduction and prevention can save up to US$15 in post-disaster recovery, and every US$1 invested in making infrastructure disaster-resilient can save US$4 in reconstruction.[i]
- However, while the number and cost of conflicts and natural disasters is increasing, growth in development assistance for C/DRR has been moderate. Of the USD 1.17 trillion of overall Official Development Assistance (ODA) provided between 2010 and 2019, only USD 133 billion (11%) were disaster-related. An even smaller fraction of this share, just USD 5.5 billion (0.5%), were allocated to disaster prevention and preparedness.[ii]
Millions of primary and secondary aged children remain out of school in crisis-affected countries.
- Of the 224 million primary and secondary school-aged children that live in crisis-affected countries, 72 million are out of school.[iii] Another 127 million go to school, but do not reach minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics. Only 25 million crisis-affected children are in school and reach minimum proficiency levels.
- About 50% of all out-of-school children in emergencies, or about 36 million, are located in just eight countries: Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Mali, and Nigeria.[iv]
Crisis-sensitive educational planning can help to ensure educational continuity during crises.
- Crisis-sensitive educational planning has been shown to significantly contribute to ensuring educational continuity during crises.[v] Ensuring educational continuity in turn yields a number of other benefits: for example, it has been suggested that each year of education reduces the risk of a youth’s involvement in conflict by around 20%.[vi]
- Conversely, a lack of crisis-sensitive educational planning can severely disrupt education: for example, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted that the education sectors of many countries lacked preparedness for a pandemic. Many Ministries of Education were without a contingency plan to ensure educational continuity, so that around 1.6 billion children worldwide were out of school at the height of the pandemic.[vii] As a consequence, at least 65 countries developed Covid-19 response strategies for the education sector.[viii]
Investment in education generally, and crisis-sensitive educational planning in particular, remains low. Currently, education in emergencies only receives 3% of humanitarian aid.[ix] Crisis-sensitive educational planning only receives a negligible share of funds. More funding for education in emergencies and crisis-sensitive educational planning is therefore needed.
[ii] UNDRR (2022). Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022.
Conflict: refers to armed conflicts or declared war as well as other insecurity events such as inter-community clashes.
Disaster: a serious disruption of the functioning of a community or a society at any scale due to hazardous events interacting with conditions of exposure, vulnerability, and capacity, and leading to one or more of the following: human, material, economic and environmental losses, and impacts.
Hazard: a process, phenomenon or human activity that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, property damage, social and economic disruption, or environmental degradation. If identified and addressed through good planning, a hazard may not lead to disaster or other harmful disruptions.
Conflict and disaster risk reduction (C/DRR): is defined as the concept and practice of reducing conflict and disaster risks through systematic efforts to analyse and manage the causal factors of disasters, including through reduced exposure to hazards, lessened vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improved preparedness for adverse events. C/DRR includes prevention and mitigation measures as well as response activities.[i]
Preparedness: activities put in place to effectively anticipate, respond to, and recover from the impacts of hazards
Prevention: activities undertaken to avoid the adverse impact of disasters, including through physical risk reduction and environmental protection. This concept encompasses mitigation.
Resilience: can be defined as the ability of education systems and learners to withstand, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in ways that promote safety and social cohesion. Resilience is also the ability for the education system to continue functioning in crises, or to restart relatively quickly after an emergency.
GADRRRES (2017). Comprehensive School Safety Framework 2022-2030.
IIEP-UNESCO (2016). Conflict-sensitive and risk-informed planning in education: lessons learned.
IIEP-UNESCO (2022). Education4Resilience.
IIEP-UNESCO (2023). Crisis-sensitive educational planning.
IIEP-UNESCO, PEIC, IBE (2015). Safety, resilience, and social cohesion: A guide for education sector planners. Booklets 1 – 6.
*The members of the Geneva Global Hub for Education in Emergencies contributed their knowledge and expertise to this document. Contact us.