The Building Evidence in Education (or BE2) donor working group, led by a steering group from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank, Department for International Development (DFID) and UN, met in Florence 5-7 April to discuss the use of evidence in education policy and programming. Hosted by UNICEF Innocenti, the meeting sought to promote better use of evidence in education programming, increased quality of education research and enhanced donor research collaboration.
At the meeting, Professor Pauline Rose chaired a panel on achieving impact through research in international development settings. Panellists included Sarah Cook, Director of UNICEF's Office of Research-Innocenti, David Coleman, Senior Education Advisor and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Australia) and Professor Luís Miguel Poiares Maduro of EUI in Florence, a former Portuguese government minister.
The aim of the session was to explore how closer links between the demand for evidence by policymakers and its supply by researchers could be forged. Discussions included the types of impact policymakers are seeking from education research and, in turn, the challenges that researchers face in achieving such impact.
To begin the session, Pauline Rose gave a brief overview of the Impact Initiative including how impact is defined and setting out the expectations on achieving impact of donor-funded work of the kind supported by the Impact Initiative.
Professor Luís Miguel Poiares Maduro highlighted a paradox between a world that is increasingly in a ‘post-truth’ political environment at the same time as evidence being more readily available to inform policy reform. He also noted that government agencies often worked in ‘silos’ and added that it was important for researchers to reach out to the public, not only policy makers, when trying to translate research into policy outcomes. “If we want more evidence base in public policies, you need to convince not only policy makers, you need to convince citizens also. You need to start to engage them,” he said, adding that policy makers were often resistant to change.
David Coleman identified that those making decisions about education often do not have expertise in the sector. It is therefore important to present information to them in a way that is straightforward to understand. And UNICEF Innocenti director Sarah Cook stressed the idea that knowledge generation through research should stimulate debate and even be provocative in some instances. “We live in a world where we have so much data. We need to challenge the discourse about how data drives us and really get back to the question and problem of how data is collected and the quality of that data. We need a cautious interpretation of our data to open up spaces for conversations that are scientifically rooted and not just advocacy messages.”
Led by a Steering Committee, the BE2 donor group meets annually to reflect on how research is applied in policy and programming in education and other sectors.