Evaluating UNICEF's Emergency Education Response Programme

Syrian refugee children

Syrian refugee children in a Jordanian classroom

Photo by RAND Europe


An evaluation recommends that UN agencies, donors, partners, and the Jordanian government develop and implement a strategy to manage the influx and education of child refugees. Jordanian and refugee children both will benefit from expanding the Jordanian education system's safety, quality and performance.


Since the start of the crisis in Syria in 2011, nearly half of Syria’s population of 23 million has been displaced, either internally or as refugees. Over 630,000 Syrian refugees have been registered in Jordan, representing a 10 per cent increase in the country’s population since 2011. In response to the urgent educational needs of Syrian refugee children in Jordan, the Emergency Education Response (EER) Programme was implemented in April 2012 by UNICEF, the Government of Jordan and multiple partners. The programme aims to ensure contribute safe and appropriate services for vulnerable Syrian refugees living in Jordan and to ensure free formal education and additional relevant education services are available to Syrian refugee children.

With the refugee situation set to continue for some time, this evaluation of the EER programme was commissioned to help to understand the achievements to date, assess lessons learned, describe remaining needs and advise on future steps in providing education to the Syrian refugees.

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation identified significant achievements on the part of the Government of Jordan, UNICEF and its implementing partners, donors and the international community. A significant accomplishment of the Programme is the provision of formal education to 130,000 Syrian children and alternative education to 35,000 Syrian children (out of the 210,000 Syrian school-age children in Jordan). However, important needs remain in providing access to education to the Syrians, improving quality and increasing efficiency. Furthermore, the substantial numbers of refugees are perceived to have had adverse consequences on the Jordanian education system, with particular impact born by vulnerable Jordanians.

This evaluation report identified:

  • The education-specific context in Jordan immediately before the programme was initiated (noting that the Emergency Education Response in part built on existing services);
  • The immediate context for refugees when the Emergency Education Response programme was initiated and the related UNICEF response;
  • The actual resulting delivery and provision of formal, non-formal and informal education (including alternative educational pathways); the preparation of children to enter formal school system and child-friendly spaces; and enrolment outreach;
  • The consequences (positive and negative) of: the education delivered for children (in both refugee camps and host communities); activities to prepare children to enter formal school systems and child-friendly spaces; enrolment outreach activities;
  • How gender/special learning/disability needs were addressed and with what consequences;
  • Coordination of education actions with WASH and health and with psychosocial support;
  • The results of efforts to minimise impacts on Jordanian host community education.


The evaluation was structured to assess the Programme’s performance against the common evaluation criteria of: programme relevance/appropriateness, effectiveness, efficiency, impact and sustainability, as well as specific evaluation questions developed for this study. The work is further shaped by a rights-based approach, and consideration of cross-cutting issues such as gender, disability, and psychosocial and protection challenges.

A mixed methods approach was used. Alongside interviews with key stakeholders, we conducted school visits, focus groups with teachers, parents and children, participatory photography activities with children, secondary analysis of Zaatari and host community Joint Education Needs Assessment (JENA) survey data and a literature and historical practice review.


The report produced a number of recommendations to help guide future actions taken by the Government of Jordan, UNICEF, donors, implementing partners, and other UN agencies.

  • Develop and implement a medium-term strategy (including funding), with an emphasis on building Jordanian government capacity to manage the influx of child refugees in the education system.
  • Expand the provision of public formal education. The EER Programme made significant strides through providing formal education for 130,000 Syrian children, but 97,000 still remained out of formal education. In addition, 35,000 Syrian children were in alternative education programmes, which, while providing a flexible education, lacked a full-time and structured curriculum, and a clear pathway into formal education.
  • Improve the performance of ‘double-shifted’ schools to meet the needs of both Jordanians and Syrians. In order to accommodate the influxes of Syrian students in Jordan’s public school system, there had been an increase in classroom overcrowding and schools ‘double-shifting’.
  • Improve the quality and safety of school learning environments. Understandably, the quality of education had taken lower priority than access to education during the emergency’s early stages.
  • Target the different gendered challenges facing girls and boys. The education community in collaboration with the Government of Jordan and other stakeholder partners can help to improve the social realities faced by boys and girls, which prevent them from attending a formal education.
  • Ensure that planning involves proper analysis of the different options. Improved data on the different activities from the EER programme had strengthened its efficiency, but there was little evidence about whether decisions made during the programme, often using scarce resources, had involved the effective evaluation and comparison of different options.