Influencing education in international development settings

Vumilia walks 10 km to school (credit: CAMFED/P. Hayes)

Research by Cambridge’s REAL (Research for Equitable Access and Learning) Centre has led to a shift in global policy and funding priorities towards supporting education from the early years and for children disadvantaged by poverty, gender, disability and location.

Evidence gathered by the REAL Centre highlighted that children from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, including the poorest girls and children with disabilities, face serious risk of not completing primary school. Even for those who do make it through primary school, many are not learning the basics in literacy and numeracy, and targeted approaches are needed to give them the opportunity to transition to secondary school.

The REAL Centre’s approach places engagement with policymakers and aid agencies at the heart of its research priorities. Working in partnership with organisations and individuals in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, they have helped define, plan, implement and analyse to inform policy and aid commitment decisions.

As a result of research findings on educational access and learning, the REAL Centre has secured aid commitments notably by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (formerly the UK Department for International Development, DFID).

Specifically, the REAL Centre’s work has influenced DFID’s 2018 Education Policy and investment, including £20.5 million on research to inform early childhood education programming and £500 million to reach 1.9m marginalised girls; successfully campaigned for a Sustainable Development Goal indicator on minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics; shaped global advocacy on education for children with disabilities; prompted the government in Ghana to commit 1% of its education budget to a Complementary Basic Education programme affecting 450,000 children; and enabled CAMFED in Tanzania to raise £18 million in funding to support 51,100 marginalised children in secondary school, particularly girls.

“REAL Centre evidence pressed us to focus on tackling the learning crisis for the early years by supporting the most disadvantaged children to learn the basics of literacy and numeracy. This is one of DFID’s key contributions to achieving the vision set out in Sustainable Development Goal 4 of inclusive and equitable education and lifelong opportunities for all.”

– Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Development