Susan Watkins

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Organizations & people

working to improve education systems
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Susan Watkins is a Visiting Research Scientist at the California Center for Population Research at UCLA and Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.[1]

How their work relates to education systems

In "An Analysis of the Political Economy of Schooling in Rural Malawi," Watkins and her co-author "provide insight into the everyday dynamics of village life surrounding issues of public primary schools and schooling in rural Malawi" among parents, teachers, district-level brokers, and village chiefs.[2] The study found that collaboration between school leaders, members of the School Management Committee, village chiefs, and the Ministry of Education led to the development of local accountability practices that could potentially improve the quality of children's learning.[2]

In "Development Aid: What Can Go Wrong and Why?," Watkins explores the various brokers involved in implementing educational reforms with development aid, how the development aid chain can go wrong, and how the RISE goal of improving the quality of education for all can be met. Watkins argues that the well-being of the poor was not a priority for development aid brokers in rural Malawi. This can lead to issues when donor representatives doing business with NGOs or governments rely on the educated, elite brokers to get a sense of country context.[3]

In "Pivoting to Learning: A Puzzle with Many Pieces," Watkins and her co-author talk about two key issues that are central to achieving systemic change within education. First, to change an education system, there must be clear cultural understandings of the meaning of education. Second, policymakers must take into account the political economy of a country to ensure education systems reorient from access to learning. Ultimately, the authors argue that donors must respect cultural meanings of education and work with the existing political economy, while using rigorous research as a guide for reform.[4]

Brief biography

Watkins is a Visiting Scholar at the California Center for Population Research at the University of California-Los Angeles, a Professor Emerita of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania, and an Associate at the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a prominent sociologist who has worked on gender issues in fertility transitions and HIV/AIDS, and has completed pioneering work in Malawi on the ways in which the HIV/AIDS programmes have worked on the ground, including developing ethnographic methods of eliciting narratives of the different actors engaged.[5] Much of Watkins' work has focused on large-scale demographic and social change, including fertility changes in historical Europe/U.S. and in modern Africa.[1]

Watkins earned her PhD from Princeton University.

She is also a member of the RISE Intellectual Leadership Team.[5]

Key publications related to education systems

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Susan Watkins - Professor Emerita of Sociology". California Center for Population Research. Retrieved 2021-08-26.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Watkins, S. and Ashforth, A. 2019. An Analysis of the Political Economy of Schooling in Rural Malawi: Interactions among Parents, Teachers, Students, Chiefs and Primary Education Advisors. 19/031.
  3. Watkins, S. 2017. Development Aid: What Can Go Wrong and Why?. RISE Working Paper Series. 17/014.
  4. Watkins, S. and Kaler, A. 2016. Pivoting to Learning: A Puzzle with Many Pieces. RISE Working Paper Series. 2016/006.
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Susan Watkins". RISE Programme. Retrieved 2021-08-26.