International Studies & Programs

Associate Professor Awarded Grant for International Secondary Education Research

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Published: Tuesday, 19 Feb 2019 Author: Global Youth Advancement Network

MSU College of Education's Amita Chudgar was recently awarded the 2018 Lyle Spencer Research Award from the Spencer Foundation. The associate professor of education policy was selected for the $1 million grant for her project "Understanding Marginalized Youth's Secondary Education Experiences: A Mixed-Methods Study of Colombia, India, and Malawi". 

The Lyle Spencer Research Awards Program supports research projects that intend to make a "meaningful advance in the understanding of education practice, and, through that improved understanding, ultimately [make] education better," as explained on their website. The prestigious grant awards up to $1 million to projects within the areas of studies of institutional practice, educational infrastructure, and/or research infrastructure.

Under their funded project, Chudgar works with co-PIs Nancy Kendall from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Thomas Luschei from Claremont Graduate University. Together, with a number of national and international graduate students, the team will focus their two-year, mixed-method study on the practices, effectiveness, and relevancy of secondary education in the countries of Colombia, India, and Malawi.

According to Chudgar, secondary education is currently a popular topic in education discourse, with an emphasis on promoting a "relevant" education for global youth. However, it is difficult to determine exactly what makes an education relevant to youth — especially varying groups of marginalized youth from around the globe — without adequate understanding of their lives and experiences. 

Through their study, Chudgar and her team plan to determine what factors make secondary education "relevant" to marginalized global youth by studying their perspectives and livelihoods. By conducting surveys and fieldwork in the designated countries, the researchers hope to understand the experiences, needs, and aspirations of marginalized global youth. Results from such research will offer new perspectives that have the potential to shape and improve the education — and, by extension, livelihoods — of global youth.

"Global models of relevant secondary education that lack youth perspectives will be at best irrelevant and at worst counterproductive, yet they have the power to shape national policies and secondary education opportunities for the 1.5 billion youth living in developing and emerging economies and in fragile states," Chudgar said in the grant proposal. "At this historic moment, youth-centered research that analyzes a diverse range of marginalized students' experiences can play a key role in shaping discourses, policies, and practices to support relevant secondary education."

The global push for secondary education inspired Chudgar to take a deeper look, especially after receiving a $200,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation for a different project in 2015 — which was funded under the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE) Initiative, a collaborative collective of donors seeking to "increase secondary education access and improve learning outcomes for marginalized populations". Within this project, Chudgar studied the access to and outcomes of secondary education in five countries. Surprisingly, Chudgar's findings showed that those with a secondary education did not necessarily have better outcomes; in fact, many of them were unemployed.

Chudgar's interest in the usefulness and effectiveness of secondary education encouraged her to spawn the latest research project, which hopes to explain why such education may not be relevant for marginalized youth.

"Youth, who are the focus of secondary education, are at a unique phase in their lives. They are navigating not just educational challenges of performance and retention, but are also grappling with social, sexual, emotional, and financial implications of their circumstances and decisions," Chudgar said. "I believe that an exploration of what it means to educate youth, especially marginalized youth, at this important and delicate juncture in their lives is still limited and in need of urgent attention."

As a natural progression from her work with primary education, Chudgar is looking forward to researching and understanding "relevancy" in secondary education from the perspectives of marginalized youth, and allowing their perspectives to inform the global discourse. Global youth challenges and demographics make secondary education and its relevancy a pressing question, and Chudgar and her team are committed to answering it.

Tags: Global