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Secondary education research for marginalized youth

"It is difficult to determine what makes an education truly relevant to youth without understanding their experiences and aspirations." -Amita Chudgar

Amita Chudgar

A nearly $1 million grant from the Spencer Foundation to the College of Education at Michigan State University will help bring visibility to marginalized youth’s schooling experiences, needs and aspirations to improve global and national secondary education discourses, policies and practices. 

The Spencer Foundation supports research projects that investigate ways in which education can be improved around the world. Amita Chudgar, associate professor of education policy, was awarded the Lyle Spencer Research Award from the foundation for her project focusing on understanding marginalized youth’s secondary education experiences in low-income countries.

In collaboration with Nancy Kendall from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Thomas Luschei from Claremont Graduate University, Chudgar and the research team will begin the project in fall 2019. They will conduct a two-year, mixed-method study in rural and urban public secondary schools in the countries of Colombia, India and Malawi, where they have strong research networks and youth face distinct sources of marginalization. The focus will be on the practices and effectiveness of secondary education and gaining a greater understanding of educational relevancy to marginalized global youth.

“Promoting a relevant education for global youth is currently an incredibly popular topic in education discourse,” said Chudgar. “We have very little understanding of what youth secondary education experiences and aspirations truly are at the ground level, especially the youth that are marginalized in these low-income countries. It is difficult to determine what makes an education truly relevant to youth without understanding their experiences and aspirations.”

The current focus on secondary education in the educational community first inspired Chudgar to take a closer look at secondary education for marginalized populations in 2015. With a grant from the MacArthur Foundation, Chudgar’s initial research project focused on studying the access to and outcomes of secondary education in five countries. Chudgar saw the usefulness and effectiveness of secondary education research after its conclusion and was encouraged to further her research with help from the Lyle Spencer Research Award with hopes of challenging and informing global youth discourses to determine the extent and relevancy of secondary education for marginalized youth.

“Global youth aged 15-25 are a very crucial demographic for our planet going forward for a number of reasons,” said Chudgar. “From maintaining a good civic presence, to environmental awareness, economic growth and so forth. Young people are our leaders for change and reform, and an exploration of what it means to educate youth is still limited and in need of urgent attention”

Chudgar and her team will travel to these three continents in the coming months to begin their research. They are looking forward to gaining insights on the relevancy of secondary education and returning with new insights from the perspectives of marginalized youth that have the potential to challenge and inform the current thinking and dialogue around secondary education.