With forced displacement reaching historic levels, schools all over the world are welcoming increasing numbers of refugee children. Teachers are facing new challenges in making sense of forced displacement and its complexities. Refugees and migrants regularly make headlines and the internet is bustling with information on the topic. Explaining the situation of refugees and migrants to primary and secondary school children has become part of many educators’ daily work.

In addition, training and guidance for teachers with refugees in their classrooms is not always based on best practice, and is not always easily available. 

On this UNHCR Teaching About Refugees page you can find free-of-charge and adaptable UNHCR teaching materials on refugees, asylum, migration and statelessness and a section dedicated to professional development and guidance for primary and secondary school teachers on including refugee children in their classes. Use and combine these materials as you see fit in your lessons about the topic.

  1. Words matter
  2. Facts and figures about refugees
  3. UNHCR media materials and reports
  4. Teaching materials
  5. Including refugees in your classroom
  6. Other teaching resources

Words matter

Understanding the terms refugees, migration and asylum begins with understanding a few basics. The word refugee is often used as a blanket term for people displaced by war, violence or persecution. But there are different categories of displaced people, each with specific needs. Knowing what these categories mean exactly is important and will contribute to better understanding of this complex topic.

Watch these explainer animations yourself as a preparation for your lesson or training. Choose which sections you need, and use them in your own lesson plans as well. The animations are suitable for use as teaching material for pupils age 12 and over.

Refugees

Refugees are people fleeing conflict or persecution.

Migrants

Migrants are people moving to another country for other reasons beyond conflict and persecution.

Internally displaced people

Internally displaced people are seeking safety in other parts of their country.

Asylum-seekers

Asylum-seekers are people seeking international protection from conflict and persecution.

Returnees

Returnees are people who have returned home after being displaced.

Stateless people

Stateless people do not have the nationality of any country.

Where do refugees come from?

Refugees come from countries all over the world. More than half come from Syria and Afghanistan and Somalia.

Where do refugees go?

Most refugees are in developing countries. They tend to stay in neighbouring countries.

Refugee rights

Refugees cannot be sent back to their country if this puts them in danger.

Who helps refugees?

UNHCR, governments and many other organizations help refugees. You can help too.


Facts and figures about refugees

Finding the right facts and figures about refugees and migrants can be a challenge for teachers. There is a plethora of information available on the internet from thousands of sources. However, the information provided is not always verifiable, complete or up-to-date.

UNHCR helps forcibly displaced people worldwide. We keep detailed, up-to-date statistics and data on refugees, asylum-seekers, IDPs and stateless people. In this section you will find a selection of teachers’ notes and fact sheets you may find useful for your lessons. You can create your own lesson by using and combining the materials as you see fit.

Basics

How many people are displaced?

More than 70 million people are displaced today.This is the highest number since WWII. Find all the key figures on this teachers' note.

PublicationsEducation

Where do refugees come from?

More than two-thirds of the world's refugees come from just five countries. Find them on the map in this teachers' note.

Watch this animation too

StatisticsUNHCR Statistics

Where are refugees?

Almost 9 out of 10 refugees are in developing countries. Find the countries and the figures on the map in this teachers' note.

Watch this animation too

Eye-openers

More than 68 million people are displaced today. But what does such a large number really mean? Here are a few figures. Download the fact  sheets for use in your classroom.

25 persons per minute

Every minute, 25 persons are forced to flee because of violence or persecution. A staggering number. Visualize it in your classroom.

37,000 per day

Every day, 37,000  persons are forced to flee because of violence or persecution. Can you imagine such a large group? Try to visualize it. 

More than 70 million

More than 70 million people are now displaced worldwide. How many football stadiums could you fill with such an enormous population?

Case study South America

Many people are fleeing violence and persecution in South America. In January 2019 UNHCR questioned almost 1,000 displaced people at the border of Mexico. Can you guess who they are and why they fled their countries?

Refugee for a long time

Many people live as refugees for a very long time. Find out how many people had to flee their homes for 5 years… or much longer. 

Children fleeing by themselves

Many refugees are children younger than 18. 111,000 of them had to get to safety without their family or parents. What would your pupils do if they had to flee without their parents or family? 

About half of the world’s refugees are children who are often very vulnerable. They are five times more likely to be out of school. This puts them at risk of missing out on an education, which could affect them for the rest of their lives. Here are a few fact sheets about refugee children. Use them for your own information or for class debates in secondary education.

Primary enrolment rates

Secondary enrolment rates

Higher education enrolment rates

For many refugees, education remains out of reach

Two thirds of refugee children going to primary school do not make it to secondary school


UNHCR media materials and reports

If you want to read more about refugees, asylum and migration to prepare your lessons, you can read UNHCR’s main publications and on-line resources on refugees, asylum and migration. Some of these materials may also be used for research assignments for children in higher secondary education.

UNHCR Data Portal

UNHCR's facts and figures website on refugee emergencies. Click on the locators to view the latest maps, tables and graphics on refugee emergencies.

Kenya. Sister's sacrifice and UNHCR support help refugee girl fulfil her ambitions

'Turn the tide' report

Refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than the global average. To learn more about the situation of refugee children, read UNHCR's 'Turn the tide' report. 

UNHCR multi-media

If you are looking for a compelling video, web article, photo report or other multi-media story on refugees, please visit UNHCR's multi-media channels.


Teaching materials

Here you can find teaching materials about refugees, asylum, migration and statelessness for all age groups in primary and secondary education.

Click on the age category and find lesson plans, activity guides, videos and other materials to use in your class.


Including refugees in your classroom

With forced displacement at a record high since World War II, many teachers now have refugees or asylum-seekers in their classroom. Teaching newcomers often comes with specific needs relating to language acquisition and adaptation to a new culture and environment. Some refugee children may suffer from stress or trauma preventing them from participating fully in school activities, and requiring specific support.

Below you will find some professional guidance to support you

Effects of stress and trauma on children

Executive function is often compromised when children experience stress and trauma. This video by Harvard University 's Center on the Developing Child explains some challenges that children suffering from stress and trauma may experience.

Successfully including children experiencing stress and trauma in your classroom

This guide provides guidance on including these children in your class and school.

Understanding language acquisition

Guidance on how to optimise language learning environments for non-native speaking children.


Other teaching resources

Many organisations have created excellent teaching resources on refugees, asylum, migration and statelessness.

On this page you’ll find a curated selection of teaching materials from NGOs, governments and other organizations, which you can search by language and age group.