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REAL: Research for Equitable Access and Learning

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Education is at the heart of social transformation. It is a fundamental human right and has the potential to reduce poverty, empower women, improve health and drive economic growth.

However, in some of the poorest parts of the world many children and young people are deprived of access to good quality education and denied the chance to learn and fulfill their potential.

The Research for Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre pioneers research into overcoming barriers to education, such as poverty, gender, ethnicity, language and disability, and promotes education as an engine for inclusive growth and sustainable development.

Find out more about the REAL Centre and our key principles.


Rethinking Education In The Time Of COVID-19: REAL Centre Blog Series

The REAL Centre is curating a series of blogs reflecting on the impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic on research work on international education and development. These are contributions from staff, students and partners. Blogs in the series so far are listed below:

Challenges and Opportunities for Mobile Technology Supported Dialogue in East Africa

Martin, K. (2020) Challenges and Opportunities for Mobile Technology Supported Dialogue in East AfricaUKFIET Blog. [30 June 2020]

Kevin Martin is collaborating with adult subsistence farmers across central Kenya, who face the myriad challenges of poor infrastructure, poverty and varied levels of literacy. His research looks at how mobile technology can and should be used to support the existing small group dialogic education, which is the primary means of continuing education for these farmers. For those fortunate enough to own a mobile phone and have reliable network access, chances are the phone is an older ‘feature’ phone, incapable of little more than SMS and voice calls. To address these access challenges, Kevin’s research has pivoted to investigate educational platforms built entirely on SMS capabilities.

Teaching under a tree

(Farmers in Meru, Kenya, meeting to discuss tree planting. Photo credit: Kevin Martin)

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‘Education for All’ under Lockdown: the path ahead for inclusion of children with disabilities

Nath, S. (2020) ‘Education for All’ under Lockdown: the path ahead for inclusion of children with disabilities. UKFIET Blog. [9 June 2020]

The current pandemic situation is disproportionately affecting those within marginalised communities in India and across the globe. In education, these disadvantages are amplified for learners with disabilities belonging to low socio-economic backgrounds. Seema Nath held interviews with educators in Mumbai about their experience and challenges, in order to try and learn lessons from schools that are incorporating the principles of inclusion and social justice while approaching these challenges.

School workbook activity with matches

(Photo credit: Muktangan Education Trust)

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The New Normal: Prioritising Child Wellbeing in India

Kurian N., Sethi, T., and Das, A. (2020) The New Normal: Prioritising Child Wellbeing in India. UKFIET Blog. [8 June 2020]

As children in India face unprecedented stressors, this seems a timely moment to consider their wellbeing. In this article, Nomisha Kurian, Tanvi Sethi and Angana Das highlight factors that threaten their emotional health and suggest measures to protect and nurture it; they discuss experiences and insights as graduate researchers and development practitioners within India’s complex social, cultural, and economic milieu. Their analysis operates at three levels: society, home, and school.


Girl working on laptop

(Photo credit: ©NDTV)

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Traffic to Educational YouTube channels and Google Classroom during COVID-19 shows the stark Digital Divide between nations


Pillai, V.S. (2020) Traffic to Educational YouTube channels and Google Classroom during COVID-19 shows the stark Digital Divide between nations. UKFIET Blog. [2 June 2020]


Amidst school closures, governments across the world are trying to ensure continuity of learning through various means, including instructional videos and online tools like Google Classroom. However, Vijay Siddharth Pillai argues that its effectiveness depends on proximal factors like its accessibility and consistent use. Analysis of the extent and profile of traffic to educational YouTube channels and Google Classroom shows that the barriers are stacked up against children of less developed and fragile nations when it comes to accessing these online tools and platforms.

Screenshot of education channels

(Photo credit: Screenshot of educational channels)

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Challenges and opportunities for Pakistan education systems in the COVID-19 response

Malik, R. (2020) Challenges and opportunities for Pakistan education systems in the COVID-19 response. UKFIET Blog.  [1 June 2020]

As a result of global school closures, it has become immediately clear that the children at risk of dropping out and those who are likely to experience the most significant learning losses are the ones from marginalised backgrounds. Poverty, gender and location are intersecting to entrench exclusion for already-marginalised children. Rabea Malik considers what government policies and guidelines around education during the COVID-19 pandemic mean for Pakistan’s large, diverse, federated education system. She argues that given the scale of operations and the nature of entrenched inequities, the key guiding principles should be to address inequalities and to strengthen decentralised governance and service delivery.

School girls working

(Photo: Girls’ school in Kasur, TEACh project, 2015)
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Adapting to the times: Student experiences of rethinking research under lockdown

Malone, K., and Sharma, R. (2020) Adapting to the times: Student experiences of rethinking research under lockdown. UKFIET Blog. [29 May 2020]

Education around the world has been disrupted as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic – from pre-primary level in Ethiopia, to basic education in Ghana, to higher education in Syria. Higher education in the UK has also been affected – a group of students from the MPhil Education, Globalisation and International Development course at the University of Cambridge reflect here on how their fieldwork has been affected and how they are adapting to their new realities.

Zoom call participants

(Members of the EGID cohort staying connected through Zoom.

Photo Credit: Buyung Alfian Sudrajat)
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Estimating learning loss by looking at time away from school during grade transition in Ghana

Sabates, R., & Carter, E. (2020) Estimating learning loss by looking at time away from school during grade transition in Ghana. UKFIET Blog. [27 May 2020]

During the current school closures, several methods for reaching children at distance have been implemented, including the use of radio and television, as well as off-line resources. Ricardo Sabates and Emma Carter comment that how much children will learn during this time remains unknown, although it is expected that the poorest will be hit the hardest. In an attempt to shed some light on these unknown factors, they provide an estimate of the potential learning loss which happens when children transition from one school year to the next after undergoing the Complementary Basic Education programme in Ghana.

Child looking out of window

(Photo: Henry Donati/DFID)

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Stop. Pause. Reflect. Rethinking Teacher Engagement during Lockdown

Chaudhary, C.H., & Niaz, A.F. (2020) Stop. Pause. Reflect. Rethinking Teacher Engagement during Lockdown. UKFIET Blog. [22 May 2020]

The current lockdown has positioned home schooling and remote learning, previously outliers of mainstream education, as the new normal. Are teachers engaging with their students using these new ways of learning? If so, how can they be supported in this effort and to prepare for when schools will reopen? Camilla H Chaudhary and Annya F Niaz look at teacher training during lockdown in Pakistan and make recommendations for repositioning priorities that could be applied in other contexts.

Sadia, a teacher in Abbottabad, Pakistan

(Photo credit: Vicki Francis/Department for International Development)

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No-tech solutions to continue learning: an example from Afghanistan

Pillai, V.S. (2020) No-tech solutions to continue learning: an example from Afghanistan. UKFIET Blog. [12 May 2020]

Afghanistan is developing print-based, self-instructional materials for learners to ensure a more inclusive response to the COVID-19 crisis. Vijay Siddharth Pillai discusses the purpose and structure of self-instructional material for children who don’t have access to the internet or the necessary devices for accessing this content.

Child with workbookl

(Photo credit: USAID Afghanistan)

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Education response to COVID-19: How can basic education be implemented in Ethiopia?

Hagos Hailu, B. (2020) Education response to COVID-19: How can basic education be implemented in Ethiopia? UKFIET blog. [11 May 2020]

How can basic education be implemented in Ethiopia during the COVID-19 pandemic? Due to the COVID-19 pandemic school closures, there could be significant learning loss in general and huge inequalities against disadvantaged segments of the population. Belay Hagos Hailu outlines five strategies for implementing basic education: availability of devices; providing a coordinated response; monitoring engagement and learning; inclusion of pre-school children; and coping emotionally with the effects of a pandemic.

Child writting

(Photo credit: RISE Programme)

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Connect and adapt to learn and live: Deaf education in Sri Lanka

Thilanka, W. (2020) Connect and adapt to learn and live: Deaf education in Sri Lanka. UKFIET Blog. [7 May 2020]

During the pandemic crisis, an area that has been instantaneously dropped, lost or completely invisible is the education of children with disabilities. This article by Thilanka Wijesinghe aims to provide visibility to the field of disability in education. An online survey was carried out with educators in two residential, semi-government schools for the Deaf in Sri Lanka.

Child writing on blackboard

(Photo credit: UKFIET)

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COVID-19 and conflict: challenges and hopes for an alternative future in higher education in Syria

Hajir, B., and Salem, H. (2020) COVID-19 and conflict: challenges and hopes for an alternative future in higher education in Syria. UKFIET Blog. [6 May 2020]

COVID-19 highlights limitations that Syrian teachers and students have faced for years, while offering new opportunities. Basma Hajir and Hiba Salem highlight the complex challenges of Syria’s higher education system and open up debate to help envisage an alternative future for the country’s university situation.

University of Aleppo

(Photo credit: University of Aleppo, Basma Hajir)

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The threat of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s recent gains in pre-primary education

Kim, J., and Rose, P. (2020) The threat of COVID-19 on Ethiopia’s recent gains in pre-primary education. UKFIET Blog. [4th May 2020]

The current school closures in Ethiopia place at risk improvements to date in access for many students who were previously excluded from education. With increased government involvement, the gross enrollment rate in pre-primary education surged from 4 to 46% over a six-year period. Janice Kim and Pauline Rose highlight the challenges of distance education for early childhood level, where there are wide inequalities by household wealth and urban-rural locations.

Mother and child at Megab Health Center. Hintalo Wajirat woreda

(Photo credit: Mother and child at Megab Health Centre,

Hintalo Wajirat woreda, Tigray Region, UNICEF Ethiopia/2019/Mersha)

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COVID-19 school closures may further widen the inequality gaps between the advantaged and the disadvantaged in Ethiopia

Tibebu Tiruneh, D. (2020) COVID-19 school closures may further widen the inequality gaps between the advantaged and the disadvantaged in Ethiopia. UKFIET Blog. [21st April 2020]

Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh observes signs suggesting that the COVID-19 pandemic could have a lasting impact on increasing inequality in low-income countries such as Ethiopia. He outlines three areas for attention: introducing evidence-based interventions to recover lost learning; putting strategies in place to ensure children return to school when they reopen; and preparing teachers, students, and parents in advance of future crises.

Empty classroom

(Photo credit: RISE Programme, Ethiopia)

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Rethinking education in the time of COVID-19: Getting dizzy from all the pivoting

Bélanger, J. (2020) Rethinking education in the time of COVID-19: Getting dizzy from all the pivoting. UKFIET Blog. [17th April 2020]

With the global situation changing daily and an exponentially growing proportion of children out of school, governments have been scrambling to find ways of ensuring some continuity in learning now, while planning for the medium- to longer-term consequences of the pandemic. Julie Bélanger, from Education Partnerships Group, discusses how this has required so much pivoting that it is not surprising that we are all feeling somewhat dizzy… She outlines three key areas: learning from the evidence, governments adapting quickly and knowledge sharing in a time of global crisis.

Child in classroom

(Photo credit: Education Partnerships Group)

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Think Local: Support for learning during COVID-19 could be found from within communities

Sabates, R. (2020) Think Local: Support for learning during COVID-19 could be found from within communities. UKFIET Blog. [16th April 2020]

Although Ricardo Sabates advocates for the use of educational technologies (EdTech) as an aid to learning, he outlines important lessons from ongoing REAL Centre research which should unleash the potential of communities to tackle this crisis. These include: supporting volunteers to serve their communities; engaging with locally-trained facilitators; engaging with parents; measuring learning; and support through off-line methods.

Spiderweb

(Photo credit: creative commons licensed (CC) flickr photo by tmorkemo:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/toremor/21803521315/)

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Rethinking education in the time of COVID-19: What can we contribute as researchers?

Rose, P. (2020) Rethinking education in the time of COVID-19: What can we contribute as researchers? UKFIET Blog. [7th April 2020]

This blog was written by Professor Pauline Rose, Director of the REAL Centre. It highlights some of the efforts to support the continuation of education during the current COVID-19 pandemic and asks what researchers can contribute towards an evidence base that will be relevant for policy now and in the future.

Empty classroom

(Photo credit: GPE/Livia Barton)

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