New award aims to boost education research quality

A new annual award to promote and recognise quality African research in education aims to strengthen links between researchers and policy-makers.

The Education Research in Africa Award is an initiative of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the African Development Institute of the African Development Bank, in collaboration with the Korea-Africa Economic Cooperation Conference.

Based in Tunis, ADEA is a network of policy-makers, practitioners and researchers, including education ministries and development agencies, that aims to promote relevant education policies in Africa, encourage dialogue and partnerships and develop consensus on solving policy problems.

The Education Research in Africa Award’s conceptual framework says that while “the quality of learning and the ability to utilise this learning for effective decision-making is directly linked to the quality of research training, diversity and intensity of engagement, and output by researchers based on the African continent…[a] critical research issue in Africa, however, remains the poor quality of the institutional environment for undertaking educational research”.

This has led to “an even greater dependency of ministries of education in Africa on donor funding, and thus a greater influence on the research enterprise”, it says.

Special donor research funding often led to establishment of private research institutions outside universities whose research, “based on terms set by agencies and conducted outside the regular national frameworks for quality assurance”, was often channelled into government ministries.

“Frequently this type of consultancy mode of engagement of national researchers further constrains the latter’s autonomy and their ability to produce quality and relevant research to address national challenges.”

ADEA says the annual award ultimately “seeks to institutionalise a culture of high quality, relevant educational research in African universities, research networks and institutes”, which it will do by “rewarding research on innovative education policy and practices in Africa”.

It describes the broad objectives of the new award as:
  • • Strengthening the link between education, research and education policy-making and practice in Africa.
  • • Encouraging and supporting Africa-based researchers and their institutions to produce and disseminate rigorous and relevant research that stimulates innovative policy-making for Africa.
  • • Facilitating interaction between researchers and policy-makers to increase the use of research findings in policy formulation, implementation and evaluation.
The award consists of four categories, for an: emerging education researcher; accomplished education researcher; outstanding mentor of educational researchers; and enabling an institutional environment for educational research.

The prizes comprise monetary and in-kind components, the latter including a study trip to the University of Seoul in South Korea. The results for the first award will be announced in mid-December.