Dana Burde

Assistant Professor of International Education

Phone: 212 998 5052

Dana Burde is an assistant professor of international education at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, an affiliated faculty of the Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service, and an affiliated research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University.

To read about protecting education from attack in Afghanistan in a New York Times Op-Ed please click here.


My research and teaching focus on humanitarianism, education, human rights, and political violence in countries and regions affected by conflict. In this context I examine how nonstate actors and transnational networks challenge and change norms and institutions.

This research agenda is currently dominated by my work on education in emergencies, or education as an element of humanitarian action. Providing education services during humanitarian crises and early reconstruction is emerging as a key element in humanitarian action. Humanitarian agencies view education as a way to protect children from violence, promote child welfare, and enhance stability in communities recovering from violent conflict. Indeed, promoting education programs is no longer only a charitable endeavor; many consider it essential to promoting security (e.g., United States Agency for International Development, World Bank). This increased attention to education in relief work is reflected in the rising numbers of programs and the expanded role for education policies in post-conflict state building.

To contribute evidence-based research in this field, I launched a multi-year study to assess the impact of community-based education services delivered to civilian populations affected by war in Afghanistan. The most recent iteration of this project, which I conducted with Leigh Linden in Columbia University’s Department of Economics, examined the impact of educational services on children’s enrollment and achievement. In 2006, the U.S. government directed $24 million to a community-based schools program—Partnership for Advancing Community Education in Afghanistan. Comprised of four non-profits—CARE, International Rescue Committee, Agha Khan Foundation, and Catholic Relief Services (CRS)—the program fostered thousands of community-based schools across 19 provinces in Afghanistan. Taking advantage of an unusual opportunity to implement a rigorous research design in an early reconstruction context, we formed a partnership with the US-based nongovernmental organization CRS to implement random assignment of schools and program interventions to eligible villages.

With a sample of 31 villages and approximately 1,500 children between the ages of 6 and 11 in northwest Afghanistan, we randomly assigned 13 villages to receive community-based schools one year before the schools were supplied to the entire sample. This time delay allowed us to estimate the one-year impact of the schools on girls’ and boys’ attendance and knowledge of math and the local language, Dari. We found that community-based schools have a dramatic effect on children’s academic participation and performance and have tremendous potential for reducing existing gender disparities in rural areas in Afghanistan. Children are almost 50 percentage points more likely to attend school if a community-based school is available to them. Most importantly, the rate of girls’ attendance increases 15 percentage points more than their male counterparts. After one year of first grade classes these schools virtually eliminate differences in enrollment and significantly reduce the existing achievement gap between boys and girls.

The first phase of this project collected data on the cognitive skills, individual attributes, and experiences of adolescents aged 12-14 who were either enrolled in a government school, a school supported by a nongovernmental organization, a Qur’anic school, or who were unenrolled. Four findings are important in relation to the original hypothesis in the study: (1) attitudes toward education, (2) level of fear in children’s lives, (3) educational outcomes, and (4) influence of communitarian values on children’s attitudes and behaviors. For more information on this stage of the project, see the report here.

Since its inception, this study has received approximately $750,000 from foundations including the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, the United States Institute of Peace and the Weikart Family Foundation. Institutes like Columbia University’s Institute for Economic Research and Policy and the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies were instrumental in the first phase of this study.

Beyond the university, my work as an international education consultant includes assessment and evaluation of post-conflict programs in the Balkans; civil society building in the Caucasus; refugee education in Pakistan; and research on parent and community participation in community schools in Central Asia, Central America and Mali. I received my PhD in Comparative and International Education and Political Science from Columbia University; EdM from Harvard University; and BA from Oberlin College.


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Courses Taught