USAID Education in Crisis and Conflict Network (ECCN) Support Team members attended several events surrounding the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in New York this week. Below, ECCNs new Senior Researcher Colette Chabbott details her experience at the Dubai Cares and INEE event on September 20, 2016.

Despite a very early morning start, attendance was encouraging and energy was evident at the launch of a new $10 million E3 research initiative, Identifying and Addressing Evidence Gaps: A New Research Envelope for the Field of Education in Emergencies (E3), in NYC on September 20.  At a breakfast hosted by the initiative’s sponsors, Dubai Cares and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), Dubai Cares announced that it will set aside at least 10% of all its funding for education in emergencies towards research.  Here are a few takeaways from the organizations who gathered to endorse the initiative:

  • Justin van Fleet, UN Special Envoy for Global Education, fresh from launching the Report on Financing Global Education Opportunity and the launch of the Education Cannot Wait global fund for emergency education, was just one among a dozen partners arguing that better research and evidence are critical in efforts to raise the hundreds of millions more dollars necessary to ensure 800 million children and youth don’t grow up illiterate.
  • Sarah Smith, Senior Director, Child and Youth Protection and Development for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) announced Dubai Cares funding for the inception phase of a multi-year , “Education in Emergencies: Evidence for Action” (3EA) initiative with NY University’s Global TIES for Children aimed at improving the quality of education and children’s learning and well-being in crisis-affected countries. Sarah reported that a recent literature search revealed less than 20 “rigorous” evaluations of emergency education activities. She argued that all studies of emergency education need to incorporate not just reading and mathematics, but also to social and emotional learning (SEL).
  • Ann Scowcroft, Technical Advisor to UNHCR, talked about the “data gaps” that led UNHCR to collaborate with the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) and that efforts to address “evidence gaps” around what works in emergency education will drive their ongoing efforts.
  • Carina Omoeva, Director, EPCD with FHI360, discussed FHI360 and Save the Children’s collaboration with UNICEF and other organizations on research addressing the relationship between conflict and socio-economic inequity, particularly in education. In addition, she detailed how the work of the Equity Initiative will move research in this area further forward.
  • Jo Bourne of UNICEF highlighted the potential of the Humanitarian Education Accelerator to spread successful innovations.
  • On a similar note, Tarald Brautaset, effectively Norway’s Ambassador to the Global Education Commission, suggested that the emergency education community needed a high profile international journal, such as the Lancet in health, to showcase and share what works in emergency education.
  • Dana Burde of New York University followed on with a reminder that this is precisely what INEE’s Journal on Education in Emergencies aims to do.

As someone who has been championing more and different types of education research in international development for over a decade, this was all pretty heady stuff.  Several speakers also echoed some concerns that resonated with my experience to date in international development—for example, where are the cost-effectiveness analyses?  Where are our tried and true methods for scaling up?  And where are our methods for testing them?  A randomized controlled trial (RCT), as others have pointed out, is a very expensive sample of one, specific to one context and time until it can be put together with a batch of similarly designed and executed RCTs.  By definition, most of our education work in crisis and conflict is highly context-specific, and relatively small-scale; and even setting aside 10% of all emergency education resources for research will not fund many rigorous RCTs.  At its upcoming board meeting, staff will recommend that GPE devote 5% of its resources—about US$ 100 million annually—to knowledge and good practice and some portion of that to countries in conflict and crisis.  Are we ready with substantial proposals for research beyond RCTs ?

Colette Chabbott joined the ECCN Support Team this month as senior researcher.



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