Emer Smyth is a Research Professor and Head of the Social Research Division at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). She is Co-Principal Investigator of Growing Up in Ireland (GUI), together with Dorothy Watson, and joint research area coordinator for education. Her main research interests centre on education, school to work transitions, gender and comparative methodology.
She has conducted a number of studies on the effects of schooling contexts on student outcomes, including Do Schools Differ? She led the Post-Primary Longitudinal Study (PPLS), which followed a cohort of young people from the first year of second-level education onwards. This study was the first of its kind in the Irish context, and yielded insights into important processes such as the transition to second-level education, the factors influencing examination performance, the impact of ability grouping, and gender and social differentiation in educational outcomes.
Educational inequality has been an important focus of her research, with work on an evaluation of the Youthreach programme, a review of the School Completion Programme and the evaluation of the DEIS programme.
Emer Smyth has used GUI data to write reports and journal articles on the transition into primary school, arts and cultural participation among children and young people, spatial variation in child outcomes and the effects of being in a multi-grade class, among other topics. She has a strong interest in comparative research on education issues, and is currently co-director of the UK-based Understanding Inequalities project.