The world lacks enough investment in driving an evidence-based education policy, Dubai Cares CEO Tareq Al Gurg has said.
In an interview with Gulf News, Al Gurg said education authorities and organisations, in general, don't invest enough in evidence-building, which can lead to failed outcomes. He added donors funding education programmes and governments implementing reforms won't have "buy in” without proof the interventions work.
Dubai Cares, a UAE-based philanthropic organisation working to improve children's access to quality primary education in developing countries, had raised the issue in May at the UN-hosted World Education Forum 2015 in South Korea.
Al Gurg said during the interview in Dubai that some governments and NGOs do invest in building a body of evidence to set policy or launch intervention programmes, but those are in the minority.
He warned that programmes based on weak evidence base risked failure.
"The question is, are the current players who are investing in research to collect evidence, and investing and monitoring and evaluation [of policy] — are we enough? Is the amount of evidence extracted from all the investments enough? The answer is no,” Al Gurg said.
"We don't have enough evidence, we don't have enough players. What we have to do is get more accurate data, more accurate evidence. And the only way to do that is to have, as the utmost [priority] of donors in education, investment in monitoring and evaluation and research… Then you would know what [education] models to work with, then you will go and test the right models.”
However, many education authorities and NGOs simply fail to recognise the value of evidence-driven policy or don't specifically plan and budget for it. Examples of evidence-building and impact evaluation include randomised controlled trials, field visits, interviews and surveys, among other methods.
"The problem is a lot of organisations don't realise this. And what I mentioned there [in South Korea] — and I raised my hand — is that my dream is to have all the education donors around the world have two budget line items added to their budget plans: One which says ‘monitoring' and ‘evaluation' and one which says ‘research'. If we have all the education donors having those two items added, imagine the amount of information that we can gather. You will ask me, ‘what is your end game?'”
The end game, Al Gurg said, is "number one, increasing [student] enrolment rates and stabilising retention rates. Number two, cost-effective programming — saving money basically. Number three, better learning outcomes, that means quality in education. Those are the ‘Return on Investment' that you will get [with evidence-based education programmes]”.
He added: "If we, as Dubai Cares, got the Return on Investment and delivered on those three items, and the existing donors who are doing the same thing are delivering on those three, imagine how much money we would save, how many cost-effective programmes we will have, how much enrolment rates would increase and how much better learning outcomes there would be.”
Dubai Cares, the CEO said, has, by delivering integrated evidence-based primary education programmes through strategic partnerships and support from the UAE community, benefited millions of children around the world for years. "To date, we are reaching 13 million beneficiaries in 39 developing countries, far exceeding our initial [year 2007] target of one million children.”
The organisation — established by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai — also actively supports initiatives that promote evidence-based programming, it said in a statement. For instance, Dubai Cares is part of The Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), which aims to identify and accelerate innovation in secondary education, contribute to policy-based reforms, and capture and disseminate findings to key stakeholders.
Dubai Cares is also part of the Building Evidence in Education (BE2) network, which engages bilateral and multilateral organisations committed to increasing the quality of education research, promoting the use of evidence in education programming and strengthening donor research collaboration.
Source: Gulf News