Jacobs Foundation Research Fellow

Sonya Krutikova

University of Manchester and Institute for Fiscal Studies

Research Focus

Sonya Krutikova’s research focuses on how differences in childhood environments –families, schools, and communities – affect children’s development and learning outcomes, as well as inequalities therein. Her key aim is to advance scientific knowledge and, through so doing, gain insights that inform the design of specific, context appropriate educational policies. To date she has studied the role that parental characteristics play, how differences in school quality affect child learning, and how these effects differ depending on characteristics of the children.

She is currently working in partnership with several governments and NGOs to test different approaches to improving children’s learning environments.

My plans for the fellowship period

During my Fellowship I plan to examine how child development is shaped by the interactions between environmental factors, through two projects.In the first I will utilise unique features of a 4-year panel survey of primary school pupils that I lead in Vietnam to investigate how parental investment in children responds to quality of the child’s school and the joint role that home and school inputs play in shaping children’s learning.

The second builds on an efficacy trial which I led of a program in Ghana which trained parents to run educational playschemes in pre-schools. Our positive findings motivated the Ministry of Education to start scaling the programme to 4,000 pre-schools. I will exploit our ongoing 60 district RCT of this scale-up to (a) study the role of local service and government infrastructure in moderating the success of the scale-up (b) assess how program effects on children differ depending on whether changes in the pre-school are accompanied by improvements in the home environment (c) use novel measurement techniques to assess how local economic and social factors shape parenting and teaching practices.

How will my work change children’s and youth’s lives?

Millions of children worldwide under the age of 5 years continue to be at risk of not achieving their developmental potential due to poverty, poor health and nutrition, and deficient care and stimulation. The majority of these children live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Thus access to quality early child care and development as well as healthy lives and well-being are included in the Sustainable Development Goals and there is significant momentum behind investment in ECCE among key stakeholders.

During my fellowship I will focus on several critical knowledge gaps which need to be addressed in order for these efforts to result in meaningful improvements of children’s lives – such as – what are the key ingredients of a high quality early education environment and how to maintain the potency of these as we scale promising programmes. I will do so through close collaboration with government and NGO partners who are at the forefront of ECCE policy and programme design in the study countries (Vietnam and Ghana). This will ensure that while contributing to the general state of knowledge in the field of ECCE research, the work I do will directly inform and shape policy design in the contexts I study.