AQF Views & Voices: Policy & Practice

norrag EN-1

The Importance of Translating Data-Driven Research Used as Evidence

Suha Tutunji


In April 2019, NORRAG release its NORRAG Special Issue 2 on data collection and evidence building in the field education in emergencies (such as refugee and conflict context). What was really exciting is that through its partnership with the Al Qasimi Foundation, the articles were translated into Arabic, which is an essential component of ensuring that data-driven research is used as evidence in decision making on the ground in the Middle East. This is important no matter what your field is, but it is especially important when working in the education sector.

Education in emergencies and crisis contexts is an important field of research for a myriad of reasons as it establishes evidence-based practices to be used on the ground that are effective and targeted towards students who have a dire need to continue their education in the wake of trauma. This research can also better equip NGOs and teachers in the field, to avoid potential pitfalls.

The importance of having data, as well as collecting that data ethically and using appropriate methodologies, in education in emergencies and crisis contexts is to ensure the best possible practices are upheld, while also taking into account the ethical considerations of engaging in research with a vulnerable population. Data collected can be used to make decisions, set agendas, and establish targeted funding schemes.

This is important as it enables quicker reactions to crisis, and establishing interventions as soon as possible to minimize the effects of crises on the education trajectories of children. By identifying funding schemes more efficient distribution of finances can be done, thus effectively stretching the value of a dollar on the ground. This ensures less financial costs, better money management, and additionally the ability to help more students on the same budget. All of this is made possible through collecting, managing, and analyzing relevant data.

For instance, I have worked in the educational field for over 30 years, seven of which are in education during a time of crisis, specifically with Syrian migrant communities living in Lebanon. In this field, we focus on education in a holistic fashion, and in my own work that means focusing on the teachers as much as the students. This is because teachers, at the end of the day, are the ones who are delivering the lessons to the students, giving them a safe space and preparing them to meet the challenges of their past, present, and future. The better we prepare all educational actors, especially teachers, for the important tasks ahead of them, the better the chances that our students will remain in schools and get an education, which will hopefully change their lives for the better.

This potential for positive change is an important reason why we need to practice responsible, data-driven investing of funding, time, energy, and resources in schools in emergency and crisis contexts. For the teachers I work with, this means preparing them through appropriate and effective trainings. In addition, part of preparing them is to expose them to the available literature and research on education in times of crisis to increase their knowledge base and buy-in.

Sadly, most of the available resources are not written in Arabic, limiting their impact where it matters most. Investing in the educational actors in emergency and crisis contexts means creating opportunities for them to read and learn from others’ experiences. It means researching best practices and solutions. It means accumulating relevant, applicable knowledge and creating institutional and sector memory within the community of educational actors. Accessible, data-driven research will assist the adoption and use of proven best practices in the classroom.

As a person who works closely with Arabic speaking teachers, I find it very difficult to share other people’s knowledge with the staff, because language is a big challenge and a barrier.

The availability of research in Arabic in emergency and crisis contexts is vital, especial as there are over 290 million Arabic speaking people in the world and over 10 million of them are refugees. What better tool is there than providing the information in their mother language, Arabic? It is the best way to expose the caregivers to research and proven best practices, starting discussions within their communities of practice that will impact generations to come.

I look forward to sharing the translated materials with my colleagues in the sector, and seeing them use the research as evidence for them to move forward with confidence, share their knowledge, and learn from each other.


Suha Tutunji is an Academic Program Director at the NGO JUSOOR, as well as the author of the Arabic language version of NSI 02’s Regional Editorial, which is the basis of this blog.

NORRAG Special issue (NSI) is an open-source periodical published by NORRAG, a global membership-based network of international policies and cooperation in education. NSI seeks to give prominence to authors from different countries and with diverse backgrounds. Each issue is dedicated to a special topic of global education policy and international cooperation in education.

The second edition of NSI, published in April 2019, is entitled “Data collection and evidence building to support Education in Emergencies” (EiE). The Arabic version of NSI 02 was prepared by the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy research as part of an on-going collaboration with NORRAG to expand the corpus of Arabic-language scholarship. This blog is an adaptation of the Regional Editorial in the Arabic version of NSI 02.