Global Research Grants 2022-2023

Grants of up to 150,000 USD for 18-24 months are available for creative, dynamic research teams to generate new evidence about how best to advance educational equity in and through the Schools2030 programme.

Schools2030 is a ten-year participatory learning improvement programme based in 1,000 government schools and community learning centres across ten countries: Brazil, Portugal, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Learn more about Schools2030

At the launch of our programme, Schools2030, in partnership with Jacobs Foundation, recognised the critical importance of linking the Schools2030 programme with the wider global education research ecosystem. As a result, Schools2030 launched an inaugural Global Call for Research in October 2020 to help us understand how and what children are learning through their participation in the programme over its initial two years.

Building on the success of the first cohort of Schools2030 Global Research Partners, we are excited to launch our second Global Call for Research. We are now searching for dynamic and innovative evidence partners to help address our overarching research questions for 2022/23:

What is the role of human-centred design, and other similar action research approaches used in the classroom, in improving educational equity?

What impact do pedagogical approaches targeting holistic learning outcomes have on educational equity?

Schools2030 aims to make teaching and learning more equitable through its use of HCD and through its focus on the holistic learning needs of the whole child.

Over the course of 2020-2021, the Schools2030 programme, in partnership with its country-level National Advisory Committees, identified which specific, context-appropriate holistic learning domains, spanning academic and non-academic skills, were the top priority for addressing in each of the ten programme countries. Across all countries and age groups, Schools2030 country teams selected literacy and numeracy. A further three domains were selected per age group, per country, that included subject-specific areas alongside various social-emotional and “21st century” skills such as empathy, creativity, critical thinking, self-awareness, problem solving and digital literacy.

Informed by data gathered through rapid learning assessment tools designed for their context and using Schools2030’s HCD resources and design processes, teachers are now designing and implementing education micro-innovations aimed at improving holistic learning outcomes for their learners. We believe that by training teachers in holistic learning assessment and human-centred design, educators can develop new, contextually relevant, practical, affordable, and scalable approaches to improve quality learning outcomes for students that will have a meaningful impact in advancing educational equity for all learners at community, national and global education system levels.

Submission deadline for applications is 11.59pm CET on 3 April 2022. Successful applicants will be notified by email by 13 May 2022.



Whilst the inaugural Global Call for Research identified projects focused on quality learning outcomes in education, this year our focus is on education equity. We seek to better understand how the Schools2030 programme impacts on equity in the classroom. In particular, we are seeking expertise to help us understand the impact of two aspects of the Schools2030 model on educational equity. We would like to know:

  • If, how, for whom, and why human-centred design and other similar action research approaches used in the classroom impact on equity in the classroom.
  • If, how, for whom, and why pedagogical approaches that target holistic learning outcomes impact on equity in the classroom.

We believe these questions are of vital importance not only for Schools2030, but also for the wider evidence ecosystem. We are looking to understand what existing evidence can tell us about pedagogical approaches that are participatory and that target holistic outcomes, and education equity, and the relevance of this evidence for our programme. As such, we envisage this research to consist of a systematic evidence review as well as a primary study of our programme in one or more programme countries. We welcome proposals that address at least one of two key focus areas (please indicate which in your proposal).

KEY FOCUS 1: Human-centred design and similar action research approaches

Key questions include:

  • Does teacher-led human-centred design and/or similar action research approaches impact on equity in the classroom? How?
  • What does the best available evidence tell us about the relationship between HCD/participatory action research approaches and educational equity in the classroom?
  • What is the impact of HCD/participatory approaches on teacher practices or mindsets? Does it help teachers identify and support learner variability and learning differences?
  • Are there particular aspects of HCD/participatory action research approaches, for example community engagement or play-based learning methods, that are shown to have a positive impact on educational equity?
  • Is the impact of HCD/participatory action research approaches felt differently by different students? Are any groups of students more likely to “gain” or “lose”?
  • What is the potential of teachers’ use of HCD and action research methodologies in the classroom for the learning experiences of students who have learning differences (such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia)?
  • What are the implications for the Schools2030 programme in terms of improving equity in the classroom through data-driven, teacher-led HCD?
KEY FOCUS 2: Pedagogical approaches targeting holistic learning outcomes

Key questions include:

  • What does the best available evidence tell us about the relationship between teaching when targeting holistic learning outcomes and equity?
  • What is the impact of focusing on holistic learning outcomes on teacher practices or mindsets? Do these approaches help teachers identify and support learner variability and learning differences?
  • Are there particular approaches to teaching and learning, such as ‘learning through play’, or playful/innovative pedagogies, that are shown to be effective at equitably addressing the holistic learning needs of the whole child?
  • Are any groups of students more likely to “gain” or “lose” through a pedagogical focus on advancing holistic learning outcomes?
  • Does a teachers’ pedagogical focus on improving the holistic learning needs of their students impact the quality of learning experiences and levels of mastery for students with learning differences (such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia)?
  • What are the implications for the Schools2030 programme in terms of improving equity in the classroom through supporting pedagogical approaches to advance holistic learning outcomes?


As stated above, we are interested in learning both from the best available evidence as well as from new evidence generated in partnership with our programme. We therefore envisage the research to consist of two workstreams:

Workstream (i) – A systematic evidence review:

  • The review will systematically review relevant global research evidence on either: HCD and similar action research approaches used in the classroom, and its relationship with educational equity; and/or pedagogical approaches that target holistic learning outcomes, and its relationship with educational equity.
  • We anticipate that teams will review both quantitative and qualitative research evidence as part of the review.
  • We state a preference for a review adhering to systematic review principles, however within this scope we are open to hearing the specific approach research teams feel is most appropriate for the given focus areas.

Workstream (ii) – Primary evidence building with the Schools2030 programme:

  • We invite new approaches to how the activities, data, and partnerships across the Schools2030 programme can help researchers addresses key gaps in the available literature and evidence as identified in workstream (i).
  • We invite single or multi-country studies that leverage the work and activities across the Schools2030 1000 government partner schools in ten countries and encourage approaches that work in partnership with local stakeholders.
  • We invite creative, innovative approaches for generating new, rigorous evidence around these two areas of research focus and make significant contributions to knowledge.
  • We encourage participatory research methods and mixed methods approaches.
  • While Schools2030 country-level teams will provide critical linkages to research activities, proposed primary data collection and research should be led and organised by the proposed research team at the local level.
  • Research teams should specify if they wish to study (1) HCD and similar action research approaches used in the classroom and/or (2) pedagogical approaches targeting holistic learning outcomes in one country or several countries as part of their proposal, as well as the age cohort(s) they plan to study.

We are looking forward to hearing about new ways your team’s partnership with Schools2030 will contribute to the global evidence base on either (1) HCD and similar action research approaches used in the classroom or (2) pedagogical approaches targeting holistic learning outcomes. In addition, we are looking for actionable guidance and recommendations to emerge from the research project to further enhance the Schools2030 programme so as to maximise its potential to improve quality learning for the most marginalised learners.

Schools2030 Global Research Partners will join a global community of researchers working alongside the wider Schools2030 network made up of technical partners, practitioners, and national and global teams.

Your application must include the following five components:

1. Project title and summary

Provide a plain language summary of your proposed project, including which research focus area is to be addressed, countries and regions targeted, expected outcomes and impact, and strategy for knowledge mobilisation. Outline the research objectives, questions and methodology for both workstream (i) and (ii). Note: if your proposal is selected for funding, this summary would be used publicly to communicate the results of the competition.

2. Applicant Information

Please include the following details:

  • Lead Organisation;
  • Project Leader;
  • Key Project Team Members;
  • Consortium Rationale (if applicable)
3. Gannt Chart for Project Timeline

18-24 months; earliest start date September 2022.

4. Itemized Total Budget Requested (Up to $150,000)
5. Research Proposal

5a. Problem Identification and Research Purpose (max. 1000 words)

  • Justification: Clearly state the problem or opportunity to be addressed in your research project and how this relates to the overall programme aims of Schools2030.
  • Research Focus Area: Explain how the problem or opportunity is aligned to at least one of the two key focus areas listed in the Call for Research (Impact on educational equity through (1) HCD and similar action research approaches used in the classroom and/or (2) pedagogical approaches targeting holistic learning outcomes).
  • Research Objectives and Research Questions: Clearly state the proposed project objective(s) and the research question(s) you plan to answer through workstream (i) and (ii). This includes general and specific objectives of the research. The general objective should state the goal being pursued. The specific objectives should indicate the specific types of knowledge to be produced and the audiences to be reached.
  • Addressing Gaps: Explain how the research question(s) addresses current gaps in educational research.
  • Outputs and Outcomes: Describe what the proposed project will produce in terms of outputs, and the outcomes and intended impact to which it will contribute.
  • Equity and Inclusion: Articulate how the research will promote education equity and inclusion.
  • Local Capacity: If applicable, please provide information about how the project will build capacities of school-level stakeholders and/or local research and learning institutions.

5b. Research Design and Methods (max. 500 words)

  • Overall Framework: Describe the conceptual or theoretical framework to be used, the study design, methods, and type of analysis for workstream (i) and (ii).
  • Participants: Describe how relevant stakeholders, whether local, national, or international, will be involved in fair and equitable partnerships during the project.
  • Risks: Identify risks to achieving the research objectives and strategies for mitigation.

5c. Knowledge Mobilisation Strategy (max. 500 words)

  • Engagement: Provide an overview of how the activities and outputs of the project will engage potential knowledge users, including school-level, national-level, and global-level stakeholders.
  • Dissemination: Provide details on the dissemination strategy for research outputs, including (but not limited to) peer reviewed publication.
  • Impact: Provide details on how this research could impact education policy and practice, and the strategy to develop and maximise this impact.

5d. Research Ethics (max. 250 words)

  • Ethical Considerations: Provide details of the potential ethical issues in relation to the proposed research and what steps will be taken to ensure the highest ethical standards and the greatest protection of research participants.
  • Research Approval: Note that prior to commencing research applicants will need to obtain approval form from an official institutional or national research ethics body and will need to comply with the terms and conditions of the Grant agreement. Please indicate your capacity to acquire this in the focus countries of research interest.

5e. Research Team Capacities (max. 1,000 words)

  • Project Team – Provide details of the project team including the position and qualifications of the project leader and other team members.
  • Track Record – If more than one organisation is part of the proposal, provide a brief overview of the track record of each organisation relative to its proposed role in the project (limit to high-level bullet points; hyperlinks to previous work will be reviewed).
  • Example of Previous Work: Provide example(s) of recent relevant educational research experience in developing countries.

5f. References

Who can apply?

We are particularly interested in hearing from researchers at institutions based in Schools2030 countries. We are aware that a scope involving a mix of primary research and systematic reviewing requires different areas of expertise, and we welcome proposals from diverse, global consortia of evidence-building partners. More information about our current Global Research Partners and their focus areas can be found here.

Guidance for applicants

Proposals will be evaluated by an independent panel who will assess submissions based on whether they can demonstrate: an understanding of the existing literature and evidence base for HCD and similar action research approaches used in the classroom/pedagogical approaches focusing on holistic learning outcomes, and equity; a suitable research design and methodology; plans for involving relevant stakeholders fairly in the project; and plans for actionable outputs that will be relevant to Schools2030 stakeholders, and in wider education practice and policy.

More information

If you need more information please contact Ellen Smith, Schools2030 Global Research Coordinator at

Please note: Selected partners will be subject to the Aga Khan Foundation’s due diligence and safeguarding assessment processes, and will be required to review and sign a grant agreement covering the action in a timely manner. Shortlisted teams will be asked to confirm whether they would be able to complete the process within a specified timeframe if selected, and will be asked to share relevant policies for due diligence purposes.