Rising inequality is one of the greatest challenges facing the global community today – and equity is rightly at the heart of the new development agenda, reflected in the Sustainable Development Goals and the Education 2030 Incheon Declaration. Nowhere is the challenge of equity more salient than in education, with its potential to positively shape life outcomes – or further exacerbate societal disparities.
How prepared are we in the education community to address this challenge? Do we have the right tools, metrics, and interventions to track our progress in educational equity? While we have gathered gender-disaggregated data for decades, our collective practice in tracking equity across other dimensions has been far from deliberate. Just as quality proved a blind spot in the early years of the previous goals period, there is a risk that inequality in education outcomes and resources will go unmeasured, unreported, and unaddressed. Without attention to equity now, we may soon find ourselves scrambling to address the equity gap, just as we scrambled to address the learning gap that emerged under the focus on access.
In most cases, our programs are general treatments, without specific regard for the inequities that may be inherent in schools and communities where we focus our efforts. And in project after project, site after site, we see a common dynamic playing out – while outcomes improve for many children, there remain a persistent, significant percentage of students who remain vastly behind. These findings compel us to move beyond one-size-fits-all approaches to addressing the learning crisis and towards more equitable strategies that recognize the particular needs of individual children. But who are these children and how can we best capture and respond to their needs?
These questions provide the impetus for the new Education Equity Research Initiative, a new collaborative partnership formed by FHI 360, Save the Children, UNICEF, World Vision, RESULTS Educational Fund, USAID ECCN and other organizations and individuals. These partners have come together with the common objective of advancing research to inform policy and programming on the effective ways of strengthening equity in and through education systems.
In order to more effectively address equity in education, our initiative will contribute to building a stronger knowledge and evidence base on the root causes, institutional drivers, and effects of inequality in education; as well as on effective solutions for improving equality in educational participation and learning. Working collaboratively, the research initiative partners will develop common measurement frameworks, tackle known data gaps and under-researched equity issues and dimensions, and develop and test hypotheses for strengthening equity. In collaboration with USAID ECCN, a dedicated work stream will consider the specific context and demands of crisis- and conflict-affected countries.
Through dialogue and sharing, our work will improve both data and solutions, and help maintain the focus on equity in education in the post-2015 global development agenda.
Attending CIES? Learn more about the challenges of measuring equity at the panel, Evaluating Education in Conflict and Crisis-Affected Regions: Challenges, Opportunities, and Lessons Learned (Wednesday, March 9, 9:45AM-11:15AM, Room 761). USAID ECCN recently launched a CIES Event page where you can access information about USAID ECCN hosted presentations and featured member organization presentations.
Carina Omoeva is Director for Research and Evaluation, Global Education with FHI 360.
Eric Eversmann is the Senior Director for Basic Education with Save the Children.