Paper was invented in 206 BC….It’s time for a change: Introducing CAPI

Anne SolonAnne Solon, Data Manager for Young Lives

(This blog first appeared on the UK Data Service’s Data Impact Blog on 24 November 2105)

I recently attended a Global Health and Development Seminar at London School of Tropical Medicine about the experience of using technology (specifically ACASI) to research violence against adolescent girls in humanitarian situations. During the session, IRC and the Population Council hosted a discussion on the use of technology within an adolescent-girl protection research programme and innovative ways of collecting data in Ethiopia’s refugee camps by COMPASS, a research centre, like Young Lives, based in the University of Oxford.

The seminar prompted me to reflect on our own processes and considerations for migrating from administering our questionnaires using paper and pen to using tablets for data collection.

Can  CAPI (computer-assisted personal interviewing) solve all your problems?

The simple answer is yes, computer-assisted personal interviewing can solve all your current problems but it will give you some new ones to think about as well! In 2013, Round 4 of our longitudinal survey, we started using tablets to collect our data in the field. Gone were the paper and pens of yore and in were the stylus pens and screens and with this, a myriad of considerations and trade-offs. So here are some reflections on introducing CAPI to teams across four varying countries:


Corporal punishment of children linked to lower school grades




This blog by Kirrily Pells, first appeared in The Conversation on 20 November 2015.


Debates on whether the use of physical force to discipline children is ever acceptable have once again been reignited with legislation passed in Ireland in early November to remove the defence of “reasonable chastisement” for corporal punishment.

In new research conducted by the Young Lives study at the University of Oxford using longitudinal data from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam, we found that children who experienced corporal punishment performed worse in maths, four years later. The research was part of UNICEF’s Multi Country Study on the Drivers of Violence Affecting Children.

The use of physical punishment, such as smacking, slapping or hitting with a hand or implement, is contrary to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by all states except the US. Yet only 47 countries have, like Ireland, introduced legislation to protect children from corporal punishment in all settings, including the home and school.

Corporal punishment excites strong points of view. Proponents argue that “mild” or “moderate” forms of corporal punishment are an effective and non-detrimental means of instilling discipline and obedience into children. When talking about our research on corporal punishment I often encounter the response: “I was hit and it never did me any harm”. Opponents stress the hypocrisy of laws that do not extend the same protection to children as is afforded to adults.


Towards the End of Child Poverty (Part 2)

by Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer, Young Lives

Part 2 of a two-part blog

Late last month I attended the launch of the newly formed Global Coalition of Partners to End Child Poverty at UN HQ in New York. At the time I wrote a short blog, highlighting a joint statement about the importance of ending child poverty. The Co-chairs of the coalition also wrote a blog emphasising the importance and timeliness of tackling child poverty through the SDGs. So, here are a couple of reflections after the event.

The universality of shame

First, it was great to hear this issue being discussed within the UN. Speakers from the governments of Luxembourg and Mexico as well as the African Child Policy Forum, Save the Children and UNICEF made the point of the importance of the problem, as well as that existing policy mechanisms exist can used effectively to end child poverty. And they talked about the universality of experience of stigma and shame, such as not having the clothes or shoes to ‘fit in’, felt by children the world over. Hearing this level of commitment in a packed-out UN room was heartening.

Second, SDG 1 represents an opportunity to do better for children. It lays out a number of areas for key focus – eradication of poverty (using the $1.90 per person extreme low income threshold), and to halve the proportion of men, women and children below a national poverty line (new definitions of which are likely to include multidimensional measures). SDG 1 also identifies extending social protection as a key mechanism for tackling poverty (while other goal areas focus on employment).


Vietnam’s PISA surprise; It’s not about the resources

by  M Niaz Asadullah and Liyanage Devangi Perera

VIE10-girl reading in sun(This blog originally appeared on The Diplomat on 1 November 2015)

Vietnam’s performance in the latest round of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has created a stir among education experts and policymakers around the world. The country’s 15-year olds participated for the first time in the 2012 assessment and ranked 17th in mathematics, 8th in science, and 19th in reading among 65 participating nations, placing Vietnam above the OECD average. At a time when Western countries are striving to replicate East Asia’s success in education, Vietnam has outranked the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. In doing so, it has become an exception to the argument that educational excellence is not possible without a high level of economic development.


What can the private sector offer Indian education?

Abhijeet Singh, Young Lives Research Officer

(An edited version of this blog was first published on Ideas 4 India on 28 October 2015)


Few things in education policy in developing countries are more contentious than what the role of the private sector should be. Much of the dispute comes from contrasting opinions about the nature of private schools as they exist today: should we think of them as offering a substantial route for actually delivering quality education for many millions of children, especially in the face of severely underperforming government schools? Or should we think of them as essentially thriving on ‘cream-skimming’ students from more privileged backgrounds, deepening social and economic divides but adding little in terms of actual skills and education. These are empirical questions. Here, I present some evidence, both from my own research and others’, that speaks to these issues directly in the Indian context. More importantly, I discuss the avenues which current research hasn’t focused on but which are critical for understanding how the private sector may best be leveraged in India.

Do private schools really produce more learning?
It is undisputed that private school students perform better on a range of tests than government school students. It is also undisputed that probably a substantial portion of this difference is accounted for not by the schools but by the type of households these children come from and their greater socio-economic advantage – in short, if the private schools had to teach the students currently in government schools, they might not be able to do better either!


Towards the End of Child Poverty

by Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer, Young Lives

Paul_web commentPart 1 of a two-part blog

Today marks the launch of the Global Coalition of Partners to End Child Poverty. The launch date is fitting as Saturday was the UN Day of the Eradication of Poverty, and because the face of poverty is often young.

The coalition is a group of likeminded organisations, led by UNICEF and Save the Children, and encompassing many child focused agencies and research organisations from different countries. The aim is to raise the profile of child poverty within development debates, and to bring forward the best evidence and experience of what to do about it.  This joint statement by the partners in the coalition stresses the urgency of the situation affecting our children, and some of the ways we can globally address child poverty.  Young Lives is part of this coalition, both so that we can bring the learning from the experiences of Young Lives children into these debates, and so we can learn better what the key policy and programming questions are so our research is as relevant as possible.


Reviewing ‘The Poor Child’

by Virginia Morrow, Senior Researcher, Young Lives


Ginny cropped_low-resThis week saw the launch of an exciting book entitled ‘The Poor Child’: the cultural politics of education, development and childhood, edited by Lucy Hopkins and Arathi Sriprakash.

The book is a collection of 10 chapters, and explores the ethics and impact of educational policies in contexts of poverty – in ‘advanced’ nations, UK and Australia, and ‘developing countries’, India, Kenya, Bhutan, Benin, Mexico. One chapter, by Alexandra McCormick, unpacks policy constructions of childhoods and sets out the effects of multi-level education and development policy processes in Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

I have really enjoyed reading the book, and want to just pick out why it is so relevant and timely for thinking about children and youth at this moment in time, and going forwards, and why it connects so well to Young Lives. We have been researching the lives of ‘poor’ children in Ethiopia, Peru, Andhra Pradesh, and Vietnam over the past 15 years. The book is very much like looking at the other side of the coin of Young Lives, because it provides a theoretical framework for what we see happening. The book – in true sociological fashion – wants to challenge and ‘unsettle’ dominant assumptions and ideas about the universal nature of childhood – specifically, the category of the ‘poor child’.


Vietnam and the MDGs; Progress but on-going disparities

Nguyen Thi Thu Hang, Policy Coordinator, Young Lives Vietnam (Center for Analysis and Forecasting)

Viewed globally, Vietnam has made good progress in terms of meeting the MDGs. There have been significant successes in poverty reduction and in the universalization of primary education, but a lot remains to be done, as pointed out in the Viet Nam 2014 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey final report (MICS 2014), the survey on the situation of women and children, which was launched in September in Hanoi. The MICs study gives important insights into children’s wellbeing in Vietnam, and what policy challenges remain. This blog summarises some key findings, drawing on the report and executive summary.

The MICS 2014 was conducted by the Viet Nam General Statistics Office, in collaboration with UNICEF. It was perfect timing as the report was presented at the beginning of a new school year for Vietnamese children, sending important findings and recommendations to policymakers and stakeholders on child protection and development. The report also provides evidence for evaluation of the MDGs as the year – and the MDGs themselves- comes to an end, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) begin.

VIE84_baby playing with water_low resOverall, Vietnam has made good progress in many aspects of child development and protection such as vaccination, availability of learning materials, secondary school attendance ratio. But a number of indicators show a stalling of progress particularly in the under-five mortality rate, child labour, early marriage rates among women aged 15-19, and primary school completion rate.

Let’s have a closer look at the findings:


Where are the children? The challenge of tracking in a longitudinal study of children

Anne Solon is the data manager for Young Lives. Her role involves working with our research partners to coordinate the complete survey cycle and coordinating the processes of survey design, piloting, training of field staff, data collection, data entry and data management. This is the first in a series of blogs about data management and first appeared on the UK Data Service DataImpact Blog.

Anne cropped_low-resI’m in an odd position of having to ask myself this question both personally and professionally. At home, I wonder why my two children are so quiet and where they are in the house. When they are at the childminder’s I wonder if they are at the park, a play group or if they got dropped off at school okay.
At work, the concern is slightly different with the children in the Young Lives project. Over the years we have found them (or not found them) in numerous locations and circumstances. It’s eye opening to relate their circumstances to that of your own children. I can easily predict where my children will be, or are likely to be, over the next 18 years. Their home address is, for all intents and purposes, ‘settled’.  What about the 12,000 Young Lives children and families spread out over Ethiopia, India, Vietnam and Peru? (more…)

Will the SDGs advance progress for disadvantaged children?

by Paul Dornan, Senior Policy Officer, Young Lives

Paul_web comment

The end of the week sees the meeting to agree the Sustainable Development Goals. Don’t expect too many surprises; the document to be signed off has already been published. There are 17 proposed goals, with 169 targets. The good news is the impressive scope; the bad news is the impressive scope. The proposed goals cover new and important areas, and adopt new approaches, but the sheer number risks people picking and choosing between myriad targets. Pinning accountability for delivery, including through the development of national plans, is going to be the challenge.

So watch out for press coverage, and an overheated blogosphere over the next few days.  Over the next few months, and indeed years, many discussions will flesh out what the SDGs will really mean in practice. With that implementation question in mind, a couple of reflections: (more…)