J. Lawrence Aber, Albert and Blanche Wilner Family Professor of Psychology and Public Policy, has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the NoVo foundation to support a project titled, “Impacting teacher performance and children’s academic and socio-emotional learning in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
Extreme poverty, periods of violence and war, and mismanagement of resources and institutions have characterized life in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for the past three decades. The negative impact of these conditions has been disproportionately borne by the DRC’s children and youth. A decade ago, economic downturn and divestment in DRC led to a two-thirds reduction in the Ministry of Education Budget. Currently DRC has one of the lowest primary school enrollment and completion rates on the world.
With funding from USAID and in collaboration with DRC’s Ministry of Education, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) mounted a systematic effort to increase “opportunities for equitable access to quality basic education” (OPEQ) for DRC’s children and youth. OPEQ aims to improve the academic and social-emotional outcomes of children living with conflict through improving the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom.
In collaboration with the IRC, Steinhardt’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change will examine the impact of the school-based component of OPEQ in the DRC. Led by Professor Aber and with support from Steinhardt Professor Edward Seidman, the impact evaluation uses a cluster-randomized wait-list control design to estimate the effect of an integrated curriculum and in-service teacher training system on teachers’ motivation and performance and student learning and social-emotional outcomes.
The evaluation also tests whether OPEQ’s impacts vary as a function of select child, school and community characteristics. Ultimately, results of the evaluation will help identify effective, cost-effective and scalable strategies and practices that can inform national policies in severely conflict-affected countries.
Aber noted that the study was “profoundly important” as its outcome could help educators find strategies to enhance Congolese children’s social-emotional learning and mental health as well as their abilities in reading, writing and mathematics.
“There is no place in the world where children more deeply deserve and desperately need a higher quality of education,” Aber said.
(Photo: Peter Biro/IRC.)