APPROACH AND METHODOLOGY
Approach: In collaboration with The MasterCard Foundation, Amenons Nos Filles á l'Ecole, and FHI 360, Room to Read is leading an innovative study to investigate what makes a girl from an economically disadvantaged background more likely to succeed in post-secondary educational opportunities. Through a variety of qualitative research methods, Room to Read and its partners are identifying the resources and experiences that female university students associate with their success in completing the early-stages of post-secondary education. In examining girls' 'positive deviance,' the study works towards understanding what behaviors, attitudes and support systems contribute to girls' success and which factors can be used to strengthen existing programming. The research was carried out in five countries: Cambodia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, and Mauritania, where the partners collectively have experience to conduct interviews and focus groups.
Methodology: To carry out the proposed study, staff researchers from participating organizations partnered with female university students in the countries being studied. These university students served as research assistants on the ground to help compile a series of case studies on girls' access to tertiary education. As part of this effort, they participated in the design and conceptualization of the study plan, which included devising interview questions and identifying study participants. Semi-structured interview protocols were formulated using qualitative data collection methods such as appreciative inquiry and the critical incident technique to learn about what strategies girls have used to promote their academic success. The purpose of data collection was to learn about girls' experiences, the role of scholarship in increasing access to tertiary education, the tools or skills the girls learned from previous programmatic support as well as other life experiences, and the ways in which girls who receive post-secondary support have overcome challenges to complete their studies.
IMPLEMENTATION, TIMELINE, AND DELIVERABLES
This project is being implemented by the participating organizations' staff members (both in-country and international), in conjunction with the research assistants described above. Room to Read's Girls' Education program Fellow is acting as the International Coordinator, coordinating across partners and synthesizing the data to compile the final report in addition to implementing the study in Asia.
February - April 2011
Objective 1: Engage girls pursuing tertiary education in order to develop research questions and interview protocols, and to conduct interviews and focus groups.
Activity: Train selected female university students to conduct interviews and focus groups.
Deliverable: On average, two university research assistants from each country will collaborate in this study.
February - July 2011
Objective 2: Describe the attitudes, actions, and experiences of girls who received educational support during secondary school and are currently pursuing tertiary education.
Objective 3: Identify the challenges that girls encountered in achieving their immediate post-secondary goals as well as the resources on which they drew to overcome challenges and meet their goals.
Activity: Collect primary data through focus groups, interviews, and other data collection activities.
Deliverable: Written case studies and short information guides to share with key stakeholders including the girls, their families, and the broader international education community.
August - October 2011
Objective 4: Inform girls and their families, secondary school administrators, donors who support disadvantaged girls to attend college and university, and organizations that implement secondary school and university programming for disadvantaged girls about the study's findings.
Activities: Complete the final draft of the study and present findings to external organizations, donors, and stakeholders, as well as at a variety of international education forums on an ongoing basis moving forward.
Deliverable: All of the implementing organizations have a plan of action based on the research study:
Room to Read is translating case studies and guides into different languages to be shared across its program countries. For Room to Read, these guides will then become part of the life skills education for scholars in the Girls' Education program (currently 10,500 girls, 13,500 by the end of 2011, and 27,000 by the end of 2014.
FHI 360: While FHI 360 is still reviewing the situations in DRC and Ethiopia, this study has influenced the priorities of the Center for Gender Equity (CGE). The staff continues to look for opportunities for funding and preparing vulnerable young women for tertiary education. CGE plans to use this study to affirm to donors the need to support young women aspiring to reach tertiary education and to show that despite the obstacles, young women are succeeding. This study will equip CGE to seek additional funding and implement more projects in tertiary education.
ANFE: The data collected and personal stories shared in this study have helped ANFE better understand the landscape at the university level in Mauritania. ANFE realized that, although resources at the University of Nouakchott are limited and students have difficulties with basic services, such as transport, meals on campus, overcrowded classrooms, and sexism within the university setting, there is a great need to work with families to support their daughters in higher education. ANFE staff are confident that these insights will lead to programs that better support students preparing for university, transitions into university, and support at the university level.
The latest statistic suggests that 72 million children are out of school, compared to 105 million a decade ago. In 2010, girls comprised 54 percent of children who are out of school, which is down from 58 percent in 1999. These worldwide achievements demonstrate that governments and NGOs are supporting disadvantaged girls, and the girls themselves have performed heroic feats to beat the odds. Despite the dedication of the international community in addressing gender equity in education, completing post-secondary education remains a challenge for the majority of girls living in Africa and Asia. According to the 2010 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, 'In OECD countries at 15 a student can expect to continue school for seven more years. This compares with less than one year in South and West Asia. In sub-Saharan Africa, the average 15-year old does not attend school.' For girls from rural areas or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, getting access to and succeeding in tertiary education can be particularly challenging.
Room to Read is a global organization that helps millions of children in Asia and Africa gain access to education through a variety of programs that focus on gender equality and literacy. Through their Girls' Education program, Room to Read provides long-term support for underprivileged girls to complete secondary school and negotiate key life decisions upon graduation. While organizations like Room to Read, Amenons Nos Filles á l'Ecole, and FHI 360 have been providing supports to girls at the secondary and tertiary levels for decades, little research has been done to understand which factors have a positive impact on girls as they make the transition from secondary to tertiary education. Furthermore, there is also a lack of research on which factors have a significant impact on girls as they successfully complete the early years of post-secondary education. For example, how much of girls' success is derived from self-developed experiences and how much stems from external support provided by universities or local organizations?
By completing a study that investigates the reasons a girl from a rural or economically disadvantaged background can succeed in tertiary education, Room to Read and its partner organizations will be able to strengthen their programs aimed at promoting girls long-term educational success in Africa and Asia, thereby helping the thousands of girls in school and beyond.
SEEKING: Financial Resources, Implementing Partners, Best Practice Information, Media/Marketing Opportunities
Room to Read (RtR) is primarily seeking partners who can provide financial resources to raise the $90 million of estimated funding needed over the next two years to successfully leverage this commitment across its countries of operation. RtR is also interested in media and marketing opportunities that will provide increased exposure for the RtR brand and its mission/vision. Finally, RtR would welcome the opportunity to discuss ways to partner with organizations in the countries where it works, and learn of other best practices. These discussions would depend on the specific geographic overlap of the organizations.
OFFERING: Implementing Partners, Media/Marketing Opportunities
Within the scope of the goals outlined above, Room to Read can serve as the implementing partner for organizations seeking to promote literacy and/or gender equality in the geographies where it currently works. For corporate funding partners, the organization looks to provide media exposure for significant partnership through inclusion in its internal media (annual reports, newsletters, website blogs, 520,000 followers in Twitter, etc.), as well as including its partners' names in relevant pitches to external media (where it has a strong track record of getting corporate mention in the press).