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REAL Centre Blogs

REAL Centre Blogs

This page lists the REAL Centre blogs written by staff, students and partners. This includes blogs curated as part of a series reflecting on the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on research work on international education and development. Research and policy papers, as well as other reports, can be found on our Publications page.

Ethiopia mental health support
(Photo: @GPE/Stefan Bachenheimer)

Supporting students' socio-emotional learning, mental health, and wellbeing during and after COVID-19

Louise Yorke, RISE, 15 March 2021

Socio-emotional learning could be the key to unlocking students’ full potential in a post-COVID world, but there is a need for more evidence focused on socio-emotional learning in the context of the Global South. A new study by the RISE Ethiopia team aims to start filling this gap.

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Girls in science class, Bangladesh
(Photo: @Ricci Coughlan/DFID)

Adolescent women are being left behind in international efforts to end poverty

Pauline Rose, Tom Kirk and Sandra Baxter, UKFIET, 11 February 2021

A new report is urging for adolescent women to be given more of a priority within international efforts to end poverty and achieve other development targets by 2030. It argues that there is an urgent need to do more to support marginalised, adolescent women in low- and middle-income countries, many of whom leave education early and then face an ongoing struggle to build secure livelihoods.

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Effects of school closures on secondary school teachers and leaders in Rwanda: results from a phone survey

Laterite and REAL Centre, UKFIET, 12 January 2021

In August, during the COVID-19 school closures, phone interviews were conducted with secondary school head teachers and teachers in Rwanda to assess their experience of supporting students during school closures, and issues to consider when schools reopen. This blog highlights some of the key findings from the phone surveys.

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Girls in school yard, Sierra Leone
(Photo: @GPE/Stefan Bachenheim)

UK Government’s foreign aid cuts put girls’ education at risk

Pauline Rose, The Conversation, 26 November 2020

The UK government’s 2020 spending review suggests a cut in international aid, from 0.7% of GNI to 0.5%. This will have severe effects on the lives of girls worldwide. Even before the pandemic, 130 million girls were out of school. This number will have increased as inequality gaps have widened. Even if the UK Government stands by its commitment to protect girls’ education directly, it will still be put in danger by cutting budgets elsewhere.

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Girls in classroom looking at a book Niger
(Photo: GPE/Kelley Lynch)

Humanitarian aid funding still failing education

Asma Zubairi and Pauline Rose, Global Partnership for Education, 18 November 2020

Alongside the many positive developments in relation to the ever-increasing visibility of education in emergencies, a new flagship report from INEE presents sobering findings on trends in humanitarian aid to education. Written in collaboration for INEE’s 20th anniversary, the report also highlights the huge neglect of education in humanitarian responses.

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Animator with children at a workshop
(Photo: INEE)

20 years of INEE: Achievements and challenges in education in emergencies

Dean Brooks, Silvia Montoya and Pauline Rose, INEE, 9 November 2020

The REAL Centre collaborated on INEE’s 20th Anniversary report focusing on achievements and challenges in education in emergencies. New data show that, even prior to COVID-19, 127 million primary and secondary school-age children and young people living in crisis-affected countries were out of school. This is equivalent to almost half of the global out-of-school population, even though only around 29% of children and young people in this age group globally live in crisis-affected countries.

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Children writing on small blackboards Madagascar
(Photo: Mohammad Al-Arief/The World Bank)

Tackling the COVID-19 education emergency through a progressive universalism approach to public financing

Pauline Rose, Global Partnership for Education, 27 October 2020

Due to additional pressures on domestic resources from the pandemic and the costs of additional measures to respond to COVID-19 education challenges, the Save Our Future campaign, supported by nearly 200 organisations around the globe, reminds us that the risks caused by the pandemic need to be averted with urgency and financing protected. Education is the solution to the longer-term recovery from the pandemic.

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school based mentor for teachers in Rwanda
(Photo: @VVOB/Etienne Ntawigira)

It’s time to learn together and get education right for all children

Pauline Rose and Sven Rooms, Global Partnership for Education, 21 October 2020

From separate silos to close collaborations: the COVID-19 pandemic is giving us an opportunity to build and strengthen the links between education programme implementers and researchers, to ensure that we learn from this crisis and use robust evaluations to improve learning results for children.

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India children waving and laughing
(Photo: @cotk_photo via Unsplash)

Engaging schools and communities to support children’s learning

Ricardo Sabates and Suman Bhattacharjea, Oriel Square Publishing, 7 October 2020

Ensuring that education objectives continue to be achieved during and after the pandemic involves multiple stakeholders and diverse partnerships. With new educational needs arising, and roles changing for all involved, the central question of accountability is unpacked through lessons learned from Pratham’s PAHAL intervention: how can we all work to ensure that children achieve their full learning potential?

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Teacher at the blackboard Rwanda
(Photo: Laterite)

Celebrating World Teachers Day: Reflections from Leaders in Teaching initiative in Rwanda

Laterite and REAL Centre, Laterite, 2 October 2020

As learning partners on the Mastercard Foundation’s Leaders in Teaching initiative, Laterite and the REAL Centre gather evidence on how teachers are coping with the COVID-19 crisis, and how implementing partners are pivoting their programmes to best support teacher and student learning. This blog shares how evidence-based ways can support teachers.

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Secondary school classroom Rwanda
(Photo: Laterite)

Using the Teach classroom observations tool in Rwanda

Laterite and REAL Centre, Laterite, 2 October 2020

This blog highlights lessons learned from using the World Bank’s Teach tool and video recordings to observe classroom activities in over 100 Rwandan secondary schools. The team used the tool to capture classroom observations in mathematics, with the aim of finding an empirical and scalable way to understand the impact of interventions to improve teaching quality.

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Wollayta sisters Ethiopia
(Photo: @Rob Waddington/Flickr)

Implications of COVID-19 for pre-primary education in Ethiopia: Perspectives of parents and caregivers

Janice Kim, Pauline Rose, Tassew Woldehanna, Belay Hagos Hailu and Mesele Araya, UKFIET, 30 September 2020

This blog highlights some of the key messages from a phone survey carried out with parents and caregivers of pre-primary school-aged children in Ethiopia during COVID-19 school closures. The surveys aimed to identify how parents and caregivers were responding to the crisis; what information and resources they had access to; how they were able to engage in supporting their children’s learning at home; and their perspectives on schools reopening.

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outdoor classroom under a tree Ghana
(Photo: Henry Donati/DFID)

The centrality of language for learning

Ricardo Sabates Aysa, The Tony Little Centre, 23 September 2020

What is the impact of school closures on children’s learning in multilingual environments in the Global South, where resources are constrained and many children lack basic foundational skills? Providing resources and activities in a language that is unfamiliar to learners does not benefit these children, and indeed can be detrimental to their learning. Restarting education in a language that children are unable to understand, whether fully or partially, is likely to exacerbate existing inequalities in literacy acquisition faced by children from linguistic minorities.

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Grade 9 student who travels 2.30 hours to school
(Photo: ©The Center on Conflict and Development at Texas A&M University)

What are the challenges for reopening schools in Ethiopia? Perspectives of school principals and teachers

Louise Yorke, Pauline Rose, Tassew Woldehanna and Belay Hagos Hailu, Cambridge Africa, 18 September 2020

This blog summarises some of the key findings from phone surveys carried out with school principals and teachers during COVID-19 school closures in Ethiopia. The surveys aimed to identify how school principals and teachers were responding to the crisis; if and how they had been able to support parents and students; and their priorities once schools reopen.

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training secondary school teachers in Rwanda
(Photo: Laterite)

Improving teaching quality in Rwanda during COVID-19: Emerging opportunities for learning and research

Laterite and REAL Centre, Laterite, 15 September 2020

The Mastercard Foundation’s Leaders in Teaching programme supports secondary school teachers throughout their careers and prepares them to deliver high-quality, relevant education in STEM subjects. This blog highlights key points from discussions with implementing partners on emerging implications of COVID-19, with the aim of contributing to evidence of improved teacher quality and student learning through the programme.

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children reading on the floor of a classroom
(Photo: ©Asad Zaidi/Save the Children)

‘Coalitions for change’: The potential of a global coalition of parliamentarians to push for progress in girls’ education

Pauline Rose, IPNEd, 27 August 2020

Research shows that it will be vital for the International Parliamentary Network for Education (IPNEd) to adopt a transformative leadership approach. This needs to tackle patriarchal norms and structures that create resistance to change, to enable all girls to access 12 years of quality education. Motivated and committed leaders need to work individually and collectively to convert political commitment into meaningful action.

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Disability teaching aids in classroom
(Photo: Hannah Gaffey)

Why we need to listen to asylum-seeking students

Hannah Gaffey, INEE, 25 August 2020

Based on Hannah’s MPhil research, which documented the post-compulsory educational experiences and aspirations of three young asylum seekers in the UK, she demonstrates the importance of listening to the voices of those who have been displaced. This blog outlines issues learnt from each participant in order to illustrate how we as educators and academics can better understand the reality of people’s lived experiences if we take enough time to sit and listen.

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Disability teaching aids in classroom
(Photo: Yisak Tafere)

Reflections on support available for vulnerable students in Ethiopia

Yisak Tafere, RISE, 6 August 2020

As part of RISE Ethiopia’s research, a qualitative study was designed to document the implementation of the General Education Quality Improvement Programme for Equity (GEQIP-E) reforms in selected schools and the impact of the reforms as perceived by school and community stakeholders. Data was collected in early 2020 and this blog provides some initial reflections on available support, the delivery process and challenges faced by children with disabilities and girls.

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India Disability Education policy
(Photo: Tanushree Sarkar)

Examining disability inclusion in India’s new National Education Policy

Tanushree Sarkar, CaNDER, 19 August 2020

India’s National Education Policy 2020 (NEP) has been hailed as a new era in educational reform. However, disabled children in India rarely progress beyond primary school, and only 9% complete secondary education. This blog examines the implications of the NEP for children with disabilities around four key aspects: school choice; teacher and special educators; assessments and curricula; and terminology of inclusion and disability.

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Girl talking in parliamentary debate
(Photo: Plan International/Roger Harris)

Transformative political leadership for girls’ education

Pauline Rose and Rebecca Gordon, Developmental Leadership Program, 29 July 2020

Marginalised girls are likely to be most affected by COVID-19. The UK Government committed to supporting 12 years of quality education for all girls, in collaboration with Commonwealth Heads of Government, when they met in London in 2018. Given the gap between progress and intention, it is important to consider how political leaders can translate statements into real change for marginalised girls.

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Assessment using sticks
(Photo: GPE/Deepa Srikantaiah)

More than the sum of its parts: Internationally-comparable citizen-led assessments to ensure no child is left behind

Pauline Rose, PAL Network, 8 July 2020

The PAL Network has been at the forefront of developing community-led approaches to assessing basic literacy and numeracy, in households rather than schools. A drawback has been that the data produced by each country survey, while similar in approach, has not been comparable at an international level… until now. The new assessment tool – International Common Assessment of Numeracy (ICAN) – provides data on early grades of primary school. Its availability couldn’t be more timely in the light of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

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Farmers gathering under a tree
(Photo: Kevin Martin)

Challenges and opportunities for mobile technology supported dialogue in East Africa

Kevin Martin, UKFIET, 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.

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Math exercise
(Photo: Muktangan Education Trust)

‘Education for All’ under lockdown: The path ahead for inclusion of children with disabilities

Seema Nath, UKFIET, 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 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.

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A child in India working at a laptop computer
(Photo: ©NDTV)

The new normal: Prioritising child wellbeing in India

Nomisha Kurian, Tanvi Sethi and Angana Das, UKFIET, 8 June 2020

As children in India face unprecedented stressors, this seems a timely moment to consider their wellbeing. In this article, the authors 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo: Screenshot of educational channels)

Traffic to educational YouTube channels and Google Classroom during COVID-19 shows the stark digital divide between nations

Vijay Siddharth Pillai, UKFIET, 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, 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo: Girls’ school in Kasur, TEACh project, 2015)

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

Rabea Malik, UKFIET, 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. What do government policies and guidelines around education during the COVID-19 pandemic mean for Pakistan’s large, diverse, federated education system? 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.

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Students in Zoom meeting
(Photo: Buyung Alfian Sudrajat)

Adapting to the times: Student experiences of rethinking research under lockdown

Kayla Malone and Richa Sharma, UKFIET, 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo: Henry Donati/DFID)

Estimating learning loss by looking at time away from school during grade transition in Ghana

Ricardo Sabates and Emma Carter, UKFIET, 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. 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. 

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

Stop. Pause. Reflect. Rethinking teacher engagement during lockdown

Camilla H Chaudhary and Annya F Niaz, UKFIET, 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? The authors look at teacher training during lockdown in Pakistan and make recommendations for repositioning priorities that could be applied in other contexts.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: USAID Afghanistan)

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

Vijay Siddharth Pillai, UKFIET, 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: RISE Programme)

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

Belay Hagos Hailu, UKFIET, 11 May 2020

How can basic education be implemented in Ethiopia during the COVID-19 pandemic? Due to the school closures, there could be significant learning loss in general and huge inequalities against disadvantaged segments of the population. This blog 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: UKFIET)

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

Thilanka Wijesinghe, UKFIET, 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 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.

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University of Aleppo
(Photo credit: University of Aleppo, Basma Hajir)

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

Basma Hajir and Hiba Salem, UKFIET, 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: Mother and child at Megab Health Centre, Hintalo Wajirat woreda, Tigray Region, UNICEF Ethiopia/2019/Mersha)

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

Janice Kim and Pauline Rose, UKFIET, 4 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. This article highlights the challenges of distance education for early childhood level, where there are wide inequalities by household wealth and urban-rural locations.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: RISE Programme, Ethiopia)

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

Dawit Tibebu Tiruneh, UKFIET, 21 April 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic could have a lasting impact on increasing inequality in low-income countries such as Ethiopia. This blog 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: Education Partnerships Group)

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

Julie Bélanger, UKFIET, 17 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. This blog discusses how this has required so much pivoting that it is not surprising that we are all feeling somewhat dizzy… It outlines three key areas: learning from the evidence, governments adapting quickly and knowledge sharing in a time of global crisis.

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Empty classroom
Photo credit: creative commons licensed (CC) Flickr photo by tmorkemo

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

Ricardo Sabates, UKFIET, 16 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.

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Empty classroom
(Photo credit: GPE/Livia Barton)

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

Pauline Rose, UKFIET, 7 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.

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