The Importance of Domestic Paradigms in Determining Global Refugee Policy Outcomes

Irwin Hall Auditorium, Beirut campus

The Department of Education at the Lebanese American University is organizing a lecture on the Importance of Domestic Paradigms in Determining Global Refugee Outcomes, by Jo Kelcey and Samira Chatila. 

Abstract: The presentation examines the policy to integrate Syrian refugees into the Lebanese public-school system. Since 2012, UNHCR has promoted integration as a way to expand access to quality education opportunities for refugees. However, only 30 percent of school age Syrian children are actually enrolled in Lebanese public schools. Using rich qualitative data collected through interviews, policy analysis and school observations, we explore the reasons for this failure. Drawing on literature that examines the politics of global policy borrowing and transfer, we argue that policy actors appropriated the concept of integration in contingent and strategic ways which invariably reflect and reinforce the existing stratifications in Lebanese society. This had the paradoxical effect of fragmenting the Lebanese education system, in the process creating barriers to access for Syrian students. We argue that a more productive starting point for achieving the integration of refugee students is to address the existing education inequities within the Lebanese education system. Our findings underscore the importance of accounting for the internal contradictions of host states when designing global policies for refugees.


Jo Kelcey is a senior researcher and program manager at the Centre for Lebanese Studies. She holds an MA in Violence, Conflict and Development from SOAS, University of London, a BA in Economics and French from the University of Sheffield, UK, and is finalizing her PhD in International Education at New York University. Her dissertation examines the history of the UNRWA education program and considers the relevance of the Palestinian case for other refugee education initiatives. She has 14 years of experience supporting education related research, programming and advocacy for various aid agencies and academic institutions. Much of her work has focused on the provision of education in contexts of conflict and forced displacement.

Samira Chatila is a junior researcher at the Centre for Lebanese Studies. She holds an MA in Education from the Lebanese American University and a BS in Medical Laboratory Sciences from the American University of Beirut. Her thesis examined the relationship between the colonial history of Lebanon, today‚Äôs educational policies and practices, and school outcomes of children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. Her work has focused on disability and educational provisions for refugees in host countries.