Arjan Gjikola

Before beginning my MSc at Oxford, I studied Psychology at the University of Tirana, Albania, and worked both in the civil society sector as well as for the local government at the Mayor’s office.

During that period I came to understand firsthand how crucial it is not only to deal with the many problems spawned by societies in transition but, more importantly, how to forestall these problems by building sustainable services and fostering systems of prevention. It was with this aspiration that I decided to pursue my academic interests at the University of Oxford as an Open Society/Chevening scholar.

I have always had a theoretical penchant when it comes to my academic interests. The MSc program in Child Development and Education during the 2010/2011 academic year satisfied this natural inclination of mine. In addition, it complemented it by helping me build a strong foundation in quantitative and qualitative methodologies. It has honed my critical eye, enabling me to discern methodologically well designed research as well as appreciate the importance of evidence based policy making.

The program offered me a great opportunity to conduct research in my home country. The project I pursued as part of my dissertation involved the development and piloting of a school readiness measurement instrument in Tirana, Albania. It was the first of its kind in the country and it aimed at enriching the debate on early education, as well as inform policies directed at early years.

After graduating from the University of Oxford, I moved to New York City where I joined the New York City Teaching Fellows, a successful program designed to address the problems of inner city schools. I am currently teaching in Brooklyn. It has been a compelling experience that turned out to be much more meaningful with the tools I acquired during my studies at Oxford. This hands-on experience has made me aware of the shortcomings and challenges of public education in the U.S., but it has also revealed the opportunities that arise from critically assessing educational practices and the implementation of different interventions. In the future I aspire to wed the research tools that I acquired at Oxford with the hands on experience in some of New York’s most underprivileged schools to adapt the Teaching Fellows Program to the Albanian context.