The Graduation Model and Gender Empowerment research project in Malawi
This page gives the reader an overview of the Graduation Model and the Gender Empowerment research project in Malawi including a series of learning briefs from 2021.
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School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) has been identified as a major barrier to children accessing their right to safe, quality education, and is an unfortunate reality for many children in the countries that Concern operates education programming.
SRGBV prevention and response mechanisms are embedded in all Concern education programmes and we are committed to the development of models of best practice and lessons learned from SRGBV programmes.
The Safe Learning Model adopts a holistic approach to education that brings together transformative gender interventions within an education programme. The model, being piloted and evaluated in Sierra Leone from 2017-2021, is based on the assumption that children’s educational progress will be enhanced when they live in communities that are underpinned by support for gender equality and children’s wellbeing. This three level approach to learning seeks to counter the issues of SRGBV and gender stereotypes, which can keep children from learning or cause them to drop out of school.
Three levels of intervention:
In addition to the interventions, the Safe Learning Model includes a research component being conducted in partnership with University College Dublin (UCD) School of Education. Aimed at testing whether the different levels of intervention are effective and how they interact, the study is divided into two phases: a pilot phase in the first year (2017-2018) and the main trial from 2018 to 2021. The rigorous mixed methods randomized controlled trial combines quantitative measurements with thick qualitative descriptions of children’s everyday lives to create a comprehensive picture of the multi-faceted intervention. The longitudinal study will engage with 100 schools randomly allocated to 4 levels of intervention and follow approximately 3,000 children in their first three years of primary education in Sierra Leone.
Pilot Phase: 2017 - 2018
During the period between September 2017 and May 2018, Concern Worldwide and the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Education conducted a pilot of the Safe Learning Model; an integrated holistic approach to education programming, in 10 schools (five intervention and five control) in the Tonkolili district of Sierra Leone.
The pilot phase allowed the implementation team to refine methods of delivering the Safe Learning Model as an integrated programme and enabled the UCD research team to explore the feasibility of evaluating the intervention. During the pilot, the research team were able to gain insight and understanding of children’s everyday lives in Sierra Leone and develop research tools and protocols that could be used during a full-scale Safe Learning Model.
Baseline of Main Trial: 2018
The main trial of Concern’s Safe Learning Model intervention is being evaluated by University College Dublin (UCD) School of Education and involves tracking the same children (and their communities clustered into four groups of tiered level of intervention) over three academic years.
In September 2018, the baseline was conducted with over 3,000 children as they entered their first year of primary education in the 100 schools taking part in the randomised control trial. The mixed methods approach includes the administration of structured questionnaires and assessing children’s literacy levels using an Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) with all children each year of the intervention, along with interviews of their teachers and head teachers (100). The study also includes an in-depth exploration of four case study communities (drawn from the four arms of the trial) to include Class 1 children, their teachers, headteachers and a selected subsample of 16 children and their extended families (parents and elders / grandparents).
Year 1 of Main Trial: 2018/2019
In May 2019, post-test one was conducted with the approximately 3,000 children taking part in the randomised control trial as they finished their first year of primary education in the 100 schools in Tonkolili Sierra Leone. The quantitative and qualitative data collected provides further insight into the children’s lived experiences both in and outside of school. As the study remains ongoing, and in order to maintain research integrity, results directly related to the effectiveness of each level of the model will not be released until the conclusion of the study and as such, it is not yet possible to make assumptions related to the effectiveness of the various levels of intervention. However, over the first year of intervention, evidence emerges of small but statistically significant changes in literacy and wellbeing outcomes among the study population.
COVID-19 Sub-Study: 2020
Within the overall Safe Learning Model research framework, a sub-study was conducted on the impacts of COVID-19 on schools, children and their learning. COVID-19 has had, and continues to have significant impacts on all sectors of social, economic and political life in almost all countries of the world, with schools in Sierra Leone officially closed on 31st of March 2020.
This sub-study provides information on the implementation of school closures in Tonkolili district and on the immediate and perceived impact on children, teachers and school principals. The sub-study utilised a mixed method approach including quantitative structured interviews with head teachers from 77 of the 100 schools participating in the main Safe Learning Model study and qualitative semi-structured in-depth interviews with four head teachers of schools that are part of the in-depth case studies for the wider Safe Learning Model study. The data collected for this sub-study has the potential to map the impact of the school closures in the context of the Safe Learning Model with a view to informing subsequent analysis of both the ‘moment in time’ impact and the impact over the duration of the implementation of the Safe Learning Model intervention.
The results of Years 2 and 3 and the Final Evaluation of the Main Trial will be added to this page as they become available.
This research is being undertaken by University College Dublin- School of Education on the Safe Learning Model being implemented by Concern Worldwide in partnership with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE). The Safe Learning Model intervention and research is funded by a grant from the Irish Government, however the content within this publication is entirely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent or reflect Irish Aid Policy.