The Puggle: May 2021 edition

If you have time for just one link this month, treat yourself to this series of essays in response to Girin Beeharry’s Manifesto for Global Education. You’ll get 20 thoughtful takes on whether and how the education sector should focus its efforts, particularly around foundational literacy and numeracy, to make progress against the sustainable development goals.

The series provokes a lot of healthy debate about how to direct our attention and resources. What there is little debate about is the urgent need for progress in the education sector, particularly in light of COVID-19. Recently published estimates calculate that students have lost half to over a year’s worth of learning which, over time, could accumulate to 2.8 years of lost learning by grade 10. Research conducted by 25 girl leaders in India through rapid, participatory assessments highlights the impact of COVID-19 on their lives and their recommendations for action. This piece looks at “What the COVID-19 Pandemic Is Showing Us About the Global Learning Crisis” and this one examines “how to treat the learning crisis like a health crisis.”

Beyond what’s happening in the education sector, if we think about the support that needs to be in place for good education outcomes for children, we can’t ignore the role of caretakers — especially women. Over the course of the pandemic we’ve seen women drop out of the workforce at disproportionate rates because of childcare constraints. More than ever we know that outcomes for women and children are deeply intertwined. Which is why we need to do better at measuring how early childhood development interventions affect mothers. Evans, Jakiela, and Knauer found that “Fewer than one in every four studies of ECD interventions report any outcomes for mothers beyond those exclusively focused on parenting” and argue in a recent Science publication that we should routinely include measures of caregiver productivity and wellbeing in ECD evaluations (open access accepted version here). We also need to pay more attention to how interventions are designed so that they can support outcomes for children and their caregivers — including by paying attention to spaces like paid childcare in urban Africa.

In May the UK launched an action plan for driving the girls’ education over the next five years of global action and pushed for a G7 Declaration on girls’ education: recovering from COVID-19 and unlocking agenda 2030. Ahead of the G7 summit in June, there are lots of calls for countries to put money behind girls’ education — from the Global Campaign for Education in the US, from Michelle Obama, and from the Malala Fund, to name a few. The Malala Fund report recommends a path for leaders to create $171 billion in funding for girls’ education by cancelling debt, reforming tax policy, increasing aid, and improving countries’ liquidity.

These times are heavy, and we cannot overstate how impressed and grateful we are for the tireless efforts of organizations worldwide to protect girls’ education. So we’ll leave you with a little love song and our sincerest thanks.