Putting Equity at the Center of Education in Crisis and Conflict
In education, the concept of equity is so commonplace in the policy discourse that its actual role and contributions are often overlooked or simply presumed. Equity is an involved, intentional and dynamic undertaking, not a default setting. In the context of crisis and conflict, it can even seem like an improbable ideal.
Yet, placing equity considerations at the center of education programming, especially in crisis and conflict settings, can serve as an integral pathway to improved educational access, learning, and achievement. This brief provides USAID implementing partners with a starting point for defining equity in education and exploring strategies for improving equity in educational access and learning outcomes, especially in crisis and conflict-affected settings.
Currently, over 74 million children and youth of school age are out of school due to crisis and conflict; many will either never go to school or will have their schooling cut short. At the individual level, the fact that a child or youth is denied an education due to ongoing crisis or conflict represents a devastating personal loss of opportunity. At a societal level, crisis and conflict can deny entire generations and communities of the opportunity to build their knowledge and skills so that they may contribute toward rebuilding and stabilization.
All too often, the impacts of crisis and conflict on education are not borne equally by all. Instead, society’s most vulnerable, whether due to poverty, geography, sex, or other factors of marginalization such as disability and gender identity, are those who are least likely to attend or complete school in these contexts. Furthermore, in environments where physical and social infrastructure are severely compromised, unequal access to the scarce opportunities that remain can serve as a source of grievance that can further exacerbate conflict.
In such compromised contexts, equity in education serves as far more than a moral good; it is a practical and strategic necessity to breaking cycles of poverty, discrimination, and further inequality that threaten the stability and security of societies around the globe. Studies have documented the economic and human development returns on investing in educational equity, including improvements toward more inclusive growth, social cohesion, and resilience, to name a few.