Educational Policy Leadership and Management Research Proposal

Excerpt from Research Proposal :

Educational Planning and Economics: How the needs of looked after children can be addressed through non-formal and formal education.

There are current trends in non-formal educational processes that allows for interesting, unique and relevant work within the educational environment that could likely lead to enhanced short-term educational opportunities for impoverished and/or at-risk students. Additional long-term benefits including; increased levels of societal education, higher incomes, better living conditions, a less impoverished lifestyle and a society that benefits with the input of the individuals who receive the education are also realistic results from a study such as the one being proposed.

A recent study determined that young orphan girls receiving psycho-social support helped in keeping the intervention group in school (n= 184) and that the girls comprising the intervention group were less likely to drop out of school (5%), had higher educational aspirations, higher expectations concerning the future, a more equitable attitude towards the other gender, be less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, and that they would even delay the sexual debut due to the consequences of such actions (Holfors et al., 2011).

If the Holfors study is correct in its findings, then specific opportunities are likely present regarding the educational process for at-risk students and realistic results from this type of study could be very beneficial overall to society. The projected results would ensure the viability and importance of the study.

The main research objectives of the proposed study would be to determine if there is a specific non-formal educational method that could be used in an environment where there are a large number of at-risk students who could benefit immensely from the implementation of such a method. The research will seek to ascertain whether the current literature provides data that sets any type of positive tone to providing a non-formal educational program to the youth of the world. Additional research will then determine what specific types of non-formal education are being used and to what degree of success (or failure) the various types of non-formal (as compared to formal) educational processes are being achieved. Further research on what types of problems if any, are being experienced in the implementation or maintenance of non-formal methods will also be addressed as well as why the problems seem to be taking place. Questions to be answered could include; 1) why do certain non-formal methods work better, 2) are there any improvements that could be made to manner in which the non-formal methods are being implemented in order to be more effective and 3) are there certain particular types or groups of students that benefit more than others from non-formal educational methods?

Some experts have found that new non-formal approaches are especially important in less developed areas around the globe where access to more formal educational processes are limited. One study determined that educational dynamics in today's modern society showed the "need to develop new approaches to non-formal education within the context of life-long learning (and that) development of non-formal education programs for the out of school youth in Kenya is necessary" (Mualuko, 2008, p.57).

Studies such as the Mualuko study are what makes the proposed study an exciting venture. Making a difference in the world of education is making a difference in the lives of not only the youth being educated, but in the world in general. There are no better ways to affect (long-term) the betterment of society except through the education of the world's youth. Effective educational methods will allow the world to benefit exponentially through the effects of the education and that is an exciting venture. An additional study found that the mental support (which refers to a child's area of mental growth) was an important part of the growing up process for the child (Mhaka-Mutepfa, 2010) and that "formal and informal educations are essential elements within the mental framework." Being even a small part of the process in helping to formulate a child's mental processes (in a positive manner) ensures that this study will not only have importance but will be relevant and exciting as well.

The gaps that the proposed study will fill in the current literature are unknown at this time, but it is hoped that a comprehensive review of the literature complemented by additional qualitative surveys will provide data that is not necessarily currently accessible. Since the proposed study will take approximately 3 years of fulltime work and study before fruition, it is hoped that gaps in the available data determining the effectiveness of non-formal educational methods in areas of at-risk populations will be enhanced upon by the study and its results.

The proposed study will seek to determine what, if any, non-formal methods of education work best with at-risk populations and therefore provide additional support for initiating programs that use non-formal methods. Some of the current literature already supports the use of non-formal education (see Mualuko above) and it is hoped that this study will help in providing additional support for the non-formal methods, or that it will support new non-formal methods that have yet to be supported. The study will ask of the participants what areas of non-formal and formal educational processes they have accessibility to, how to enhance the accessibility, and especially what is effective for students in at-risk situations. By ascertaining these facts and opinions, and then researching how those perceptions compare to the current thinking, it is hoped that a link can be established between what is currently effective and what could work well in the future.

It is not known as of yet, whether the proposed study will support or refute the findings of other similar studies, which is one reason why the study is being proposed in the first place. If the proposed study supports the current literature then it can be added to the growing voice of those proponents of a non-formal educational process. If the proposed study does not support the current findings, and in fact refutes those findings, it can be the harbinger of a new movement to provide alternative educational processes that may work better or improve the lot of those who are most at risk.

Upon contemplating the methods for the proposed study, it is most likely that a mixed research design methodology would work best. The mixed research design employs both qualitative and quantitative methodologies in order to quantify qualitative data. Qualitative data in this particular study will include how students perceive what is taking place in their educational environment. The tools necessary to ascertain qualitative data includes surveys, focus groups and interviews. The researcher will seek to best quantify the data by using Likert Scale type surveys as well as note taking and observations during interviews and focus group sessions.

Since much of the data will be obtained through the literature review process it will be especially important to complete a thorough review relatively free of any researcher bias.

The best results for a study such as the one being proposed would enhance what is already available through additional data. Ensuring that the data is viable and verifiable is an important aspect to the veracity of the study. It will be important for the researcher to maintain an objective attitude and environment.

The strategy intended for this type of study is to determine a particular and specific participant pool, preferably one that is readily accessible to the researcher and that meets the standards of an at-risk community. The anticipated challenges include determining what group would best be studied, what group would provide data that would assist the researcher in determining effectiveness, and whether the group would be willing and able to participate. The willingness to participate may be evidenced, however that does not mean that the ability to do so would be present. Oftentimes, at-risk students are difficult…

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