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The Equity Initiative: Equity in Social-Emotional Learning in the Wake of Adversity and Crisis

Mon, March 26, 11:30am to 1:00pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 2nd Floor, Don Diego 1 Section C

Group Submission Type: Panel Session


The theme of the CIES 2018 conference, “Re-mapping Global Education”, reflects the need for greater knowledge around who is left behind, and better evidence on effective policy and programmatic solutions for education. While much of the focus in education debates has focused on access to formal schooling and lately, on learning outcomes, there is growing recognition that learning is not limited by reading and numeracy competencies. In fact, life outcomes such as success in the workforce, sexual and reproductive health, and livelihood, have been tied to noncognitive outcomes such as self-control, positive self-concept, higher-order thinking skills, and other noncognitive competencies. In situations affected by crisis and adversity, noncognitive skills are even more important for developing a productive path forward for many children and youth. This panel, offered under the umbrella of the Education Equity Research Initiative, examines social-emotional learning (SEL) outcomes and experience of trauma and adversity as a result of conflict or crisis, and the equity aspects of the ways that adversity affects SEL outcomes. The panel recognizes that children that are already vulnerable due to their socioeconomic status, ethnic minority affiliation, gender, or other characteristics are likely to suffer more and over a longer period of time from disasters that may seem to be indiscriminate initially.
The papers in this panel converge on the fact that education can play a central role in correcting equity imbalances in the SEL of children and youth. Schooling can provide refuge and support, and equip learners with skills needed to cope with adversity. At the same time, schooling and programming that is unaware or blind to the social-emotional needs of learners can exacerbate disparities and do real harm. The panel explores evidence from the field on how SEL outcomes can be strengthened through program interventions that are cognizant of, and specifically address, the differential experiences of adversity for children and youth coming from different ends of the socioeconomic spectrum.
The panel begins with a presentation from a recent Save the Children study of post-earthquake Nepal, and the experience of adversity in the wake of the earthquake for young children and their developmental outcomes. The paper posits that experience of adversity is a form of equity disparity, and discusses ways that it can be measured in a comprehensive way, with real and actionable implications for program targeting and resource allocation.
This presentation is followed by a presentation from a study from Uganda by RTI International, which intersects experience of violence with equity dimensions, such as gender, poverty, ethnic minority status, and other markers of vulnerability. The study examines how SEL outcomes relate to the experience of violence, on the one hand, and how reaching stronger SEL outcomes may help reduce the risk of violence, through increased agency on the part of the learners and their ability to negotiate conflict situations.
Finally, the third presentation will link SEL outcomes with learning outcomes measured by cognitive assessments, such as the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA), and presents a randomized controlled trial (RCT) of SEL-building intervention, and its effects on learning and SEL outcomes of children affected by conflict and crisis in Niger. This rigorous study offers a closer look at whether a program intervention focusing on noncognitive learning can reach its objectives in building equity, as opposed to exacerbating inequities in SEL and learning outcomes.
The three presentations will be followed by comments from a discussant, who will offer reflections and questions on the challenge of operationalizing and measuring SEL outcomes, developing an effective intervention that builds SEL in the context of adversity, and creating an evidence base of what works for whom, in creating positive improvement in SEL outcomes for children in conflict and crisis affected environments.
This panel is offered as part of the Education Equity Research Initiative. The Education Equity Research Initiative is a collaborative partnership that connects organizations and individuals committed to building stronger evidence and knowledge for improving solutions for equity in and through education. It serves to help ensure that an equity lens is incorporated into data production and research across all education and development programs and policies. With more than two dozen organizations participating in its work streams and task teams, The Equity Initiative is a vital forum for bringing collective knowledge and expertise together to address the challenge of equity. The organizations in this panel are contributing to building the knowledge base and advancing the field in understanding inequities in education outcomes and developing evidence-based solutions to address them. Learn more at

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