Chudgar earns nearly $1 million in funding for international research

April 23, 2019

Amita Chudgar is exploring marginalized youth’s experiences in secondary education around the globe through a nearly $1 million grant as a recipient of the 2018 Lyle Spencer Research Award

Presented through the Spencer Foundation, the award recognizes ambitious research aimed at improving education. Chudgar’s research fits the bill. The project, which will begin in fall 2019, spans three continents and asks big questions: What does providing quality secondary education really mean? 

Amita Chudgar headshot

Prominent stakeholders are promoting secondary education access and success around the world, but we don’t fully understand the experiences and challenges of youth for whom this education is intended,” Chudgar explained. “We wanted to understand secondary education experiences of marginalized youth to help inform this gap.” 

Chudgar, an associate professor of education policy, and colleagues will collect qualitative and quantitative data over two years in Colombia, India and Malawi to look at overlapping, yet distinct, forms of marginalization to understand what is happening in depth. 

Challenges and solutions

Chudgar explains that this research is important, and timely. While many countries around the world have achieved what she describes as “universal primary enrollment,” it is not the case for secondary school, roughly categorized as grades 8-10. There are challenges across the board, including retention and graduation. 

“The whole secondary process is problematic in ways it is serving, or failing to serve, youth in these countries.” In some cases, she explained, students will pursue secondary education because of the so-called promise of employment or an increase in quality of life. “My work shows secondary education may be failing to fulfill their promise to youth. It fails in availability, accessibility. And people who have this education don’t see promised outcomes.” 

Through the grant, Chudgar and fellow researchers including Thomas Luschei (Claremont Graduate University) and Nancy Kendall (University of Wisconsin-Madison) will examine rural and urban schools in Colombia, India and Malwai to compare and contrast marginalized youth’s secondary education experiences. 

Their goal: Make visible marginalized youth’s experiences and needs, and to inform improved global and national secondary education discourses, policies and practices. 

“The knowledge we will generate has implications much broader than just one location, one method, one time point,” Chudgar said. 

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Chudgar has done further cross-national research on secondary education, including through the MacArthur Foundation project: “Improving access and retention in PSIPSE countries: What can we learn from existing large-scale resources?”

Details on the new Lyle Spencer Research Award can be found on the Spencer Foundation website.