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Action Against Stunting Hub: Early Childhood - Education and Cognition workstream

A research strand focusing on early childhood education and cognition to understand the social, environmental and behavioural context in which stunting occurs.

Stunting impacts 155 - 165.8 million children worldwide. In 2012, the World Health Assembly recognised that child stunting was ‘one of the most significant impediments to human development’. It resolved to reduce the number of children under five who are stunted by 40% by 2025. Despite political good will, reducing the world’s stunted children to 100 million is now recognised as largely unachievable.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy and placing UK-led research at the heart of efforts to tackle the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. 

It runs for five years (March 2019 – March 2024) and involves 18 institutions.

About the Education and Cognition research strand

This working strand, carried out at the UCL Institute of Education, is part of the Action Against Stunting Hub, an interdisciplinary research hub working to further understand the causes of stunting led by the London International Development Centre (LIDC) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Our workstream explores different domains of children's development (language, social skills, cognition, etc.) along with the family and early years environments where stunting occurs. It aims to investigate the cognitive profile, learning needs and educational opportunities of stunted and non-stunted children using a whole child approach across communities in Senegal (Kaffrine), India (Hyderabad) and Indonesia (Lombok).

    Phases

    Phase 1: Profile of the early years' development and learning environments

    • Profile children’s development and the quality of their home environments at 12 and 24 months of age
    • Profile and compare the learning needs of children aged between 3 and 5, and the quality of their home and learning environments.

    Phase 2: Compare the learning needs and environments between children who are stunted and non-stunted

    • Capture the different developmental pathways and profiles of children who are stunted in comparison to matched peers
    • Identify the home and educational features that characterise quality environments that support early learning and development
    • Identify learning needs for children who are stunted compared to those who are not
    • Identify how the early years environments can be enhanced to better support children’s learning opportunities, particularly those identified with learning needs.

    Phase 3: Develop an early years' practice toolkit for teacher professional development 

    • Enhance quality of classroom interactions and the environment that can best support learning for children who are stunted
    • Support the professional development of teachers to enhance children’s learning.
      Methodology

      The Education and Cognition team works across three countries and two different cohorts in each country to profile children’s development and the early years environments: 

      • First cohort: measures of cognitive, language, motor and socio-emotional development will be measured at 12 and 24 months of age, along with observations of their home environment - to enhance our understanding of the stunting typology.
      • Second cohort: profiling the range of learning environments of children aged between 3 and 5 years - children's cognitive, language, motor and socio-emotional skills will be measured along with their attendance at pre-primary settings and the quality of such settings. 

      Research questions

      • What are the developmental profiles of children who are stunted in comparison to their peers who are not stunted?
      • What educational features characterise a quality environment that supports early learning and development?
      • What particular learning needs are identified for children who are stunted in comparison to their peers?
      • How can the early years environment be enhanced to better support children’s learning opportunities, particularly those identified with learning needs?
        Team

        The Education and Cognition working stream is formed by a central team at the UCL Institute of Education, from the Departments of Learning and Leadership and Psychology and Human Development, working in collaboration with country teams.

        UCL Institute of Education

        India team

        • Dr Bharati Kulkarni (Country lead) 
        • Sree Devi (Education and Cognition team member)
        • Dr Sylvia Rao (Education and Cognition theme lead).

        Indonesia team

        • Dr Umi Fahmida (Country lead) 
        • Dr Risatianti Kolopaking (Education and Cognition theme lead)
        • Dr Dwi Priyono (Education and Cognition team member)
        • Rita Anggorowati (Education and Cognition team member)
        • Irwan Gunawan (Education and Cognition team member)
        • Winda Hapsari (Education and Cognition Team member).

        Senegal team

        • Professor Babacar Faye (Country lead) 
        • Professor Moustapha Ndiaye (Education and Cognition theme lead) 
        • Dr Momar Camara (Education and Cognition team member) 
        • Dr Mareme Sougou (Education and Cognition team member) 
        • Sokhna Thioune (Education and Cognition team member) 
        • El Hadji Makhtar Ba (Education and Cognition team member).
        Outputs

        Papers

        Blogs

        Events

        Stakeholder engagement

        UCL Culture, Public Engagement grant

        We have been successful in the grant application ‘Listen and Learn’ led by Dr Jessica Massonnie. The grant was awarded by UCL Culture, Public Engagement to engage with external stakeholders in India, Indonesia and Senegal.

        IOE Early Career Impact Fellowship

        We secured an IOE Early Career Impact Fellowship for our team member Jessica Massonnie, who benefitted from extra training on research impact and financial support to create an infographic for policy stakeholders by September 2021. This infographic will synthesise the cultural factors to review when mapping out the state of preschool education in a given country.