Project description

What is ARISE?

ARISE: Action for Reducing Inequalities in Education is a four-year Action launched in March 2020 and funded through Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA) implemented by the Consortium of NGOs and research institutes from Western Balkans and Turkey.

All national strategies of IPA beneficiary countries, in one way or another, specify as one of their priorities poverty reduction and inclusive education in relation to various categories of children, including those with low SES background. Inclusion of low SES children is usually addressed by efforts to increase participation in education and prevent the school drop-out.  This Action aims to contribute to improving participation in education of children with low SES background, and also to the drop-out prevention. However, we intend to do more than that by supporting schools develop sustainable inclusion practices and use examples of good practice to inform policy making.


The final beneficiaries of this Action are students from lower SES background. Research shows that poverty affects cognitive development of children more than factors such as parents' education or parents’ cognitive abilities. Poor and low SES children perform significantly worse than their middle-class peers on many indicators of academic success such as: test scores, grade retention, course failures, high school graduation rate, high school dropout rate and completed years of schooling. Studies that dealt with the effects of poverty on  socio-emotional development showed that children growing up poor are more likely than middle-class children to display social–emotional problems in two broad areas: (1) externalizing interpersonal problems, such as aggression, destructive behaviour, and hyperactivity, and (2) internalizing intrapersonal problems, such as anxiety, depression, and fearfulness.

Two level approach

Overall objective of the Action is to strengthen the capacities of CSOs (both the co-applicants and the grassroots organisations to be selected) for policy development and advocacy in the area of educational equity through regional cooperation and building national coalitions. The issue of poverty and students affected by poverty has to be tackled on two levels: on the  one hand, educational and social policies can provide long-term solutions to creating equity in education, whereas pilot interventions at school level address immediate needs of students with low SES background, also providing lessons for the policies.  Therefore, the specific objective of the Action is created from these two different tracks of action. At policy level it is important to engage in advocacy and constructive policy dialogue with governments regarding support to low socio-economic status (SES) students, and build national partnerships for the same cause through supporting local grassroots organisations to be effective advocates and raising awareness among educational stakeholders on the effect of SES on schooling and wellbeing of children. While, on the school level, it is important to use regional and international experience to design an effective school development programme on support of low SES students and during the course of the Action alleviate impact of poverty on school achievement and overall well-being of low SES students in 25 schools.

Target Groups

The choice of target groups was guided by the Social Ecological Model (SEM), a theory-based framework for understanding the different levels in a social system that play a role in determining behaviours, in order to identify the leverage points for promoting positive change. The SEM looks at five levels of society that can influence behaviour: individual, interpersonal, organisational, community, and public policy, as diagrammed in Figure 1. The model is widely recognised as a useful starting point for change campaigns in the field of social justice.

Figure 1. Social Ecological Model (SEM)

Five primary target groups for this Action are:

  1. The Consortium members. The Consortium members are seven well-established civil society organisations from six IPA Beneficiary countries (AL, BH, XK, MK, RS, TR) and their umbrella organisation, NEPC, which is based in Croatia. The Action will address their need for consolidating knowledge gathered for partnerships in advocacy, for working with policy makers; and producing an impact study which will explore the effectiveness of the Consortium’s work. Participating organisations will develop their professional capacity in dealing with the issue of poverty in education and enrich their regular programs with activities aiming to raise awareness and develop activities to address it.
  2. Policy makers. Through this Action, policy makers will acquire relevant knowledge about the role of education in addressing the issue of poverty at policy level, in order to help create inclusive and responsible education policies. Also, the Action will contribute to raising the awareness of policy makers about the importance of the intra-sectorial partnership and communication, to address this issue. The Action will address their need to create data driven policies with effect on low SES students providing examples of good policy and practical solutions.
  3. Local grassroots organisations are expected to engage in consultations with authorities at local and national level on issues related to education equality. In order to influence other stakeholders to understand the value of inclusion and to meet their obligation towards the children, civil society organisations need to network with a range of actors involved in policy development, and also develop their own capacity for policy dialogue and evidence-based advocacy. Six local grassroots organisations will be selected based on open calls, one per each participating IPA beneficiary country. This Action will address their need for capacity development by providing support for implementation of activities targeting low SES children, through learning and networking opportunities at national and regional level, and by facilitating their participation in policy dialogue.
  4. Schools and school staff. The Action will target 25 schools from five IPA beneficiary countries: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia. Schools and school staff will be targeted to further support the development of their competences and capacities for appropriate and sustainable practices addressing the issue of poverty in education. Moreover, they will become aware of the role they could have in changing their school’s culture and addressing school needs relevant to the topic. Also, the schools will get better at defining actions that could encourage the involvement of parents from lower socio-economic background.
  5. Educational stakeholders, parents and school community, will better understand the meaning of equity and effects of low SES on students. Educational stakeholders will learn about the project and the main messages the project aims to convey through all existing media outlets, including social media.

Expected impact of the Action

Technical level

This Action strengthens technical capacity of eight Consortium members and six selected grassroots organisations to be effective and accountable actors able to engage constructively with relevant stakeholders in the area of educational equity at central and local levels by:

  • Carrying out research to identify social mechanism and institutional effects related to inequality at national and regional level and mapping the policy analysis of the systems in place in 6 IPA beneficiary countries;
  • Providing opportunities for effective participation of CSOs in national consultations with relevant stakeholders working on poverty and exclusion issues;
  • Empowering grassroots organisations to address the needs of children from vulnerable groups by providing grant funding for implementation of the actions targeting low SES children, as well as training, mentoring, and on-site support;
  • Broadening knowledge on existing practices and policies to mitigate the effects of poverty on student’s wellbeing by participating in a series of learning events organised.

Also, the action enhances technical capacity of 25 selected schools and educational stakeholders (parents and school community) from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia and Serbia to develop sustainable practices within schools which reduce the impact of poverty on achievements of low SES students. The schools will receive technical assistance and financial support to develop and implement action plans addressing the needs of low SES children, including participation in national learning events and exchange of experience with other schools.

Policy makers and educational stakeholders, as a specific target group at national level, will enhance their knowledge on the effect of SES in children’s well-being and best practices in the Region through participation in national coalitions of relevant stakeholders working on poverty and exclusion issues, the Regional Policy Lab, as well conferences organised at national and international level.

Economic and Social level

The economic and social perspective of social groups depends considerably on their equal participation in the education system, as well as on their school performance. This particularly applies to vulnerable groups, which includes our final beneficiaries - students from low SES background. This Action supports CSOs to engage in advocacy and constructive policy dialogue with governments, raise awareness among education stakeholders and pilot interventions targeting low SES students at school level. Also, the Action helps increase awareness among policy makers and educational stakeholders on the effect of SES on schooling and wellbeing of children. Once measures designed to address the needs of low SES students are reflected in national and local policies, there is a potential to alleviate the impact of poverty in their performance, thus improving their social and economic perspectives.

Policy level

Through participation in consultations at national level and awareness raising activities, research and policy analysis, and piloting interventions targeting low SES students in 25 schools, the Consortium members, with help from selected grassroots organisations and other relevant stakeholders, are well positioned to engage in evidence-based advocacy and influence policies and practices at central, local and school level, to better meet the needs of low SES students. The Action will support Consortium members to prepare for the dialogue by developing policy options on the topics of interest and table the proposals leading to development of policies and legislation affecting low SES students. In this way, the Action contributes to creating an environment which promotes partnership and dialogue between civil society and public institutions, thus further developing participatory culture and accountability in the society.