Creative to address vulnerable learners, literacy & more at global education summit

By Jillian Slutzker

March 2, 2016

More than 2,500 education experts from over 100 countries will gather at the 60th annual Comparative and International Education Society conference to address some of the most pressing challenges in education today, from reaching learners in the midst of conflict to keeping students in school.

Creative’s experts will moderate or speak on nine conference panels, sharing insights from ongoing and recently completed research and programming—including case studies on preventing learning loss in conflict zones like Yemen and Nigeria, efforts to improve reading across subject areas, and findings from a five-year, four-country impact assessment on dropout prevention methods.

“What I find most gratifying about each of our panelists and their presentations is that they invariably leave you thinking in new ways about the challenges we encounter and the opportunities we can leverage in international education,” says Sylvia Ellison, Senior Education Associate and Business Development Director at Creative.

Creative’s education experts and a recruiter will also be on hand at the organization’s exhibit and at events throughout the conference, which will feature more than 600 presentations, discussions, networking opportunities and more from March 6 through March 10 in Vancouver, Canada.

This year’s theme, “Taking Stock and Looking Forward,” is a key reminder, says Ellison, to educators, policymakers and implementers of the importance of learning from best practices, collective experience and research and using that to set the agenda to achieve global education goals.

For a full schedule of Creative’s panels, including times and panelists, click here.

Reaching the most marginalized, preventing learning loss

Insurgent violence has wreaked havoc in Nigeria, displacing 2.2 million people, including children. USAID’s Education Crisis Response program gives those children the chance to continue their education and receive critical psychosocial support through community based non-formal learning centers. Photo by David Snyder.

With the number of global humanitarian emergencies spiking, millions of children are out of school, sometimes for weeks and even for years at a time. Emergency-induced interrupted education means that learning loss is seemingly inevitable.

Creative’s Director of Education in Conflict, Eileen St. George, Ph.D., will chair a panel on Preventing Learning Loss during Emergencies and Conflict, which will examine case studies from Yemen, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Nigeria.

“A gap or interruption in schooling is only a small portion of the story on learning loss. During emergencies the risk is compounded by traumatic events that threaten the psychosocial wellbeing of a child, which has been shown to have an influence on cognitive functioning,” says St. George.

Joining St. George on the panel will be three Creative colleagues, Education Technical Manager Maryam Jillani and Senior Associate in Instructional Systems and Governance Fathi El Ashry, who will address a recent survey Creative conducted with educators in Yemen, and Helen John of the Nigeria Education Crisis Response Program, who will share results from the project.

Creative’s panelists will be joined by experts from the International Rescue Committee, who will present findings from Sierra Leone and Pakistan.

In times of crisis and conflict, already marginalized groups, such as ethnic minorities, children with disabilities or displaced children and youth  of both genders who have experienced trauma, are doubly at risk. They are more likely to fall through the cracks and less likely to access the educational and psychosocial support they need. Educational programming must be ever more inclusive in its approach to reach these most vulnerable and marginalized learners, say experts.

Creative’s Semere Solomon, Senior Director of Africa Strategy, will present on a panel entitled, “Mind the Gap: Providing educational opportunities to the most marginalized.”  Jane Wood, Technical Director in Education and Conflict, will serve as a discussant.

Solomon will share outcomes from Creative’s Nigeria Education Crisis Response program, which is providing psychosocial support, alongside quality non-formal education to internally displaced children, including children with disabilities.

A separate Creative-moderated panel, chaired by Susan Rogers, Senior Associate for Monitoring and Evaluation, will examine the latest innovations in assessing, monitoring and evaluating learning during times of conflict and crisis.

Literacy from early grades to graduation

Early grade reading provides the building blocks for success later in life, but literacy and comprehension are equally critical after primary school, say experts. Photo courtesy of the Pakistan Reading Project.

While literacy rates have improved globally in the last six decades since CIES began, 126 million youth ages 15 to 24 around the world today are still unable read or write, according to UNESCO. Women and girls, and children in Sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia suffer disproportionately from illiteracy.

Literacy unlocks economic and social opportunity for individuals and communities. Building a solid base for fluency in reading and writing early on is critical, say experts, as early reading success is a predictor of later educational achievement.

But educators should also not ignore the importance of incorporating critical reading and comprehension skills into subject areas as students move up into secondary grades.

Creative will present two panels addressing best practices in reading education throughout the life of a student—called “What Happens Next after Success in Early Grade Reading?” and “Reading to learn: Improving subject area teaching,” which will examine findings from Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania.

The “Reading to learn” panel will present findings from an impact study of pre-service and in-service teacher training in Pakistan; lessons learned in building teacher capacity to incorporate reading strategies across curriculum in Tanzania; and approaches to improving middle school reading instruction in Morocco.

“All three presentations underscore how difficult it is to address reading issues after the early grades when student encounter more difficult content area text,” says Diane Prouty, a Senior Educational Researcher at Creative, who will moderate the panel.

The panel on reading interventions after the early grades—moderated by Jeffrey Coupe, Senior Associate in Education in Conflict—will present a holistic perspective on the development and socialization of adolescent learners as related to reading.

Addressing dropout from early warning to community engagement

Chronic absenteeism puts students at-risk of dropout. In Cambodia, educators and the government developed in-school computer labs as part of a series of intervention to keep students interested in school through the USAID School Dropout Prevention Pilot. Photo by Chris McMorrow.

Globally, 124 million children and adolescents are out of school, according to UNESCO, which amounts to 1 in 11 children and 1 in 6 adolescents worldwide. While universal primary school enrollment has been a target for many developing countries in the last fifteen years, less attention has been paid to keeping students engaged in learning and preventing dropout.

“Dropout is a growing global problem that affects the success of all education programs. It is more effective and less costly to prevent dropout than to establish special programs for dropouts.” says Karen Tietjen, Technical Director of Creative’s Education for Development Division and Principal Investigator for the USAID School Dropout Prevention Pilot Program, which Creative carried out in Cambodia, India, Tajikistan and Timor-Leste.

Tietjen will moderate a panel called “Addressing dropout:  Measurement, causes, strategies and impact.” She will be joined by colleague Diane Prouty and experts from Education Development Center, International Rescue Committee, International Youth Foundation and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

Tietjen will present findings from the five-year, four-country assessment, which included a low-cost early warning system that identifies at-risk students and enhances schools’ capacity to respond to their needs in partnership with families and communities, who are motivated and informed through open houses, home visits, phone calls and other outreach.

Early warning is critical, says Tietjen, as dropout can be predicted by “a few key behaviors that are easy to track, and can be integrated into routine teacher activities.”

Tracking these behaviors and maintaining close contact with families about their child’s progress are “highly effective in improving dropout and dropout-related behaviors,” she says.

The panel will also delve deeper into underlying push and pull factors behind school dropout and targeted strategies to engage the community to support attendance and make in- and out-of-classroom learning more engaging.

Data presented previously at the USAID and Creative School Dropout Prevention Summit showed that these interventions, together with country-specific enrichment activities, were successful in boosting attendance in three of the four countries, and in lowering the dropout rate among at-risk students by 11.3 percent in Cambodia.

Tools, resources and online courses derived from the School Dropout Prevention Pilot Program are available through an online dropout prevention learning lab, where users have virtual discussions and exchange best practices.

Tietjen says the donors and ministries of education need a deeper understanding of this research and the impact study methods in order to understand the results and support the process.

For a full schedule of Creative’s panels, including times and panelists, click here.

Creative’s experts will present on the following hot topics in education:

  1. Lessons in Multi-Risk and Education Analysis for Crisis and Conflict-Affected Environments
  2. What Happens Next after Success in Early Grade Reading?
  3. MOOCs and online education: What model for developing countries?
  4. How learning happens (or not) in conflict and crisis settings through innovations in assess­ment, monitoring & evaluation
  5. Addressing dropout: Measurement, causes, strategies and impact
  6. Preventing learning loss during emergencies and conflict: Case studies from Yemen, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Nigeria
  7. Mind the gap: Providing educational opportunities to the most marginalized
  8. Reading to learn: Improving subject area teaching–a three-country overview
  9. Better “M” for better “E”: How can monitoring data inform evidence building?

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