Q&A with Ken Rhodes: The Importance of Minimum Standards in Emergency Situations

What are the minimum standards for education in emergencies?

In emergency situations such civil conflicts, natural disasters, refugee encampments, and post-conflict reconstruction, delivering education is a critical component to ensuring stability. Despite the interruption caused by the emergency, it is imperative that children have access to education. We know from experience that one of the first things refugees, internally displaced persons worry about and act on is how to keep their children in school.

Over the past decade there has been an increasing focus on ensuring that the quality education is provided in these situations. The minimum standards were developed by the INEE, a network of member organizations including donors, NGOs, ministries of education, academic institutions and other education practitioners. These standards lay a foundation for quality education in these situations around the world and were developed by international educators – the members of INEE – from lessons learned from project implementation. The minimum standards cover coordination, ensuring community participation, quality of teaching in the classrooms, good policy, and monitoring and evaluation.

Two examples are that all individuals have access to quality and relevant education opportunities, and that teachers and other education personnel receive periodic, relevant and structured training according to needs and circumstances. These standards were purposely kept generic so that they can be contextualized in a wide variety of different cultural, social, and political contexts.

The INEE Minimum Standards Handbook contains 19 standards, each with accompanying key actions and guidance notes. The 19 standards are organized in 5 domains, which are all critical for ensuring access to quality and safe education for all learners in emergencies through to recovery. The 5 domains are Foundational Standards, Access and Learning Environment, Teaching and Learning, Teachers and Other Education Personnel, and Education Policy. The Minimum Standards are founded on the Convention of the Rights of the Child, the Dakar 2000 Education for All goals, and the Sphere Project’s Humanitarian Charter.

What is the INEE and how does it support the standards?

The INEE is a member network of NGOs, Donors MOEs and other organizatioins. It consists of a six-person secretariat and has structured its work into two working groups and several task teams. The working groups are made up of representatives of the members. One of the unique aspects of INEE is that all members when we work together, we take off our institutional hats and become committed to improving the field of education in emergencies. Our mandate is to create training materials, tools (such as the INEE toolkit and publications) that will help frontline staff, whether they work with a ministry or an NGO, implement quality education services.

How are minimum standards being used?

The standards are used by education managers and policymakers at different levels of government, NGOs and donors.

As a result of the recent INEE assessment in 2012 and past assessments, we’ve learned that these standards are being used as a tool for designing project proposals, implementation plans, and M&E frameworks and also for policy planning and advocacy. While the use of the minimum standards has dramatically increased, there is still a long way to go to expand awareness and usage throughout the world. The task of helping to promote quality education in emergency situations is not a short-term proposition. It is a process that will require ongoing and sustained support over many years.

What is the impact of the minimum standards?

The minimum standards were the prime mechanism that the INEE used to advocate for the increased importance of education in emergencies. Before the INEE was formed, education was the poor orphan of humanitarian response. The focus was always on health, water, shelter and food. The standards have helped raise the importance of education as an essential part of emergency response. As a result, there is more funding than ever before, more donors and NGOs now have put education in their basket of services for emergencies, and most importantly, the growth of the INEE and the tool of the standards has nurtured the growth of a more professionalized field of education in emergencies.

Ken Rhode is the Deputy Director for Africa Education programs at FHI 360.