Education in Fragile and Conflict Affected States

14th September 2022
Author: Juliet Millican

Conflict, Education, Fragile and Conflict Affected States, Humanitarianism, Migration

Sustainable Development Goals

4.    Quality Education

This learning package brings together a selection of papers from a K4D Learning Journey with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on education, conflict, and stability that looked at how education interventions can build peace and stability in fragile, and conflict affected states.

It draws together papers from many of the organisations who contributed to the learning journey as a whole. Much of the literature selected builds on the two current key premises in the field. The first is ‘the two faces of education in conflict’, recognising that while education can prevent or minimise conflict, it can also be an exacerbator of conflict. The second is what has become known as ‘The 4 Rs’: that education designed to address conflict needs to take a social justice approach. This is drawn from Nancy Fraser’s work on social justice and education but redefined by recent research into the need for consideration of: Redistribution (equality of access), Recognition (of diversity of structures, language, ethnicity, and culture), Representation (with equitable participation in decision making at all levels) and Reconciliation (dealing with the past and designed to develop social cohesion and trust).

Overview of the evidence

While there is no single geographical focus, this learning package mainly concerns the design and provision of formal education in conflict and post conflict environments. It looks particularly at girls’ education and education to counter violent extremism. The materials within the package reflect this, and it includes a mix of K4D Helpdesk and Emerging Issues reports, think pieces, academic articles and frameworks, reports from International Non-Governmental Organisations (INGOs) and theoretical frameworks. It includes articles on curriculum and curriculum design and education for peacebuilding in post conflict environments.

Together these materials have contributed to the conclusions emerging from the learning journey, that:

  • Education matters for peace. There is a relationship between higher levels of education in a population and decreased levels of violence
  • All education interventions need to be grounded in robust political economy and conflict analyses to reflect the relationships between education and conflict within the local context
  • Education should not be used as a tool for security. Teachers need to build trust and critical thinking, and not act as part of the surveillance structure
  • There is a link between education and inclusive economic development, but higher levels of education can also create expectation of better employment which, if unmet, can exacerbate conflict
  • There will also be trade-offs in meeting the needs of different groups, with pressures around, for example, inclusion of refugees, providing education to victims of conflict or returning soldiers
  • Recommendations set out by the global education agenda (focused on Education for All) are difficult to achieve in situations of extreme instability, and often fail to address inequalities or power imbalances that underpin conflict
  • Nationally owned systemic change is more effective than piecemeal interventions, operating in states with both stable and unstable conflict-affected areas may require a regional approach.

All of these point to the importance of context and contextual analysis, and that, while there are some key principles behind the design and provision of education in fragile states these need to be adapted in the light of the social and political situation and the phase and history of the conflict itself.


The resources below have been selected due to their relevance to the learning package. Explore them to strengthen your understanding of education in fragile and conflict affected states.

Continents, regions and countries