Donald Baum Works with UNESCO in Paris to Research Early Education in Developing Countries
Donald Baum
Donald Baum by BYU Photo

Donald Baum, an assistant professor in the Educational Leadership and Foundations Department, was awarded a 2019 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report Fellowship from The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to produce new research.

Baum’s research looks at the status of the early childhood education provision in different countries as well as the contribution of the private sector and how that affects early education in developing countries. His work will also measure progress on UNESCO’s goal to have all countries provide free preschool for all children by the year 2030.

“Many low-income countries have not established a strong, wide-reaching early childhood education system, leading to a large market for private education services,” Baum explained. “As an example, if you look across Africa at all of the children who are currently attending preschool, over half of them are in private, non-state institutions. At the elementary school level, something like 18–20 percent of kids are in private schools, so the size of the non-state sector in early childhood education is really large.”

Baum’s report, “Non-State Actors in Early Childhood Education: Implications for Education Equity and Quality,” will measure enrollment numbers, contributors to participation, access across rural and urban locations, and gender inequality. Baum aims to complete his report by the end of 2019.

View of the Eifel Tower from the UNESCO offices in Paris. Photo by Donald Baum.
View of the Eiffel Tower from the UNESCO offices in Paris. Photo by Donald Baum.

While the majority of Baum’s work takes place in Utah, he spent the summer of 2019 working directly with the UNESCO team in Paris. “At UNESCO, they have access to a large number of international databases with data on schooling access and participation across different countries, and they have a lot of internal expertise. I'm utilizing some of those resources over the course of the year, but there's an advantage to being in person, working face-to-face with individuals on the research that you're conducting,” said Baum. 

According to Baum, his time in Paris allowed him to “make more substantive contributions to UNESCO’s ongoing education work, particularly as it relates to their current research on the non-state sector in K12 education.” Additionally, he explains that his close collaboration with the GEM Report team “has the potential to open up research opportunities for him, as well as for other McKay School faculty and students to collaborate on future UNESCO education research.” 

During the course of his research, Baum has recruited three BYU students, Jimmy Hernandez, Sophia Batey, and Lisa Smith. “I have a number of research assistants who are working with me on this project. We presented some of the preliminary findings at the Comparative and International Education Society Conference in San Francisco in April.” Hernandez is a doctoral student in the Educational Inquiry, Measurement, and Evaluation (EIME) program in the McKay School. Batey and Smith are both undergrad students, Batey in sociology and Smith in economics. Baum plans to recruit a fourth undergrad assistant this fall. 

Report cover
Cover of report courtesy of Donald Baum.

As a McKay School professor, Baum believes his research will influence his teaching in the upcoming fall semester. “I do tend to include information, findings, and evidence from these reports in some of my classes, where we're talking about education in an international context, and specifically for developing countries.” 

Ultimately, the goal of Baum’s research is to help provide developing countries with data for better policymaking. “To better understand what's going on in their own early childhood education systems, to better understand the current state of access to education, and how to better support those demographic groups that currently are underserved by the early childhood education systems—poor households, rural households, girls, groups that typically have less access to education services.”

“Obviously, that's very lofty,” Baum continued, “but ultimately that's why I think those of us that are engaged in education policy research do what we do because we are hopeful that what we produce will be beneficial and lead to better decision-making and better social outcomes.” 


Want to learn more about new EdLF faculty? Click here to meet professor Spencer Weiler. 



Written by Emma Smith

Lead image by Ilnur Kalimullin

Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922