What can you expect from EduEval in 2016?

EduEval has evolved over the years since its inception in 2010. We have enjoyed working closely with governments, private school operators, NGOs and corporate partners to help support evidence-informed decision making in the education sector. We are excited that we have been able to grow in the MENA region. Our growth is a recognition that there is a need for high quality consulting for all stakeholders who want better education for a knowledge-based society.

As we have grown, we do need to make sure that we continue to meet the needs of the community that engages with us. So we have made a few changes and we are working on a few exciting internal projects to share with you.
So what can you expect from us in 2016? 
  1. We will be changing our name from EduEval Educational Consultancy to EduEval! This represents our organic growth as we have built several verticals where we will continue to promote the same level of excellence in evidence-informed decision making on a broader scale.
  2. We are working on a School Choice Guide for parents in Dubai. We have been approached by several parents and concerned stakeholders over the years. Parents who need help in understanding how to make the best decision for their child when it comes to choosing a private school in Dubai. This guide will be available soon – so keep your eyes on us.
  3. We will be publishing more on understanding the practical link between assessment for learning, the role of technology and promoting better teaching and learning. So follow us on twitter and you will notice more activity sharing relevant information about education.
  4. We will be directly engaging with communities to promote our new initiative: Industry Connect. This is a great series of programs that are being developed with corporate partners and schools to promote a greater link between the theoretical learning in schools and real-wold applications.
  5. We will continue our commitment to excellence by relying on assessment, monitoring, evaluation and research to make informed decisions that promote the best practices in education in the MENA region.
Thank you for all of your support over the years of our infancy. We appreciate all of our followers, our partners, our clients. We also appreciate the time from the students, parents, teachers, school leaders, and high level bureaucrats who have given us their trust and engaged with EduEval.
We have received many accolades and statements of gratitude from our stakeholders. Each of these positive reflections have meant a great deal to all of the professionals who have worked tirelessly to ensure a high quality service since we started this company.

From the EduEval family, we wish you a wonderful new year and lets make 2016 one where we can focus on cultivating motivated confident happy young independent 21st century learners.

Happy new year!

Sonia Ben Jaafar, PhD
Managing Director
EduEval Educational Consultancy

Building Applied Research Skills in Education for a Better Tomorrow in the GCC

Earlier this week EduEval was invited participate in the 2nd HCT Research Symposium: Building Networks for Research and Publishing. Dr. Christina Gitsaki, former UNESCO Chair in Applied Research in Education organized the event that focused on the practicality of conducting relevant educational research in the region … and how to connect it globally.

The conversations revolved around what kind of applied research would be helpful in the GCC, the role of the academic community and the practical nitty-gritty of conducing successful applied research projects from start to finish. As the day progressed, there were many questions about the impact of various programs and interventions.

For example, there was a long discussion about the real effect of i-pads classroom use on teacher efficacy? on student motivation? on student learning? and on student achievement?

As faculty and researchers discussed ideas, they also reflected on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) data for Dubai. Pulling from the TIMSS 2011 Science 8 results for the Cognitive Domains (Knowledge, Application, and Reasoning). Dubai was the only jurisdiction in the GCC (who participated in the international test) that – on average – reached the intermediate benchmark. As we questioned why this was the case, the KHDA report was helpful in shedding some light on these results.

The figure below taken from the KHDA report shows that when the data is redistributed by school curriculum type, only the IB, UK, and Indian and Philippine schools reach the intermediate level (on average). Sadly, the Pakistani schools are not even reaching the low benchmark.

timss dubai

As the day progressed, assumptions and perceived problems were turned into hypotheses and research questions. There was a focus on how to examine the issues identified by data and how to understand the effect of different solutions in different contexts.

The call for professional learning opportunities on how to conduct applied research in the region is getting louder among the education community. Last month, the Gulf Comparative Education Society  offered a full day of pre-conference workshops addressing research ethics, writing good research proposals, research design, educational program evaluations, and data analyses. The interest on training for educational research in the GCC spans beyond its geographical borders. Last year in the UK, the Gulf Research Meeting offered workshops on The Impact of Large-Scale Datasets on Evidence-Based Educational Policymaking and Reform in the Gulf States. And in 2011, the International Development Evaluation Association offered workshops on evaluation practices in Amman, Jordan.

Opportunities for professional learning in applied research are peppered in the GCC. There is a growing hunger among the academic and education community to develop their professional applied research skill set. This trend reflects the greater attention to results and concern for student learning and achievement in these times of major reforms.

GCC Focusing on Technology in Education

A flurry of vendors and educational provider were sharing ideas, buying and selling this week in Dubai at the Gulf Education Supplies and Solutions (GESS) exhibition and Global Education Forum (GEF). There was no doubt that the introduction and integration of technology dominated the educational souk this year. The opening session had GCC Ministers of Education sharing their kids-ipad-e1322566682803intentions for greater investment and attention to making sure all schools have technology. HE Humaid Al Qatami announced the expansion of the Mohammad Bin Rashed Smart Learning Programme in the UAE while Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al-Saud talked about the need to ensure the use of technology in schools was responsible to protect the youth of Saudi Arabia in these fast changing times.

Corporate ICT giants were there promoting the use of robots, tablets, online textbooks, simulations, gaming, and the list continues. The promise to educational providers was loud and clear: If you want to produce 21st century learners, these technologies need to be in your classrooms. Kids today are already using computers, tablets, Smartphones, etc. They know more about how to manipulate social media and access information than most adults. If a child is curious today, they will find the information they need online. So the education community needs to keep up – and they do this by making the leap and buying the hardware and software.

So what about the role of the teachers?

HE Dr. Madiha bint Ahmed Al Shibaniyah, Minister of Education in Oman, consistently attended to this point in the opening panel of GEF. Teachers are at the heart of learning and they will be the ones who create the opportunities to learn for students utilizing the technology in classrooms. They are the facilitators of learning. So it is the teachers who require support and training to enable them to readily guide this next generation in using the technology as a tool to develop the skills and knowledge to succeed.

This is a shared challenge with parents who find themselves at a loss wondering how to make the time their kids are connected on a devie more worthwhile? This parental concern is the motivating force behind groups like Technorati, hosting women bloggers (including former Silicon Valley Moms Group) that offers content about parenting in the digital age. Consider the latest post from Beth Blecherman, founder of TechMamas.com, asking:

Does Gamification Help Classroom Learning?

She offers strategies like using Minecraft to better understand Newton’s Law of Physics has been beneficial for her son. She promotes this use of a game because she has the immediate feedback from her own son. Notwithstanding this evidence in her home, she still asks the question of the utility of this approach in schools reflecting on the idea that it is only a tool.

She asks because she knows that it is HOW we use the tools to engage kids in learning that matters.

These mothers are asking the question that was markedly absent from the prevailing discourse at GESS:

What is the effect of these technologies on learning and achievement?

After several conversations with various vendors and operators at GESS, it seems that there is a minimal level of monitoring to determine teacher perception on using certain technologies like i-pads in their classrooms. The question of impact on student learning and achievement seems to fall silent under the roar of marketing promises and the demand for ICT classrooms.

I look forward to next year when vendors and operators will perhaps share evidence on how these investments have improved student success, as defined by student engagement, learning, and achievement.

Will 2013 be the year when Arabs will expect results with educational change?

ImageIn 2005, the World Bank reflected on the Road Not Traveled in the MENA region and reflected on the Road Ahead in the final chapter. After presenting an overview of some spotlights and many areas of concern, the concluding chapter calls for an approach that prioritizes “greater school autonomy and public accountability …. to ensure education, as a public good, serves the interests of the widest range of citizens.”

In other words, let schools decide how to best serve the school community by focusing on data/evidence.

Fast forward

 In 2012, the tenth Education for All Global Monitoring Report, Putting Education to Work stated that over 10M people aged 15 to 24 had not completed primary school in the Arab states. This is 1 in 5 of the region’s youth population!

(Look around you… pick 5 adults, imagine if one could not read or write. That is the reality of these stats.)

After monitoring pockets of progress and identifying unfortunate situations that assure the region’s youth a challenge in trying to find a respectable living in the future, it seems the global education community has identified a few areas of consensus. In particular,

  •  Funding is required, but money alone does not buy quality education
  • Good teachers are essential and need to be valued
  • All systems need accountability in the form of using and sharing reliable and valid information for decision making

The idea of accountability as a practical supportive mechanism reflects a shift in the education sector in MENA. Education in the Arab states is no longer simply being measured in terms of access. Quality variables are finally being included in any policy and program decisions that hope to have any credibility. The Doha Declaration, where the Arab Ministers committed to establishing quality national standards for all dimensions of the education system“ seems to be having some noticeable effect on the decisions of Ministries of Education in the Arab world.

It is becoming a norm to read about the call for, and use of, evaluation in making educational decisions. The Jordan Education Initiative might still serve as an example of how monitoring and evaluation can be integrated with the strategic work, but there are outside forces encouraging and supporting the accountability of the JEI. Perhaps more promising is the spontaneous public notices from Arab governments sharing information of local education decisions. For example, the Education Ministry in Kuwait signed an agreement with Singapore’s National Education Institute to study and evaluate the education process in Kuwait to develop a plan to prepare teachers. The Abu Dhabi Education Council recently reported that their national testing results demonstrated that students were 6 months ahead of the previous cohort in terms of content knowledge.

So what works?

There are a lot of questions about the best educational policies in MENA. The issues can be thorny with the consistent import of different ideas merging with local policies. After years of changes and variable success, decision makers, parents, and youth in the Arab world are starting to ask questions about what exactly are they getting for these investments of time, effort, and funds? What can be done better? What educational strategies best fit their local needs? And how can they assure the most success for their future?

The days of boasting about large spending on education are not over, but the dawn of a new era seems to be in play. Inputs are still considered important, but there is a shift of focus to outcomes. This year might be the tipping point where the question “so what has X really accomplished?” becomes an automatic question.