The Global Education Monitoring Report team has released a new policy paper in relation to this year’s report theme on migration and displacement, entitled “Education as healing : Addressing the trauma of displacement through social and emotional learning”.

“The conditions under which migrants and refugees have to leave their homes and homelands can be traumatic in the extreme. Even those fortunate enough to find a sanctuary often face further hardship or discrimination in their host communities that can exacerbate their vulnerability. Traumatic experiences can cause long-lasting physical, emotional and cognitive effects.This can be particularly damaging when experienced during the sensitive periods of brain development (Teicher, 2018).

However, even at critical times of brain development, the effects of traumatic experiences can be addressed with appropriate medical treatment and a responsive environment (Weder and Kaufman, 2011). Access to specialized medical care may present a challenge for populations affected by the trauma of displacement. In such situations, schools can connect healthcare professionals, communities, teachers, parents and students (Vostanis, 2016). In resource-poor contexts, the lack of health facilities means that teachers may be the only professionals affected families may encounter and psychosocial support interventions may take place in schools (Fazel and Betancourt, 2018; Munz and Melcop, 2018). This is despite the fact that teachers themselves may need support.

Education can stimulate resilience, nurture learners’ social and emotional development and give children and communities hope for the future. It can help communities rebuild, by healing some of the trauma and thus in the long term encouraging social cohesion, reconciliation and peacebuilding (Nicolai, 2009; Novelli and Smith, 2011). Schools can help migrant and refugee children deal with trauma through psychosocial support integrated with social and emotional learning interventions, helping to build self-confidence, resilience and emotional regulation skills, and teaching children to create relationships based on trust with others (Betancourt et al., 2013).

This paper discusses formal and non-formal education interventions, notably those focused on social and emotional learning, as a promising approach to providing psychosocial support for mitigating the negative effects of trauma on migrants and refugees. The review covers emergency settings as well as community settings where migrant and refugee children eventually settle. The paper deals with access and the learning environment; the content of teaching and learning both for children and their parents; and the role that teachers and other professionals can play.

Download the policy paper here.