The RISE Podcast

In our podcast, members of the RISE community highlight stories behind their research and practice work—and explore some of the “big picture” ideas and opinions that inspire them.

About the podcast

Each episode of the RISE Podcast features a conversation with a researcher or practitioner in the RISE community in which we encourage them to “share their stories, not their standard deviations”.

Through these stories, we aim to shed light on the human perspective behind research and practice, with the hope of sparking conversation both for members of the education development community and for those with broader interests related to education or development.

You can subscribe to the RISE Podcast on a number of platforms including Spotify, Apple PodcastsTuneInGoogle Podcasts, Stitcher, or listen to the episodes below.


Episode 1: Dzingai Mutumbuka

In this first RISE Podcast episode, Marla Spivack (Research Manager of RISE and a Research Fellow with the Building State Capability Programme at Harvard University) speaks to Dr. Dzingai Mutumbuka. During the episode, Dr. Mutumbuka shares a wealth of insights from his career as a leader in education. He talks about the importance of purpose and priorities in education, the challenges that ministers face, and the ways in which government and development partners can work better together to produce results for children.

Episode 2: Rachel Glennerster

The second episode of the RISE Podcast features Dr Rachel Glennerster, Chief Economist at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) in conversation with Laura Savage (Deputy Head of Education Research at the UK’s FCDO). During the episode, they discuss Rachel’s reflections on how good interventions can work in poor performing education systems, why we need to go beyond evidence of what works to think about cost effectiveness, and how to build incentives to tackle systems issues at scale. 

Episode 3: Shintia Revina

In this episode of the RISE Podcast, Dr Shintia Revina, Deputy Team Lead of the RISE Indonesia country research team and a researcher at SMERU in Jakarta, speaks with Yue-Yi Hwa (RISE Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government). During the episode, they discuss insights and issues emerging from RISE Indonesia’s growing body of research about the teaching profession. Points of discussion include gaps between policy expectations and reality, constraints from entrenched political priorities and institutional structures, and the benefits and challenges of conducting research using reflective diary entries by novice teachers.

Episode 4: Ritva Reinikka

In this episode of the RISE Podcast, Carmen Belafi, RISE Research Associate at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, speaks with Dr Ritva Reinikka. During the episode, they discuss the role that financing plays in education systems. Ritva shares her insights from having worked closely with the governments of Uganda and South Africa, and illustrates the crucial role that the Ministries of Finance have played in the transformation of education in both countries. She also talks about the importance of applying a system’s approach to education, including not just the actors squarely within the education sector—the Ministry of Education, administrators, school principals and teachers—but the broader political and societal context in which the education sector operates.

Episode 5: Adam Ashforth

In this episode of the RISE Podcast, Jason Silberstein, a RISE Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, speaks to Professor Adam Ashforth. The conversation draws on Adam’s ethnographic research to explore what the education system looks like for the average person in Malawi. He shares accounts from the Malawi Journals Project, which shed light on what most families see as the core purpose of education. In doing so, we learn just how absent the state is in many schools and how this space is filled with local relationships of accountability. 

Episode 6: Joan DeJaeghere and Vu Dao

In this episode of the RISE Podcast, Yue-Yi Hwa, RISE Research Fellow at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government, speaks with Professor Joan DeJaeghere and Vu Dao, members of the RISE Vietnam team based at the University of Minnesota. The conversation focuses on Joan and Vu’s work on a large-scale qualitative video study of teaching and learning in Vietnamese classrooms. Topics explored include ongoing challenges in Vietnam’s education system despite its exceptional success; how teachers can unintentionally internalise prejudices against ethnic minority students (even if the teachers are ethnic minorities themselves); why it is worthwhile to spend countless hours analysing classroom videos and interviews; and how to build strong collaborations with in-country researchers.

Episode 7: Brian Levy

Episode 7 of the RISE Podcast features Professor Brian Levy speaking with Carmen Belafi, RISE Research Associate at Oxford University’s Blavatnik School of Government. During the episode, they discuss Brian’s decades of work on governance, and how governance interacts with institutions and power. They talk about systematic ways to analyse different governance contexts, and how this can guide action. They also discuss Brian’s latest book, “The Politics and Governance of Basic Education: A Tale of Two South African Provinces,” and how issues around governance matter for aligning education systems for learning. Not least, Brian offers insights on the legacy that South Africa’s first democratic government inherited from the Apartheid regime, and he compares and contrasts the unique challenges that persist in the different South African provinces until today.