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INEE Journal on Education in Emergencies

31 Jan

Attention all Education in Emergencies enthusiasts (nerds)!

This week the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) announced a brand new Journal on Education in Emergencies. Along with this announcement, INEE also revealed that NYU Steinhardt’s own Dr. Dana Burde will be the Journal’s first Editor-in-Cheif! The first of its kind, the Journal will close a crucial gap as the field itself gains more international attention and (ideally) funding:

The Journal on Education in Emergencies is established in response to the growing need for rigorous Education in Emergencies (EiE) research to strengthen the evidence base, support EiE policy and practice, and improve learning in and across organizations, policy institutes and academic institutions. The Journal will close a gap existing in the academic space: currently, there is no Journal dedicated to this topic. The Journal will facilitate EiE knowledge generation and sharing, thus contributing to the further professionalization of the EiE field.

The Journal will include three sections:

  • EiE Research Articles: Articles in this section will have solid research methodology/ research design, use an explicit, well-recognized theoretical or conceptual framework, and contribute to the evidence-base and the advancement of knowledge on EiE.
  • EiE Practice: Articles in this section will demonstrate progress and/or challenges in designing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating EiE policies and programs.
  • EiE Book Reviews: Articles in this section will offer a critical review of a recently published or an upcoming book on EiE.

Very excited for this. Manuscript submission guidelines will be released in Spring 2014. This would have been a fantastic resource while I was in graduate school, and I am quite pleased that it will be available for future classes and practitioners.

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edX Announces Free International Human Rights Course

6 Dec

It’s human rights. It’s education. It’s human rights education. And it’s free!

In another batch of outstanding course offerings, edX has announced an International Human Rights course. Taught by Olivier De Schutter, a Professor at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, and at the College of Europe (Natolin). He has also served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food since May 2008. Here’s a brief course description from edX:

Human rights develop through the constant dialogue between international human rights bodies and domestic courts, in a search that crosses geographical, cultural and legal boundaries. The result is a unique human rights grammar, which this course shall discuss and question, examining the sources of human rights, the rights of individuals and the duties of States, and the mechanisms of protection. We shall rely extensively on comparative material from different jurisdictions, to study a wide range of topics including, for instance, religious freedom in multicultural societies, human rights in employment relationships, economic and social rights in development, or human rights in the context of the fight against terrorism.

As with all of edX’s course offerings, the class is free, and available to take for a certificate or simply to audit for those with less time to commit. The class begins in February 2014.  Other topics of interest to our readership in the field of international development include Health & Society, Global Warming Science, Introduction to Bioethics, Next Generation Infrastructures: Part I, and Ressources naturelles et developpement durable. Each course is taught by professors who are leaders in their respective fields, hailing from Harvard University, MIT, UC Berkeley, and an impressive list of other highly-respected academic institutions.

Doctoral Research in Education in Emergencies

9 Sep

A quick, quick followup to last week’s post: INEE’s online discussion series on “Teaching Education in Emergencies” continues this week with posts by The Brookings Institution’s Allison Anderson (former director of INEE), Harvard’s Sarah Dryden-Peterson (a huge inspiration for my own research) and none other than NYU’s own Amy Kapit!

Amy provides some wonderful insights into a few lessons-learned while conducting her doctoral research and collecting data in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Her reflections touch on the utility of qualitative methodologies and the plethora of doctoral research opportunities in the field of education in emergencies, while highlighting some innovative research coming out of NYU’s IE Program. I also particularly liked her piece because it addresses a key factor for me personally in deciding to delay my entrance into a doctoral degree program: the benefits of solidifying connections in the field prior to conducting doctoral research. Keeping my personal focus on forced displacement in East Africa in mind, studying with Amy helped me and many others in IE realize the importance of having a strong network of practitioners in our regions of interest prior to beginning data collection, which many of us are now using our entry/mid-level career paths to do. We at HREC all wish her the best as she finishes up her doctoral work! Give it a read, and check out the other online blog posts and discussions over on INEE’s website – and don’t forget to keep an eye out for Dr. Dana Burde’s post on September 23rd!

On that note, for those of you starting your Fall semester at NYU or Columbia (or anywhere!), I highly recommend looking into a training seminar on “INEE’s Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery.” It’s a great community in which to be involved, and it may just change the course of your graduate studies…

Additionally, Allison Anderson makes mention of INEE’s academic space on its website – this is a growing resource to see what other academics are researching in the field of EiE, and also a great resource for submitting your own research down the road.

Okay, so that wasn’t a quick, quick followup.

“Personal anecdote trumps data”

3 Sep

What “works” in education? Educational stakeholders and international development workers alike strive to answer this question and, ideally, apply their answers through real-world programming that is contextually suited to the specific populations the programmes seek to benefit. The NYT ‘Science Times’ special section on “Learning What Works” highlights attempts made by the Institute of Educational Sciences to discern what truly “works” through the use of randomized control trials (RCTs). To date, 175 trials have been supported by the institute, testing the effectiveness of instructional supplies, curricula, and computerized learning platforms.

I spent most of my graduate studies at NYU learning of the burgeoning value of RCTs in the field of educational development, with some professors incorporating RCTs into their own research during my time there. Coming across this piece in the Learning What Works series illustrates the importance of utilizing these assessment methodologies:

Without well-designed trials, such assessments are largely guesswork. “It’s as if the medical profession worried about the administration of hospitals and patient insurance but paid no attention to the treatments that doctors gave their patients,” the institute’s first director, Grover J. Whitehurst, now of the Brookings Institution, wrote in 2012.

But the “what works” approach has another hurdle to clear: Most educators, including principals and superintendents and curriculum supervisors, do not know the data exist, much less what they mean.

A survey by the Office of Management and Budget found that just 42 percent of school districts had heard of the clearinghouse. And there is no equivalent of an F.D.A. to approve programs for marketing, or health insurance companies to refuse to pay for treatments that do not work.

Unfortunately, this type of research is costly – not only in terms of funding and staffing required to carry out the data collection, but RCTs take a significant amount of time, and as implied by the name, also require a level of control that may not be available in the case of education in emergency situations. This is a challenge faced by ministries of education and education stakeholders alike. However, without proper assessment of programs, the likelihood of education programming doing more harm than good inevitably increases. Regardless of where your heart is and what your intentions may be, some ideas are simply bad ideas. When we ignore the data coming out of the field, there can be no hope for educational development anywhere in the world, in any context. Even the best laid plans and ideas can flop if not paired with sufficient assessments and evaluations (a new book critiquing Jeff Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project highlights exactly that). Research truly is the key to sustainable interventions, and I am very fortunate that my graduate studies and my professors at NYU were able to place such a strong emphasis on that fact.

Don’t worry field, we’re bringing our skills to the table.

Always expect the unexpected

20 Dec

When I envisioned a Master’s program in International Education, I imagined studying comparative education across different countries.  But to my surprise a Masters in International Education meant different things to different people. The program at our school was not perfect, in fact it was far from being perfect; however, there was structure, mentoring and logic (sometimes) behind it and to some extent that’s all we needed. I think many of us started the program having more or less an idea of what we wanted to get out of it while some others knew exactly what they wanted right from the beginning. Whatever the case was, I’m certain we have found our way and purpose throughout the course of the program. In my case, I only knew I wanted to do something in the area of Inclusive Education, not quite sure exactly what. After taking a Politics, Conflict and Education class it became clear to me what I wanted to do and in what direction I wanted to go.

We have also found each other in this journey. I don’t think anyone came looking for “new friends”, certainly not me. Life happens and it’s inevitable not to get attached to people especially after spending long hours working on projects together, bouncing ideas off each other, starting a blog together, organizing a student-led human rights colloquium, helping each other with the job search, proof reading each others’ documents, crying out of stress to each other, helping one another move from one tiny apartment to another tiny apartment, traveling to CIES in Puerto Rico together and celebrating both our achievements and misfortunes. We have become good friends.

We have also found our own unique way to network in both social and academic ways. I argue that I’m not good at the latter, but I’ve learned and found my ways. The art of networking doesn’t come easy to everyone (me) and it is exhausting!  It took me a while to realize that it’s okay to send an email to a complete stranger asking for an informational interview and to send one or two reminders to the same person if you haven’t heard back. At the end of the day you have nothing to lose, so why not try. In my (short) experience I found out that the key to all networking situations you might encounter is 1) to be yourself-don’t overdo it 2) to be clear about your goals and purpose and 3) to be straightforward – don’t circle around and waste people’s time.

Throughout the program the writing process gets easier. At least for me the writing process had always been difficult. Sometimes my brain thinks in Spanish while trying to write in English and/or vice versa. It can be very confusing and frustrating, but I can say that after all the practice, the readings, friends tips and a copy of English Grammar for Dummies my writing has considerably improved. Also, throughout the program the reasoning process becomes harder and more analytical. The moral, logical and ethical become a paradox and seem to get farther away from reality.

Professors came and go throughout the semester/s and some were more willing and responsive than others. It takes one Professor to make a difference and in our case it was Professor B. who made that difference. She made an impact on many of us during our first semester by giving us the motivation many of us where looking for after a totally confusing and unexpected first semester. She became our mentor and inspired us in one way or another.

This cycle has come to an end and many things didn’t go as I expected, but that’s what life is all about- isn’t it? We have to make of it what we want with what we have. Despite the struggles and differences we had with the program design we took it upon ourselves to make it what we wanted to. We spoke up, we came together, we created and we took control over the direction of our education. I found my puzzle piece that fits well with my meaning of MA in International Education and I know what direction I want to go about.

I face uncertainty in terms of the near future, it’s scary and stressing at times, but I feel confident that I’m prepared as I have the skills, the drive and the support to succeed out there in the “real world”.  I have done it once, I can do it twice.

Can’t wait for life to happen and cross paths someday somewhere with my fellow classmates/my good friends.