Mikhulu Trust Working in Partnership with Brookings - Centre for Universal Education,  to Bring Evidence-Based Change to the Education

September 12, 2023

The Mikhulu Trust has joined a collaborative research project with Brookings - Centre for Universal Education (CUE). This US-based organisation is a leading policy centre focused on quality education and skills development on a global level. With a focus on transforming education systems, the CUE recognised that we are unlikely to see major changes if families and schools have a different understanding on the purposes of education, or the types of learning experiences children should have. 

The idea is that, before we can transform education systems, we need to understand the beliefs and perceptions on education from the different people in the system, i.e., learners, parents and teachers. We can then work with these beliefs and perceptions to find common ground and address any differences in opinions. 

The CUE developed the "Conversation Starter Toolkit" for this purpose. With support, the toolkit helps learners, parents and teachers begin to explore a shared vision of education for their community. 

For the first time, the CUE is testing the toolkit in an Early Childhood Development setting globally, and they have chosen to do this in South Africa. They have partnered with the Mikhulu Trust who have been using the toolkit, with their support, to identify how we can help ECD teachers in South Africa to be more supportive of parents. 

What are we doing, and why are we doing it?

For this project, the Conversation Starter toolkit is being used to better understand parent/caregiver and educator perspectives on education at ECD Centres. In other words, we want to learn about parents' beliefs about the role of education, and also understand teachers' opinions and beliefs about the role of parents in children’s early development. 

The Conversation Starter toolkit includes:

  • A contextualisation checklist that guides us to adapt the tools for our specific context;
  • Three surveys; one for parents, one for teachers/staff and one for learners (learner survey was not used in ECD context, but is used in school settings with older children)
  • A guide for discussing the survey results with the community.

Using the toolkit, we are exploring how parents’ thoughts and ECD teachers’ views differ within the ECD centres in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. 

Surveying parents and teachers from ECD centres in Khaylitsha

Working with the CUE, Mikhulu adapted the Parent and Teacher surveys to be more appropriate for an ECD setting and translated it into isiXhosa.  The survey was then administered by trained Research Assistants to anonymously capture data from ~500 parents and ~70 teachers from 10 ECD centres in Khayelitsha. We worked closely with Sikhula Sonke, an NPO that provides support services to ECD cetnres in Khayelitsha, to help us identify a range of ECD centres that would capture a variety of settings. They also provided valuable logistical support and we are grateful for their ongoing support. 

Next steps – having conversations about perceptions and beliefs

All the surveys have been completed, and are being analysed by the CUE. Based on the insights in the reports, Mikhulu will host a series of workshops with each ECD Centre  - all parents, teachers and staff will be invited to participate in the discussion. The discussion will be guided to help us build a deeper level of understanding and cooperation between parents, teachers and other staff on how to work together to provide effective early learning support to the children at each ECD centre. 

The CUE is immensely excited to see the results coming out of this project, while Mikhulu Trust is elated to be the first organisation, globally, to be conducting such valuable research in the ECD sector. This project is important to Mikhulu because of our strong belief that parents need more support in South Africa and greater involvement in their children's development and a big part of achieving this goal is to create better engagement between ECD Centres and parents. This project has helped us do exactly that.

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