Digital Education Programme Becomes Evidence-Based
Sept. 12, 2023
Evidence-based practice is the idea that occupational practices - such as nursing, education or psychosocial support for children - should be based on scientific evidence. In other words, rather than assuming an intervention is making a positive difference, based on tradition, intuition or personal experience, we can prove this impact by applying a rigorous research process.
Perhaps most important about this approach is a willingness by aid organisations to hold themselves to account. “If you’re going to go into a community and intervene in children’s lives, you have to be sure you’re not doing more harm than good”, says Mark Jordans, Professor of Child and Adolescent Global Mental Health and War Child Director of Research & Development.
“With the work of the humanitarian sector increasingly under scrutiny, it’s important that we don’t shy away from these criticisms”, he continues. “That’s what our evidence-based approach is all about.”
The Research Process
Ok, so that’s our evidence-based approach cleared up, but how does it work in practice? “In simple terms, our interventions have undergone scientific research - be that a feasibility evaluation or a full-scale controlled trial”, says Mark. “If the findings are inconclusive or inadequate, we can use this evidence to adapt and improve the method. Conversely, if the findings are positive we can move to the next phase of evaluation.”
The further the intervention progresses through the research process, the closer it gets to attaining evidence-based status. Absolutely crucial to this process is a large-scale effectiveness study - what the research world calls a randomised controlled trial.
And it was this trial - carried out in Uganda over the past 18 months - that has turned our e-learning innovation, Can’t Wait to Learn into a fully fledged evidence-based programme. Funded through the Global Partnership for Education’s Knowledge and Innovation Exchange, the study involved 1507 children from 30 schools across the Isingiro District. In half of the schools, regular English and maths lessons were replaced by Can’t Wait to Learn in order to draw direct comparisons.
“How effective is Can’t Wait to Learn compared to ‘education as usual’?”, says Jasmine Turner, research lead for Can’t Wait to Learn. “This is the question we set out to answer here in Isingiro.
“And answer it we did”, she smiles. “The results from the Uganda study serve as proof that children living in low-resource settings can accomplish significant academic progress as a result of Can’t Wait to Learn. The exact results will be published imminently in a scientific journal and show that Can’t Wait to Learn not only performs better than standard education but also better than most EdTech programmes used in similar settings.”
Potential for Scale Up
Jasmine is referring to the collective findings of 10 research studies conducted in Chad, Jordan, Lebanon and Sudan since the programme’s inception. In Sudan, where Can’t Wait to Learn was born, one study showed that children improved nearly twice as much in maths and nearly three times more in reading when compared to the government’s learning programme for out-of-school children.
Besides brandishing Can’t Wait to Learn as “evidence-based”, what does the work in Uganda mean for the evolution of the programme?
“This is just the beginning”, says Jasmine. “The study marks an important milestone in Can’t Wait to Learn’s scaling journey. In Uganda, in the spirit of localization, we have now handed over implementation of the programme to the local municipality.
“Relatively few e-learning programmes have been developed in these countries, and even fewer that integrate research - from design to evaluation to scale-up”, she adds. “By shedding light on what works and what doesn’t, research helps to promote meaningful progress towards free, equitable and quality education for all children affected by conflict.”
Can’t Wait to Learn was first developed in Sudan in 2012. Since then, it has been tested and implemented in Bangladesh, Chad, Jordan, Lebanon, South Sudan, Ukraine and Uganda. To date it has reached some 100,000 children with promising forecasts for growth. Learn more here.