Liliana Angelica Ponguta’s discipline is global early childhood development (ECD). Her research focuses on the development of national ECD policies and implementation plans, impact and process evaluations of ECD programs in low-income settings, and the use of digital communication platforms to broker knowledge and propel investment in ECD globally. Specifically, she explores the impact of decentralization on ECD systems, entry points for systems strengthening, and feasible and contextual national-level measurement of quality in ECD provision. She is also focused on projects that evaluate the impact and implementation of ECD interventions in contexts of high vulnerability.
What have I achieved during my fellowship?
During my Research Fellowship, I achieved several impactful research, advocacy, and mentoring goals. I completed key intervention projects including: (1) the development and evaluation of a novel school readiness program to build community youth leaders’ vocational skills as early childhood educators in rural Pakistan; (2) a randomized controlled trial evaluating an early childhood parenting program among mothers and children living in Palestinian refugee camps and marginalized communities in Beirut; and (3) the development of an evaluation framework for two interventions in Colombia that address psychosocial and socioemotional development and parental engagement in publicly-funded early childhood development and education (ECDE) Centers. I also co-led the development/adaptation of a measure to assess the quality of ECDE services at scale in Colombia. Finally, I led a multi-country study in the Europe and Central Asia region on the impact of decentralization on early childhood education (ECE). We conducted high-level round tables to disseminate the result outcomes in all 4 countries to promote strategic investment in the sector. All of the publications emerging from the research during the fellowship were co-authored with international partners from the countries where the research took place. The fellowship also enabled me to contribute to a systematic review of the literature exploring the impact of grandparental care on child development in the global context.
From advocacy and communications perspectives, during the Jacobs Fellowship I participated as a speaker in several international conferences designed to broker research among government and multiple stakeholders (including Macedonia, Morocco, Dubai, and Colombia). I also contributed to the design and launch of the Early Childhood Peacebuilding Consortium website (see: www.ecdpeace.org) to broker content on the peacebuilding- through-ECD paradigm globally.
During all of these efforts, I had the opportunity to mentor students and trainees from the U.S. and other countries (e.g. Colombia and Jordan) and supported the fieldwork and research experience of U.S. students in countries like Brazil, Lebanon, and Colombia.
My plans for the future
In the future I aim to build upon and expand on the accomplishments of the Research Fellowship. First, one major goal is to adapt and implement the Pakistani youth led ECDE program in Colombia and develop a roadmap for other cross-national applications. Second, and drawing primarily from the results of the parenting program evaluation in Lebanon, I aim to explore mechanisms for community engagement to contextualize and disseminate research findings in emergency contexts. Third, I am interested in the development of quality measures of home and community-based modalities addressing holistic ECD in low-income countries, as well as the formulation of contextual definitions of successful learning and development. Fourth, my research portfolio includes finalizing a series of peer-reviewed publications on resilience and psychosocial support in the context of the ECD sector in Colombia and leveraging those findings through advocacy channels to drive strategic investment. Finally, I plan to complete a whole-sector characterization of Early Childhood Education, and generate outputs of the study that target academic, research and government audiences to propel investments in early childhood and parenting support in humanitarian crises.