Evaluation of the first Project Methodology & Monitoring Workshop

On 16th September, the inclusion4Schools project has held its first Project Methodology & Monitoring Workshop.

During the course of the online event, representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and guests from Greece and Luxembourg, members of the parallel running RIA projects gathered to review two main topics. Firstly, the members discussed methodological issues, focusing on challenges on data collection. Secondly, they evaluated and analyzed transformative practices of partner schools and NGOs concerning disadvantaged children

In the first section, moderated by Mr Péter Tibor Nagy (Oltalom Charity Society) the discussion panel mapped what kind of data can be found in the official statistical databases of project countries, and what challenges the project participants were facing with accessing data on school segregation or integration of disadvantaged groups. Firstly, Mr Péter Tibor Nagy pointed out to be cautious with national past tendencies, especially in Eastern Europe since in some environments it is impossible to gather data.

Even if data can be accessed, one of the challenges is to define disadvantaged social groups by statistical data. In different European states, different data are collected describing disadvantaged social groups e.g.: income of the family (which underperforms the national average or the local average); the wealth of families (the low price of flats, as the obstacles of territorial mobility, etc.), poorness in flat circumstances (as a direct obstacle of home learning); poorness in electrical systems (as a direct obstacle of home learning); parents unemployment; drug, alcohol, gambling dependence of parents; crime and physical, psychical conflict within the family and several other indicators are existing to describe the problem. These data can be provided by statistical offices, administration of education, Eurostat, or PISA.

Furthermore, there are problems with the quality and accuracy of data. “Even though good statistics can be received from state universities since they calculate with better methodologies, they gather information without explaining the methodology,” said professor Sander Kovaci (Polytechnic University of Tirana).

However, Romania can be mentioned as a positive example where county-level data is available, whereas in other countries only national or regional datasets can be accessed. Mr Péter Tibor Nagy commented, “it would be necessary to define data available at the village or even street level or to know what kind of data is exactly available at regional and at the national level.”

The main objective of this discussion is to figure out how the project can lobby more effectively towards European authorities. Péter Tibor Nagy suggested alternatives in approaches to social indicators and the different kinds of approaches in ideologies: e.g. the economic reasoning argues that people coming from disadvantaged areas will have a bad position on the labour market and crime rates would uprise in these places, which is why it makes sense to support the integration of disadvantaged children into education.

Since the project aims to create a knowledge-sharing platform to enable schools and NGOs to evaluate their own good practices or those of others at any time, in the Second section, moderated by György Mészáros (Eötvös Loránd University), participants attempted to find common ground for interpretations of terms of “transformative” and “good practices.”

This led to a proactive debate on this complex sociological question. Ms Juliette Torabian (University of Luxemburg) opened the discussion by arguing that policymakers often talk about transformation or reform of education concentrating on the outputs but motivated by different political and social reasons that are relevant to their perspectives. She pointed out it is crucial to specify that where we start the transformation from, what needs to be changed, and what the reason is behind it, i.e. to fully understand the context of a given practice.

Mr Péter Tibor Nagy (Oltalom Charity Society) formed similar critiques regarding the idea of “good practices.” He emphasized that what we identify as good practice needs to be specified. “What is it good for, good for who, good in what circumstances, and good for what cost?”. Ms Torabian adds there is a tendency to think that if a certain practice works in one environment, it will be good for another, but this is not true. “In a different context, it will fail.” The workshop tried to clarify the term “good education” to answer these questions.

After the argumentation of good practices, the members formed two groups to evaluate case studies of good practices from their countries to find criteria for their analysis. The groups concluded indicators to measure good practices can be formulated based on the objectives of each specific practice. Thus, the problems they address need to be identified, the kind of transformations are needed to be clarified, and the expected results are needed to be defined. Quantitative indicators are crucial, but impact indicators are also important: e.g. the number of school drop-out of children who have passed these services can be an indicator to measure whether a practice works or not. Furthermore, the number of children who graduated from secondary school and the number of students who enrolled in higher education are also possible indicators. Other quantitative factors were added. For example, the number of families who chose these services, the number of children involved. It would be valuable to see how these numbers change. A researcher shall always determine whether a practice was accepted by the community and whether it was sustainable.

The discussions of the day provided good bases for the work of the following months in WP1, WP2, and WP3. The next steps are the forming of intersectoral think tanks concerning data collection and the elaboration of a knowledge-sharing portal, providing access – among many other functions – to good practices.