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From Mobile Gaming to Coding Bootcamps: How Technology is Transforming Refugee Education

Growing up, a day off from school was a welcomed respite from our daily routine. Not so for millions of out-of-school refugee children. According to UNHCR, refugees are five times more likely to be out of school than others. Only 50 percent of refugee children have access to primary education, compared with a global average of more than 90 percent. The statistics worsen as refugee children grow older, with only 22 percent of refugee adolescents in secondary school compared to a global average of 84 percent. At the higher education level, fewer than one percent of refugees attend university, compared to 34 percent at the global level. This challenge is one that will have significant impact across generations, but change makers around the world can work on solutions to address and mitigate it.

So at Solve, we posed this question on our open innovation platform: How can we deploy digital and technological resources to improve learning outcomes for refugee and displaced young people under 24?

People around the world submitted their most innovative high and low-tech solutions to solving the refugee education crisis. Solve’s Refugee Education Challenge garnered 155 solution submissions from 42 countries. After intense evaluation and review by a panel of judges, 15 finalists were chosen to pitch their solutions at Solve at the United Nations on March 7, 2017 in New York City.

The 15 Refugee Education Challenge finalists were selected not only for their innovative ideas, but also for taking into consideration language, cultural contexts and costs at scale—all key components to implement sustainable and scalable interventions.

The finalists’ solutions tackle the challenge of improving learning outcomes for displaced persons at multiple levels. Some solutions focus on equipping refugees with the skills that would maximize their integration in the economy, namely entrepreneurship and coding. Other solutions focused on innovating around the means of delivering learning and education: three of the solutions utilize mobile gaming to provide quality education to refugee youth, and others use psychosocial approaches to address issues of trauma through storytelling, family support, and personalized learning. One solution addresses the problem of access with an open-source library network to freely share educational resources. Another finalist team is building a social crowdfunding network dedicated to education for refugees.

The 15 finalists will pitch their solutions to a panel of technologists, educators, and refugee experts who will assess the pitches based on four criteria: novelty, feasibility, impact, and quality. Our panel of judges will include:  

Admir Masic, Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Professor, MIT

Alexandre Mars, Founder & CEO, Epic Foundation

Hala Fadel, Managing Partner, Leap Ventures

Kavita Gupta, Mission Investing, The Schmidt Family Foundation

Paul Hohenberger, Director of Development, T.H. Chan Harvard School of Public Health

Ruma Bose, Global Entrepreneur’s Council, United Nations Foundation

Shai Reshef, President, University of the People

Interested in solving the refugee education crisis? Here are three easy ways to get involved:

  1. Vote for your favorite finalist solution by registering on the Solve CoLab platform
  2. Support the selected Solver teams by becoming a member
  3. Organize or attend a Solve-a-thon in your city or organization

To know more and stay involved, please subscribe to Solve or get in touch at


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