Education and knowledge

Classroom tent with students, image courtesy of Caroling Dyer

Education that promotes resilience, well-being and sustainable development among ‘left behind’ communities is central to global development that promotes well-being and values social diversity, and to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4 and 10. Global development policy targets equitable learner participation and achievement, yet low learning outcomes and stark learning inequalities are entrenched and persistent. Our research examines the dynamics of education and social inclusion, focusing on highly marginalised communities and especially, people who practise livelihood-related mobility.

Case studies:

Researching Accountability in the Indian System of Education (RAISE)

RAISE focuses on improving learning outcomes for 'disadvantaged learners' in India. These learners are children of primary school age who are disadvantaged by a range of structural inequalities, which are often cross-cutting, such as gender, location, caste, and class. RAISE views accountability as systemic and relational: learning outcomes of these children are shaped by the particular norms and interests, modes of participation and regulatory roles of multiple system actors. It takes key quality and equity provisions in India's Right to Education Act (RTE) and examines how these are taken up in different ways, and with respect to differing understandings of education quality and equity held by actors across four system scales: home, community, school, and bureaucracy. It examines both the formal rule-based relations of these system actors, and the informal, everyday practices of accountability - all of which bear significantly on progress towards policy goals, yet are so far poorly understood.

The project’s field sites are in Bihar and Rajasthan. It takes two districts per State, and within each District, two purposively selected blocks which include government, private and large scale 'alternative' provision. The study design follows a sequential mixed methods approach, beginning with qualitative investigation. It uses an innovative process tracing approach, anchored in the sample schools, to track how specific policy initiatives stemming from RTE directives are understood by multiple actors across the four system scales. This enables the study to identify how their practical actions converge and diverge with goals for learning - as understood both by the RTE and these actors - and the impact on children's learning outcomes.

The project brings together academics at the Universities of Leeds and Cambridge with NGO-based researchers: it is hosted by Vidya Bhawan in Udaipur, and works closely with CSEI. The RAISE approach to analysing multi-scalar accountability relations will challenge existing understandings of systemic reform, and provide empirical knowledge and tools with direct application for improving quality and equity in elementary education in India.

PI: Professor Caroline Dyer.

Co-I: Dr Suraj Jacob, Dr Rahul Mukhopadyay, Dr Arathi Sriprakash.

Funded by ESRC-DFID under the Improving Learning Outcomes scheme. Award no: ES/P005802/1. Original title: Making the elementary schooling system in India work for disadvantaged learners: a cross-scalar comparative study of accountability relations.

Education inclusion among mobile and marginalised communities 

Children in families who practise livelihood-related mobility are disproportionally highly represented among those who are out of school or never likely to enrol. These are children who have been ‘left behind’ by the global Education For All movement.

Civil society programming is very valuable in attempting to address this exclusion, yet there is a paucity of conceptually rigorous, comprehensive evidence about successful practitioner approaches to educating mobile children. This Knowledge Exchange Fellowship joins up academic and practitioner knowledge of challenges and innovative practices via two INGO partners: Save the Children (International) and World Vision (India).

The partnership with Save the Children focuses on highly deprived children, especially girls, in dryland regions in the Horn of Africa, particularly Ethiopia. In these regions, mobile pastoralism is the dominant occupation. Children in pastoralist communities are among the last 10% out of school, and are over-represented among those who drop out or fail to transition to higher grades. Save is developing innovative approaches to education inclusion, such as networked schooling, for these children. The partnership with World Vision focuses on education and social inclusion among those who undertake distress / seasonal migration in India. The KEF brings academic and practitioner expertise together, enabling us to contribute the global evidence base of effective, sustainable approaches to enabling sustained education participation for these children.

This project is sponsored by the Leeds Social Sciences Impact Acceleration Account in association with the ESRC.

PI: Professor Caroline Dyer (University of Leeds)

Co-I: Emily Echessa (Save the Children International)

School specialists include:

Professor Caroline Dyer

Dr Lata Narayanaswamy