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RTI International Internship

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Part of the MEITE program includes undertaking an internship for 2 semesters and I am pleased to share that I am undertaking a remote internship with RTI in North Carolina while I reside in Perth Australia. RTI’s vision as an organisation is to address the world’s most critical problems with science-based solutions in pursuit of a better future. Their focus is to combine scientific rigour and technical proficiency to deliver reliable data through analysis, innovative methods, novel technologies and sustainable programs that help clients inform public policy and ground practice in evidence. RTI lead projects on behalf of a range of clients that includes government agencies, academia, foundations, global NGOs, and commercial companies.

RTI has a number of centres, one of which is Education Services. This is the umbrella department I am working under. The focus areas within this department are education leadership, peer learning networks, teaching and learning and strategic consulting. The practice area I am working in falls under the Education and Workforce Development banner, specifically I am working in the International Education team with a focus on education technology.

RTI run a number of incubation teams which is made up of staff from across the organisation. Their goal is to explore opportunities for diversifying into new areas of interest. Recently the refugee incubation team merged with the conflict and crisis team and this is where I hope to contribute to research efforts. I will be conducting a desk review on the use of edtech to support refugee education and out of school learners, and I will also be researching the different approaches being used to educate in these contexts.

A great way to get a broad understanding of what EdTech is being used in humanitarian and development contexts was to attend a conference sponsored by RTI called the mAlliance Education Symposium where numerous organisations presented on education programs being implemented across the globe that incorporate play. The themes looked at the use of games and play in low resource settings and crisis situations, inclusive education, youth engagement and teacher training, social emotional learning and how to measure skills acquired through tech.

What struck me during this event, being well aware that funding is never enough and hard to come by in development and humanitarian contexts, is how many interventions had similar intended learning outcomes or were almost the same Ed-tech design. Why are we not building one or two well researched, well designed, globally adaptable options (for literacy and numeracy as an example) and then ensuring we have the evidence that it works?  If we have something that can be contextualised and scaled for a specific focus area and avoid reinventing the wheel, we will save money as a sector and be able to help more people.

Organisations often end up having to compete for funding to do very important work saving lives or supporting the livelihoods of very vulnerable people. I feel, as a sector, that we need to collaborate, produce less of the same and reach more by saving those funds to invest in areas that have not been addressed. If we could find a way to pull on different organisational strengths, work together and share funds we could reach so many more children. Isn’t that what it’s about? Working in this sector we all know and talk about the fact that we have to compete and now following COVID, with the long term impacts it is going to have on so many people, we have a responsibility to find new ways to optimise the use of funding available. And part of that responsibility falls on the key funders to change the way they require NGOs and other organisations to allocate and report on funding. We need better integration across programs, to encourage partnerships between the public and private sector, and to be able to work with governments and finders to remove this silo that silently exists between humanitarian and development sectors. We cannot, post COVID, afford, in any sense, to be divided or wasteful.

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