The Jacobs Foundation presents the Klaus J. Jacobs Prizes every two years to trailblazers who are seeking to find evidence-based solutions for education’s greatest challenges. Annie Brookman Byrne, in this series of interviews, meets the finalists for the 2022 awards. Annie speaks to Mya Gordon from Save the Children in part 9.
Annie Brookman Byrne: What is the greatest challenge facing children today around the globe?
Mya Gordon: There are three major challenges. The first is the impact of COVID-19 on learning. In extreme cases such as Uganda and the Philippines, schools closed for two full years.
Conflict and its aftermath are another problem. Half of those living in extreme poverty reside in fragile and conflict-affected states. Conflict and insecurity undermine education and hinder long-term investments in schools.
More extreme weather events fuel humanitarian crises, and children’s education is disrupted.
Climate change is the last thing to mention. Extreme weather events fuel humanitarian crises, and children are unable to access education.
ABB: How do you see the future of education?
MG: I want children to have the right to education and to receive a high-quality, inclusive basic education. Children, parents, leaders, and community volunteers are all working together to make schools hubs of learning and support. No child is left behind when the lessons are too difficult or when poverty di, discrimination di, disease, or violence interrupts education. Children love clubs that are a complement to formal education and enjoy taking an active part in their education.
ABB: What is Save The Children doing to help children affected by COVID-19?
Other solutions needed for ABB?
The national governments, as well as multilateral agencies such as the UN, should intensify their efforts to support catch-up education and to provide support in this area. This can be done through cash assistance and vouchers, school meals, and child protection. The children will be able to go back to school and maintain regular attendance as well as catch up on their learning. Catch-up Clubs are a vital tool for governments, other actors, and the general public. We need to collect better evidence to convince governments to adopt this model.
National governments and multilateral agencies such as UN agencies must increase their efforts to promote catch-up learning.
ABB: From which of the other Best Practice Prize Finalists would you like to learn?
MG: The range of organizations among the finalists has me very impressed. I’m excited to see smaller organizations that have strong connections with the Global South. We are interested in learning from Youth Impact, a youth-led movement that is evidence-based and grassroots. We want to learn more about how they use research for innovation and quality improvement.
Mya Gordy is a researcher and educator who has extensive experience in the evaluation of programs in Tanzania, Uganda, and South Sudan. She currently coordinates education research and assessment at Save the Children International. She has a Master’s in Social Anthropology of Development. Her special interest is in applying social analysis to better programming and advocacy. She currently leads evaluation and research work for the Catch-up Clubs.
EB: It is exciting to learn more about how children absorb abstract social ideas. Many negative stereotypes surround the academic ability of children who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Little is known about their origins or consequences. I’m interested in how stereotypes are formed, how they appear in the classroom, and how they affect children’s self-perceptions.
Eddie Brummelman Is an Associate Professor at The University of Amsterdam. He is a Jacobs Foundation Fellow for 2021-2023 and a member of The Young Academy of The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Brummelman’s work lies at the intersection between developmental psychology and education science. He is interested in the development of self-views: how they shape children’s mental health and education outcomes and how interventions that focus on self-views help at-risk kids flourish. Brummelman’s goal is to use basic science to solve social problems, such as the increasing problem of inequalities in education.
This interview has been edited to make it clearer.