SUMMER RESEARCH PROGRAM 2022
REVISITING 21st CENTURY DISCOURSES
Education for the 21st century recognizes that we are living through a period of rapid change to which education systems need to constantly respond. This entails equipping the students and the coming generations with the skillsets in view of the changing needs of the society and the labor market. This at length also demands understanding the science of learning to better comprehend and develop educational relevance, enable inter-disciplinary transfer of knowledge, and nurture the ability of the students to become lifelong independent learners.
This central emphasis on education defines its significance to development and to the improvement of human lives, including young people, globally. Therefore, education has almost always been identified as a priority area in internationally agreed development goals, such as SDG 2030 agenda. Undoubtedly, education is important in eradicating poverty and hunger and in promoting sustained, inclusive, and equitable economic growth. Increased efforts towards education accessibility, quality and affordability are, therefore, central to global development efforts.
With the growing emphasis on the 21st century skillset, it is unfortunate that almost 400 million children globally cannot read. This amounts to nearly half the children in developing countries whose enrolment in schools is not translating into the development of their foundational skills. The magnitude of this problem urged UNESCO in 2013 to declare the situation as a global learning crisis. Similarly, the World Bank recently introduced a Learning Poverty Index to measure the ability of the children to read a simple sentence by the age of 10. Although this learning crisis is a global issue in its manifestation, its intensity varies across countries.
Over the past 200 years, the world at large has achieved unprecedented levels of student enrolment across all levels of education. David P. Baker explains this phenomenon as a “schooled society”. However, the focus on enrolment has come at the expense of quality education evident by students’ compromised learning. This is particularly alarming in Asia and Africa, where students spend 4 or 5 years in primary education and still lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. Many children begin to fall behind on learning by Grade 3 before they even master foundational skills, which makes it highly unlikely for them to catch up later.
The challenge is later also manifested in high youth unemployment as well which is affecting almost 68 million young people around the world with almost 13.8%youth unemployment rate. According to World Economic Forum, youth employment around the world in 2020 dropped by further 8.7% due to Covid-19.
With 21st century expectations on one hand, along with the baggage of substandard current education systems and colonial institutional history (in some cases), provision of quality education requires attentions to various constituents. These constituting elements entail curriculum, pedagogy, teacher qualification, school environment, assessments, students’ readiness to learn and broader aspects of governance, conflicts, human geography, and international relations.
In view of the pressing challenges facing education across all levels, policy makers need to consider more players to rework and re-configure their policy networks for effective policy making and execution. One such potential group is young advocates and change makers who need to be taken on board to understand educational crises and spearhead change for sustainable human progress.
The year 2022 marks the 4th year of the International Summer Research Program. Along with the regular Summer Research Program activities that entail collaborative transitional research, panel talks, discussions, timed deliverables among others, this year also marks a formal transition of the YCR to engage with organizations on ground to advise their work through research. YCR has collaborated with the Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi) based in Nigeria for SRP 2022 to undertake joint research across certain thematic areas.
Researchers will be expected to work on one of the following sub-themes for this year.
- Education & Technology
- Equitable Education & Gender Parity
- Decolonizing Universities
- Education & Conflict
- Learning Poverty & 21st Century Expectations
- Geographies of Education
Education & Technology
There are diverse factors that enable and hinder the use of technology in education for social justice and learning equity. This includes policies, government leadership, private-sector partnerships, and digital infrastructure for education. In low-and-middle-income countries, there is either weak or non-existent technology for education policies which hinders the adoption or use of technologies within mainstream education systems. However, policies related to technology use in education change and evolve over time, often along a somewhat predictable path. Such policies take different forms and are formulated and proposed by different institutions in different countries. No matter the country, a lack of rigorous, relevant evidence typically complicates attempts to draft impactful ICT/education policies. To navigate and ensure countries can leverage the transformative potential of digital technologies in advancing educational aspirations, there is a continuous need to explore and review its ICT in education policies and the related themes. Evidently, eight policy themes are commonly identified in educational technology policies around the world. These relate to (1) vision and planning; (2) ICT infrastructure; (3) teachers; (4) skills and competencies; (5) learning resources; (6) EMIS; (7) monitoring and evaluation; and (8) equity, inclusion, and safety. Four stages of policy development can be identified related to each of these themes. As a matter of urgency, there is a need for a political economy analysis of EdTech policy design and implementation processes, incentives, and factors within the Nigerian context.
Researchers under this theme shall work on a defined research project proposed by a partner organization in Nigeria
EQUITABLE EDUCATION & GENDER PARITY
Gender inequalities in mobile internet access and usage of digital technologies for learning have a profound impact on global development, especially in education. Within the current global education discourse, the need to close gendered digital access, skills gaps, and girls’ access to safe and relevant online learning continue to gain momentum as a key priority area. In the face of an ongoing global transition to online learning, adolescent girls and young female adults in developing contexts tend to be left behind due to their inability to access or operate a range of mobile education technologies. According to N. Jones et al. 2021, girls’ inability to operate a computer-based tool or access the internet for learning or other information purposes due to the apparent skills gap remains a critical barrier to online learning during and after the COVID19 pandemic. This growing digital skills gender gap has enormous implications for the gains made on gender parity over the last decades. Digital inclusion and literacy open new avenues to learning, earning, and leading for girls, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the pandemic has also deepened the gender divide around connectivity and online safety, with girls facing economic and social barriers to the internet and device access. As the provision of digital skills continues to gain attention as a priority area, there is much-needed evidence to justify the significance of such interventions or programs on the learning outcomes of girls. However, it is important to also consider the negative implications of technological interventions if any.
Researchers under this theme shall work on a defined research project proposed by a partner organization in Nigeria
EDUCATION & CONFLICT
Increasing violent conflicts and their associated socio-economic costs have posed additional challenges for the international community and their development goals. In this regard, development cooperation is shifting from traditional approaches of crisis prevention to education-centered interventions as a means to promote collective peace and build resilient communities. Education in emergency has therefore become a defining constituent in international structure.
The situation for Education in emergency can arise from violent armed conflicts, civil wars or natural catastrophes. These can result in the destruction of key infrastructures; emergence of extreme poverty, hunger and massive human displacements consequently requiring rigorous humanitarian assistance. The conundrum remains that incorporating education as the primary means to mitigate the humanitarian crisis is more likely to be confined to national and international policy guidelines and very little action-oriented decision making is yet to be seen especially by the state actors. The contemporary traditional and non-traditional security threats in global arena make integrating education in emergency situations more imperative than ever before.
Education in conflicts contributes significantly in catering the physical and psychological trauma children and adolescents are harshly exposed to. Similarly, education for youth, being the most eminent stakeholders in circumventing any humanitarian disaster, results in catering other forms of crisis such as HIV/AIDS, stemming as spiral impacts of emergency situations. Though many scholars emphasize on education as a key principle for enduring peace and reaching the full potential of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR), other scholars and analysts remain critical to such generalization. Therefore, where education in emergency situations can serve as a tool for conflict resolution and crisis management, it can also aggravate the already worsening humanitarian crisis and exacerbate the pre-existing inequalities. Moreover, the lack of evaluation regarding the impact of education emergency in post war scenario marks a blatant disregard of its indispensability along with the questions related to the links between emergency and education. It is interpreted that emergency situations fuel educational crisis, but if analysed more keenly, the case can also be taken otherwise.
DECOLONIZING WESTREN UNIVERSITIES
“Decolonizing” is a term with varied meanings. In terms of universities, and the epistemological legacies of colonialism juxtaposing with injustices and barriers to education and inclusive pedagogy, decolonizing simply means re-examining and re-structuring the curriculum; to have a deeper look at the way we are taught and what we are taught. As Bhambra et al. (2018) argues that “decoloniz[ing] the university [means] giving a platform to otherwise silenced ‘decolonial’ work and offering a resource for students and academics looking to challenge and undo forms of coloniality in their classrooms, curricula, and campuses.” The western universities need to include in the curriculum a greater representation of non-White teachers, especially when discussing an issue of the Global South. Introducing diverse perspectives and viewpoints will hugely impact the race dynamics in a bias Eurocentric designed curriculum. As such, plurality in approaches and scholarly enquiry in an anti-colonial atmosphere will bring in broader production of knowledge and contribution to academics.
Universities were the main hotspots for the so-called colonial anthropologists to document their study of different cultures and communities across the world. It was an important site where racialized knowledge about the “Other” was produced and naturalized. This understanding of the “Other” spread far and beyond, giving it a biased identity. In the 1978 book Orientalism, Edward Said talks about how the Western idea of the Orient was socially constructed and produced through literature, art, tropes, academic writing; decades later, this textbook cannot be more relevant with greater attention given to White readings in the curricula. Why is it that even in the 21st century we are struggling to understand the importance of inclusivity and diversity at university level?
Learning Poverty & Twenty-First Century Expectations
According to the World Bank, all children should be able to read by age 10. Reading is a gateway for learning as the child progresses through school. Inability to read indicates that school systems aren’t well organized or equipped to help children learn in other areas such as math, science, and the humanities. And although it is possible to learn later in life with enough effort, children who don’t read by age 10 – or at the latest, by the end of primary school – usually fail to master reading later in their schooling career.
In recent years, it has become clear that many children around the world are not learning to read proficiently. Even though most children are in school, a large proportion are not acquiring fundamental skills. Moreover, 260 million children are not even in school. This is the leading edge of a learning crisis that threatens countries’ efforts to build human capital and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In view of this learning crisis and the 21st century expectations that demand responsiveness to constantly changing environment. Without foundational learning, students often fail to thrive later in school or when they join the workforce. They don’t acquire the human capital they need to power their careers and economies once they leave school, or the skills that will help them become engaged citizens and nurture healthy, prosperous families. As a major contributor to human capital deficits, the learning crisis undermines sustainable growth and poverty reduction.
In view of this impending challenge and since this age group is feeds into youth population, it is pertinent to understand the role of young people in addressing learning poverty in relation to twenty-first century expectations.
Geographies of Education
The “geography of education” falls under the broader ambit of human geography. Early scholarship in this area during the 1970s and onwards was primarily concerned with a number of key perspectives: social and spatial inequalities in access to education, differential outcomes for children of different social backgrounds, and the relationship between education, spatial inequalities, and social exclusion. Formal education is often viewed as a potential enabler of social mobility, but, for various underlying (geographical) reasons access to educational opportunities for the children of working-class and middle-class households was far from equal. Since around 2000, “geographies of education” has emerged as a vibrant and diverse field of inquiry. It now encompasses an increasingly broad range of interests, from social reproduction to critical pedagogies, neoliberal economic restructuring, and student mobilities. In some ways, “geographies of education” aligns itself with an older subdiscipline of sociology of education, and yet in other ways it is quite distinct. Above all, research on geographies of education is interested in education from a geographical perspective. It recognizes that educational processes – from opportunities to outcomes – unfurl over space, differentially and relationally, with differential outcomes for individuals and groups. Some scholars researching the geographies of education explicitly align themselves with work on “children’s” or “young people’s” geographies, whereas others consider different subdisciplines, such as economic or urban geography.