60 seconds with…Fergal Turner

Our ‘60 Seconds with…’ blogs are designed to provide a quick run down of what our staff do here at Itad. Here is what Fergal had to say…

What’s your job here at Itad?

I’m a consultant in the education theme.

What does that involve?

At the moment most of the education theme’s time is taken up with the evaluation of the Global Partnership for Education’s support to education sector governance. It’s a complex evaluation of their support to planning, dialogue, monitoring, financing and implementation across eight countries, so there is a lot to do! It is interesting work, having big country case studies really gives you a chance to get to know a system and to really start to dig into the intricacies and complexity of the sector, as well as getting an impression of how those complexities vary across cases.

How did you get into the field?

Before getting into the development sphere I was working as a teacher in Germany. I progressively got involved with the challenges young refugees faced in integrating into new education systems, and I realised that I had a passion not only for education policy issues but for working on the provision of education for marginalised youth. Since then I have worked in emergency provision for refugees in Europe, as well as on community and psycho-social education in Zambia and Ghana. Evaluation has always been something that interested me, so the move to Brighton and to Itad was an exciting one for me. I am a firm believer in the importance of accountability in development, and also a huge lover of data and research so I feel I’m now in the right place.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy spending my time learning, getting involved in a particular country, or a particular challenge and really spending time trying to conceptualise and dig into the “how” and “why” questions. I also enjoy being in a dynamic office and having access to so much knowledge and experience through my colleagues. No matter what the situation is, whether it be a region, a sector or a methodology, there will be someone at Itad who is an expert – it’s a really challenging and exciting environment.

What new innovations/methods have you noticed in your sector?

I think the challenge in education globally at the moment is looking at learning outcomes. There is a debate about how to define and measure the quality of education, and a consensus that investment in education can’t stop at improving access if children aren’t learning. Measuring student learning, and evaluating which interventions really have sustainable impacts on student learning, should remain in the spotlight for the sector. There is also a move to looking at employability and what happens to students once they finish school, with more projects focusing on school to work schemes, and vocational training – evaluating the impact of these programmes is of massive importance in the next few years. Underlying all of this is the role of technology in education – researching the potential of technology to improve learning outcomes is a key part of DFID’s current education strategy, and is one of the biggest challenges for the next decade – there has been a lot of excitement around the use of technology, and now there needs to be more high quality evidence to support this excitement, and to promote investment in the right kinds of technology.

Recent highlight or job win?

I am currently working on an abstract for a conference which as an exciting prospect, but it hasn’t been submitted or accepted yet so I can’t really call it a win! Watch this space! Other than that, I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to have any really big wins – every day is a highlight!

Most interesting question you have been asked recently?

Would you rather only be able to speak in a whisper, or only able to shout? Or do you mean a work-related question?

Favourite place you have visited as part of your job?

Being relatively new, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel much. I have my first Itad trip to Zimbabwe in May which I am looking forward to – but since I’ve been here, I will have to say Oxford as it’s the only place I’ve travelled to for work, and a lovely town!

Fergal Turner, March 2019

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