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Core Program Areas

Agriculture Education Emergencies Health HIV and AIDS Microfinance Peacebuilding Water and Sanitation

Cross-Cutting Areas

Capacity Strengthening Climate Change ICT4D IHD Monitoring and Evaluation Youth


Catholic Relief Services recognizes the right to education for all children. Working in partnership, we promote and support access to quality basic education for all. We stand in solidarity with the most marginalized and work together to effect personal, structural and systemic changes for development. In so doing, we contribute to building a more peaceful and just society.

Where do we work?

CRS supports education programs in more than 50 countries worldwide in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Every day more than one million children around the world attend a school or learning center supported by CRS. In approximately half of these 50 countries we maintain full education programs, holistically addressing challenges throughout the education system. In the rest, our activities take place as part of larger, integrated programming approaches in agriculture, food security, peace building, water and sanitation, and support to orphans and vulnerable children. In 2008, our total education portfolio was valued at more than $45 million.

What are our priorities?

CRS education programs focus on the following three key strategic priorities. Links to programming examples follow each description.

Education for a culture of peace

Education for a culture of peace represents an overarching priority for the education programs of Catholic Relief Services. It refers to our belief that education systems can and should play a positive role in building peace in the local communities and larger societies in which they work. Understanding that education systems sometimes serve to marginalize, exclude and promote conflict among people, CRS and its partners actively seek to understand how schools fit into the larger society from a peacebuilding perspective. That is, to what extent is do they promote equity and social cohesion in their policy and practice? Our programs work with all education stakeholders on these key issues to ensure that schools foster a culture of peace, both within their walls and in their relationship to the larger community.

Access and equity for vulnerable and marginalized populations

CRS and its partners have long worked to improve access to education for children in marginalized areas.  This work is grounded in a strong sense of social justice: for CRS, it is unjust that there are still children who are denied the right to education and the benefits that it brings.  CRS recognizes that limits on access are based in a combination of causes, both structural (policies and practices within the education system) and social (attitudes toward education for girls, for example). 

CRS also understands that simply getting children into school is not enough.  For goals of social justice and option for the poor to be truly fulfilled, there must be equity in the provision of education as well.  Equity looks beyond access to what it taking place within the school.  Equity implies that every child has an equal opportunity to learn, that there is no discrimination, preference or prejudice for one child over another, either within a school or across an entire education system. 

Many children face multiple obstacles to enrolling in – and succeeding in – school.  Around the world, CRS works with a wide variety of populations who face such obstacles: girls; children with disabilities; child laborers; children of ethnic minority groups; children in poor, rural areas, children affected by the HIV pandemic, and many more.   CRS programs work with schools and communities to create sustainable strategies to provide access to education for all children and to ensure that, once in school, they all have an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.

Community and parent engagement can take many forms, from supporting a child at home with homework, to participation in school activities and contributing resources to the school, to substantive engagement in school management and governance. Engagement can be the involvement of individual parents or family members and it can extend to the partnership of civil society organizations, such as parent teacher associations with schools. When fully realized, transformational engagement is a process that links an empowered organization with transformational change. In this way, communities are empowered to set priorities, manage resources, and demand accountability of schools in an environment that allows (or even encourages) such engagement.

CRS and its partners work at the community level, to build capacity and strengthen parents’ familiarity with – and involvement in – their children’s education, with a longer-term vision of transformational engagement. 

Who do we work with?

Participants and partners in CRS’ education projects include pre-schoolers, children and youth; parents and guardians; community leaders and civic associations; teachers, administrators and ministries of education; and local churches and grassroots organizations. Schools participating in CRS education programs are public, private, and parochial.  CRS also works within the non-formal education sector, supporting, inter alia, adult literacy programs, community learning centers, accelerated learning programs and bridge schools.

What is our capacity?

CRS currently counts over 100 education field-based staff worldwide and three senior technical advisors working across all CRS programs. These advisors provide technical support to country programs implementing education programs, share lessons learned across regions, liaise with donors and practitioners, and assist with the recruitment and capacity-building of field-based education staff. All CRS education projects are rigorously monitored and subject to frequent, independent evaluations. Our ability to deliver consistent, quantifiable results has made us a valued partner of ministries of education, research institutions and international donors, including USAID, USDA, U.S. Department of Labor, UNICEF, WFP and the World Bank. CRS is also a member of the Basic Education Coalition, and the Inter Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE).