Prof Liesel Ebersöhn, from the Department of Educational Psychology in the Faculty of Education at the University of Pretoria (UP), has been invited by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) to serve as a member of the Commissioning Panel for the 2015 call under their Raising learning outcomes in education systems programme.
The ESRC was established in 1965 and is the United Kingdom's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. It is a non-departmental public body (NDPB) that supports more than 4 000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic and independent research institutes. The organisation’s focus is on vigorous and authoritative research that will make a difference in shaping public policies and society at large, with the intent to maximise the economic and social impacts of the research they fund.
The aim of the programme in which Prof Ebersöhn will be involved is to fund social science research that increases understanding of the complex relationships between elements of the education system, the context in which they are embedded, and the dynamics operating within the education system’s efforts to raise learning outcomes for all in developing countries.
The 2015 call is thematically focussed on contexts where education systems face certain challenges. Proposals are required to adopt a contextual lens in order to help increase understanding of the complex relationships between context, education interventions and learning outcomes in these spaces.
Prof Ebersöhn was pleased to receive this opportunity and when asked to comment she said, ‘Findings from studies on adaptation in high-risk and high-needs schools have value for emerging economies, as well as affluent societies. Knowledge of methodologies used in such studies is also significant as it is necessary to ensure rigour in spaces of broad diversity and severe adversity. I am pleased that I will be able to use such knowledge, generated in a global southern space, to influence funding decisions on both southern and northern studies on education systems that face particular challenges – specifically in remote rural areas, urban slums and border cities.’
Prof Irma Eloff, Dean of UP’s Faculty of Education, remarked: ‘The education sector is shaped by high-impact funded studies that show us how we can improve our systems. The invitation to serve on this Commissioning Panel attests to both Prof Ebersöhn’s standing in the field, and the importance of contribution from African researchers to global discourses on education.’
Nathalie Kopecky, Research Portfolio Manager of the ESRC, said that in choosing Prof Ebersohn, they observed that her expertise aligned well with the areas covered by this call. As a member of the Commissioning Panel, Prof Ebersöhn’s role will require her to assess up to six proposals, read two additional proposals and be prepared to participate in the discussion of these at the panel meeting. Prof Ebersöhn will be attending a Commissioning Panel meeting in London on 2 December 2015 to discuss the applications and make funding recommendations.
Applications for ESRC awards are submitted in open competition. The projects that it funds are subject to transparent peer assessment at the outset and evaluation on completion. Rigorous standards are applied to all training and the research often involves multidisciplinary teams, as well as collaboration with other councils. The ESRC states its role as promoting public understanding of the social sciences.