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Education and Youth Empowerment

Quality and Access to Basic Education

The Center, as one of a handful of institutions conducting research on education in sub-Saharan Africa, has made substantive contributions to the understanding barriers to schooling, quality in teaching, and measurement of
learning outcomes – especially among poor and marginalized populations in both urban and rural East Africa. Intervention models piloted during the last strategic period looked to improve retention of adolescent girls and boys in school and to encourage transition to secondary school among some of the populations most vulnerable to discontinued schooling: residents of urban slums.

There are, however, huge gaps that remain in understanding the role of quality education in meeting the development challenges confronting sub-Saharan Africa, and the extent to which education, vocational training and skills building can contribute to substantive and quality human capital to deliver on the promise of a demographic dividend. We need better understanding of what is needed to build the necessary human capital in order to fully
harness the potential of Africa’s young people to meet development goals. This calls for a broadening of the research agenda beyond basic formal education to other forms of training aimed to build the skills of young people as they prepare for the world of work.

The overarching goal of this Unit is to generate evidence that will promote stronger, more inclusive education systems across Africa, in three programmatic areas:

The signature issue for this Unit is understanding how to make Africa’s education systems more inclusive and equitable. We will seek to consolidate evidence on access to schooling and quality of learning among marginalized populations and explore the influences of management and administrative practices in schools. This includes developing and evaluating interventions and instructional approaches for improving quality and learning outcomes.

The unit will also aim to understand pathways to productive human capital in Africa by examining structural enablers in the transition from education and training to the world of work for youth, and the match (or mismatch)
between skills required in the labor market and skills output from existing education systems.

The third program of work will examine the alignment of education policies to national development goals. This will entail an analysis of education policies in sub-Saharan African countries for concurrence, contradictions, duplications and overlaps, and relevance to national and global development goals. Working with the Research Capacity Strengthening division, this program will also examine the role and contribution of higher education to
national development in Africa.

Featured Project

From research to practice: Enabling caregivers in low-income communities to make a difference in the first three years

Program: Education and Youth Empowerment

The first 1000 days of life are a critical period to supporting optimal growth and development as children are particularly sensitive to early experiences. One of these early experiences, parenting behaviour, should ideally be typified by the universal components of sensitivity and responsivity. However, in many urban informal settlements, the most salient poverty-related challenge that parents face is the provision of appropriate stimulation of their children. And yet inadequate stimulation is one of the most modifiable risk factors.

Past interventions in informal settlements in Kenya have mainly been targeted at improving nutritional status and provision of primary and other health care services among under-fives. This study will therefore address the gap illustrating the extent to which current caregiver-child interaction activities can provide the basis of a child stimulation package.

Secondly, we will test the stimulation package for its ability to enhance caregivers’ interactions with their young children in ways that will improve developmental outcomes. A sequential mixed-methods research strategy will be used where qualitative data will inform the design of a stimulation package that will be quantitatively tested. Using a randomized controlled design, we will assign each of two groups of caregiver-child dyads into either the intervention or a waitlist control group during the implementation phase. Documenting family-specific interactions to inform the content and process of a child stimulation package is an important innovation that enhances the significance of the current study for the field of early childhood development.

The study duration of the entire project is nine months, including a one-month development phase and a twelve-week randomized implementation phase.

Project Period: 

June 2016 to August 2017

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