Armed conflict has a far less drastic effect on children’s education than generally believed, according to the 2012 edition of the Human Security Report, which noted that peacetime improvements in education tend to continue during times of war.
In fact, educational outcomes - on average - improve in wartime, something “rarely even mentioned in the major reports on education in the developing world that are produced by international agencies like UNESCO and UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], by advocacy groups, and many researchers,” said the report, published by the Human Security Report Project (HSRP), an independent research centre affiliated with Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver.
“[One] possible explanation is that war does have the expected negative impact, but that this is more than counterbalanced by other factors. In Afghanistan, for example, a dramatic improvement in school enrolments followed a massive infusion of international assistance to the educational sector after the overthrow of the Taliban in 2001, despite the ongoing insurgency,” it said.
The findings were based on data from several studies, including a 2011 survey of 25 countries by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, an analysis by US-based Education Policy and Data Center, and a study by the Peace Research Institute Oslo for the 2011 World Development Report.
Examples of the negative impact cited include the death, injury and displacement of students and teachers, as well as destruction of educational infrastructure. But these tend to take undeserved prominence in most mainstream reports, the report said.
“If policy-makers are concerned with low educational outcomes in wartime, then policy needs to address their root causes—i.e., those that predate the fighting,” it concluded.