Launch of Round 4 Preliminary Findings in Delhi


Preliminary findings from Rounds 1 to 4 of the Young Lives survey were launched at a special event in Delhi on 18 September, chaired by Professor R. Govinda, Vice-Chancellor of the National University for Educational Policy and Administration (NUEPA) and attended by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. The Chief Guest was Ms Sinhushree Khullar, Secretary of the Planning Commission.

Professor R. Govinda, Vice-Chancellor of NUEPA, opened the event and reflected on the growing interest in Young Lives and growing power of the data. There are many studies of children and childhood, but none that combines quantitative data so effectively with information about the lived reality of children’s daily experiences as Young Lives. How can we forget what education has done for Sarada, or how family circumstances forced Ravi had to leave school, he asked? View video on YouTube

Professor Jo Boyden, Director of Young Lives, gave an overview of findings to date, focusing on how a multi-disciplinary, multi-country study like Young Lives enables us to view trends over time, not just in India but also across four diverse countries. Child development and economic development are mutually reinforcing, she argued. We have seen a decade of growth, with reductions in poverty levels and improvement in infrastructure and service access (particularly primary enrolment) across all our study countries. The question we must now address is how we deal with entrenched inequalities, which need integrated measures across government departments to invest in child development. Download presentation  or View video on YouTube 

Dr Renu Singh, Country Director of Young Lives India, presented the preliminary findings from Round 4 of the Young Lives survey, focusing on changes in children’s lives in the eleven years since the survey began. In education we find that enrolment is almost universal and only 3% of children are not attending school at age 12. This improvement in access to elementary-level education has particularly benefited girls and Scheduled Caste children. However, there are worrying signs that learning standards have fallen since 2006, with only half the children able to answer our maths questions correctly, compared with two-thirds of children in 2006. In terms of nutrition and health, we see that almost a third of the sample children continue to show signs of stunting (chronic malnutrition), especially among the poorest and most marginalised children and in rural areas. Food diversity is changing (children are eating fewer pulses, legumes and nuts, and poorer quality cereals) and only half of the sample had access to sanitation, with extremely low coverage in rural areas and for the poorest households. Our findings for the Older Cohort at age 19 clearly show how young people’s opportunities in life are influenced by household wealth level and background circumstances. Almost a third of the sample children have started university-level education, but a quarter of them (mainly from the poorest and most disadvantaged groups) have left full-time education, many without completing secondary level. By the age of 19, 36% of the girls in our sample, and 2% of the boys, were married – and 108 of them already have a child of their own (almost two-thirds of the married girls). Our findings show that in order to reap the demographic dividend of India’s large youth population, policymakers must find a way to keep children in education and to ensure that the education system provides them with the learning and skills they need to find decent work and livelihoods. Download presentation  or View video on YouTube

Dr Santiago Cueto, Country Director of Young Lives in Peru, discussed findings on learning gaps and how they emerge over time. Data from the Young Lives household survey in Round 1 show how cognitive development levels at age 5 are similar across the four study countries, especially between Vietnam and Peru (with India closely behind). But by age 8, children in Vietnam out-performed other countries in Maths test scores after only one or two years in school (although in Ethiopia children start school later). When we compare data from the Older Cohort who were aged 12 in 2006 and the Younger Cohort aged 12 in 2013, we see that in 2013 12-year-olds in Vietnam and Peru are doing better in Maths than the 12-year-olds in 2006, but in India and Ethiopia 12-year-olds are now doing worse than in 2006.This divergence with Vietnam is largely caused by differential effectiveness of schooling, and our evidence also shows that teaching quality counts. The policy options to break the perverse triangle of inequality in education would be to focus on quality of schooling and equity within educational systems (as we see in Vietnam), and extra support for children who are not doing so well in school (for example, the new programme of after-school support just being introduced in Peru). Download presentation or View video on YouTube

Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, spoke about the scale and ambition of the Young Lives partnership. As a multidisciplinary programme, the findings are of interest to medical scientists, political scientists, educationalists, sociologists and anthropologists, and Young Lives is an example of the kind of inter-disciplinary research that is needed if we are going to tackle and address the challenges of the twenty-first century. More than solely being an academic programme, Young Lives has an important contribution to make to public debates, which is one of the reasons the University of Oxford is proud to support and be associated with it. The Vice-Chancellor also spoke about the reasons for his visit to India – to celebrate the enduring links between Oxford and India, to reflect on the importance and power of education, and to support path breaking research collaborations across different topics and different states of India.

The Chief Guest, Ms Sindhushree Khullar, Secretary of the Planning Commission, spoke of how the Commission had been at the heart of policy formulation in India for over 60 years, with development planning as a central focus of nationhood and a central tenet of the Constitution. India now needs to live up to that, and at every phase of the planning process needs to live up to its promise to children, she said. The successes and failures reflected in the Young Lives findings we heard today, support the faults and cracks in the development process, and also highlight the agenda that different government sectors need to follow. Young Lives embodies an effort to bring together research evidence across different disciplines, and can be very helpful for those who want to translate such findings into practice, helping us answer the question, across the technical, economic and quality spheres: what do our efforts do for children? Many surveys exist, but Young Lives can help us to develop a storyline to show what is happening in children’s lives. Development is still centre-stage in Indian Government policy. Aspirational India has recently voted for a government which can deliver on growth; but actions are needed that will address the challenges of malnutrition and poor sanitation. A success story will only be possible if many people are involved: civil servants need to take responsibility for policy and programmes but also need the engagement and involvement of a vibrant civil society in issues, actions and interventions. Young Lives is an example how engaging with others in the development project adds to the richness, breadth and depth of what is possible. View video on YouTube

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