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Priorities and Budget Decision Making

Congressman Gerald E. Connoly from Virginia’s 11th District was the primary speaker at Thursday’s plenary session. Congressman Connoly serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and he spoke about the need to address education issues with sustainable policies and effective change. In his support for USAID, Congressman Connoly stressed that the Agency needs proper funding and staffing in order to implement its programs and strategies, and pledged his support for building human capacity to support USAID development. Other speakers during the plenary session included Ann Vaughan from Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s office, who conveyed the Representative’s message in support of basic education initiatives and communities of learning in schools. Pat Sommers from the Department of State outlined the budget appropriations process and the relationship between the State Department, USAID and Congress. In the case of basic education, the State Department and USAID have actually received more funding from Congress than originally requested, illustrating the importance that Congress is placing on education initiatives and their commitment to education development worldwide. Ms. Sommers stressed that the two bureaus make their case stronger when they combine resources to justify their budgets. Finally, Jason Folley from USAID’s Chief Operating Office (COO) discussed the purpose of the COO Office in shaping the corporate policy of USAID and integrating USAID with the State Department on issues of foreign policy and development.

For the full session summary, please click here: Priorities and Budget Decision Making Summary


Cross-sectoral Approaches

Cross-sectoral approaches to programming can be very timely in countries where the issues to be addressed are more responsive to a comprehensive intervention model. An example of this is health-seeking behaviors, which can be taught in a school environment and efficiently integrated into existing health curricula. Combining causes in an intervention makes good sense; it also requires working closely throughout the life of project with various agencies in the Embassy as well as those in the MoE. With wider program impact, cross-sectoral activities require buy-in and coordination with various stakeholders. Programs must address locally-identified needs and have an enabling policy environment. As funding and reporting might be dual or multiple, it is important to understand fully the reporting and funding requirements in order to comply across sectors and to collaborate with the relevant partners inside and outside the Mission.

For the full session summary, please click here: Cross-Sectoral Approaches Summary

Measuring Learning Outcomes

There is a growing consensus among donors regarding the importance of measuring learning outcomes. Presenters in this session, from the World Bank’s Fast Track Initiative, USAID, AIR and RTI, shared recent experiences and trends across donors on measuring learning outcomes, which indicators are being used, and ways in which these indicators are being measured. While there is a convergence of ideas on which indicators most accurately and efficiently track learning outcomes, there is also a realization that defining a consistent and effective method of assessing outcomes and tracking progress over time with rigor is as important as defining meaningful indicators. The most important step is to develop assessment tools that can be easily used by teachers and other administrators at the local level. Donor agencies are providing invaluable assistance to developing countries to assess student learning outcomes; however, it will be crucial for donors to coordinate efforts in order to avoid “assessment overload.”

For the full session summary, please click here: Measuring Learning Outcomes Summary

Working in the Ministry, or Not?

This session presented benefits and challenges of close collaboration between a USAID Mission office and the local Ministry of Education. These types of collaborative relationships can be useful because they provide USAID access to key policy makers within the country. Where USAID has shared office space within the Ministry building, this proximity streamlines scheduling, informal communication and collaboration between USAID and Ministry staff. However, working with the Ministry often adds a layer of bureaucracy and approval systems that can bog down aid effectiveness. At the national level, staff turnover or policy changes can challenge USAID to work with shifting priorities. Also, tensions can exist between building institutional capacity, which is a longer-term goal, and the short- and medium-term goals that the U.S. Congress demands. However, this type of close collaboration is crucial to keep informed of the Ministry’s priorities and how USAID programming can best support those priorities without duplicating or contradicting on-going local efforts.

For the full session summary, please click here: Working in the Ministry, or Not? Summary

Quality Assurance

The Quality Assurance session provided an overview of the accreditation process for higher education institutions in the United States, and standard-setting institutions and processes for accreditation worldwide. The assessment process was explored by which school inputs and outcomes are assessed in order to determine whether an institution is meeting its mission and the standards of the higher education community. Participants discussed the range of accrediting bodies worldwide, the role of accreditation in building partnerships between U.S. universities and overseas institutions, and the difficulty of global standard setting and ensuring transparency in institutional self-assessment.

For the full session summary, please click here: Quality Assurance Summary

Life Skills: Readiness for Life and Work

This session discussed how to address gaps in life skills and work readiness in education programming. Presenters from World Vision and IYF discussed their framework and focus on life skills program for youth; whereas World Vision focuses on building relationship skills from early childhood, IYF focuses on a rights and assets based approach (relationships, respect, reciprocity and responsibility). The group discussed the importance of integrating these life skills into teacher training so that children can learn life skills in the classroom in an educational setting. Additionally, life skills were seen as a key cross-sectoral issue, necessary for development in democracy and governance, health and vocational training skills.

For the full session summary, please click here: Life Skills and Work Readiness Summary

Replicating and Scaling Up Workforce Development Models

The presentation addressed best practices for scaling and replicating workforce development (WFD) programs with a particular focus on youth empowerment. Effective programs were presented from the Middle East, India, and Vietnam that demonstrate best practices in scalability, sustainability, cost effectiveness, and education and employment outcomes. Leveraging the private sector resources and support of local business leaders are essential elements in creating the networks to drive WFD scaling, shape curricula, and even influence government policies. Once these networks are created, the opportunities for scaling are significant; for example, a Junior Achievement initiative expanded from one country (Jordan) to 12, driven entirely by private sector partnerships and without the need for ministry support. Increased employment rates as a result also suggest that private sector investments are reciprocated. Additional elements of successful WFD scaling efforts are: links with education institutions and state vocational education centers; lower cost per student; and flexibility in adopting the model to regional differences. In terms of challenges, large class sizes due to high interest, as well as low pay for trainers and teachers present a particular consideration.

For the full session summary, please click here: Replicating and Scaling Up Workforce Development Models Summary

Participant Training: Working Smart-Action Planning

The last session of this interactive participant training seminar detailed the requirements for participant training and debated the differences between regional training vis-à-vis ICT, third-country training and U.S.-based training. Regional activities in Southern Africa were presented and experiences were shared. An explanation of employers’ role in employees’ pre-departure orientation sparked a discussion about the participant selection process, design of the activity and the importance of having a pre-departure orientation in order to prepare participants with a program overview, highlights of cultural aspects and explanation of the administrative and policy lines.

For the full session summary, please click here: Participant Training: Working Smart-Action Planning Summary


Computers in the Classroom: A Lively Debate

Research on the impacts of ICT solutions on student achievement in the classroom is almost non-existent. There is a lot of discussion of the “changing paradigm of 21st-century education” that is linked in and technologically enabled, but thus far, there is not a lot of evidence that it impacts academic outcomes. New projects should focus on measuring these outcomes carefully and scientifically to add to this body of research and to demonstrate best practices and lessons learned for successful programming. Current successful practices in classroom ICT include: using mobile computer labs and school-based telecenters, as well as peer education models. However, experience has highlighted a few key lessons learned: first, the total cost of ownership is often underestimated, and second, if school leadership is not engaged, ICT projects are not sustainable. The “guiding intelligence” behind an intervention – the pedagogical rationale or foundation, the software, training and support – is essential to the intervention’s utility. Each country’s context demands different types of interventions, and it may well be that a given country has more urgent needs to attend to first; like in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, an education system truly benefits from ICT interventions when other foundational tools and systems are in place.

For the full session summary, please click here: Computers in the Classroom: A Lively Debate Summary

Policy Dialogue: National Plans and Harmonization

This session outlined the evolving nature of policy dialogue and long-term educational planning by national ministries of education vis-à-vis internal and external stakeholders, including USAID and other donors, as exemplified in Kenya, Peru, El Salvador, and Indonesia. For example, in Kenya there have been significant, long-term efforts to engage civil society in the planning process. NGOs have been involved at every step, with frequent reviews of both budget and other plans. Activities proposed by USAID and other donors have to be aligned with the objectives of the Ministry of Education, both in order to advance USAID’s education agenda and because USAID’s efforts, while not minor, nonetheless represent only a small part of the overall education sector spending. USAID has generally been quite influential in terms of providing the necessary training and tools for the development of national policies and helping to build donor consensus. Assistance with activities such as school mapping, educational and financial management, policy analysis, etc., is especially useful in helping MOEs benefit from lessons learned elsewhere. However, an issue that both governments and USAID often encounter is transition – either in Ministry staff turnover or with major donors entering and departing the education sector in a rapid fashion – which impacts program continuity.

For the full session summary, please click here: Policy Dialogue: National Plans and Harmonization Summary

Programming for the Underserved

Three government agencies presented their strategy for providing education programming for underserved children. Initial definitions were given to provide an understanding of the target population – orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) – and the link between underserved children and organizational mandates. Although each agency had different objectives to assist children who are considered vulnerable, each offered similar programs of policy support and provision of education, particularly vocational-type training, building awareness and supporting communities. Key points emphasized by the agencies when serving vulnerable children were: integration of activities with all partners across all sectors to provide comprehensive coverage and best use of resources, focusing on the root cause of vulnerability rather than just on the children themselves, and the principle of “doing no harm” (i.e., ensuring that attention to vulnerable children did not exacerbate their problems in the longer run).

For the full session summary, please click here: Programming for the Underserved Summary

Priorities and Opportunities

Participants in this higher education session on opportunities and priorities spoke openly in a town hall format. Education officers from three regional bureaus, LAC, AFR, and E&E, spoke first about the HED programs implemented in their regions, and then the group discussed the opportunities and challenges of promoting higher education further. Barbara Knox-Seith stressed the need to increase the capacity of higher institutions in the Latin America and Caribbean region, rather than funding outside scholarships. She also discussed building higher education sustainability in the LAC region through partnerships and capacities. Aleta Williams from the Africa Bureau noted that the timing is right to think more broadly about higher education. There are many donors and other stakeholders who pay more attention to this component of education capacity building than does USAID. However, the new vision to improve development by improving human capacity is important. Luba Fajfer from the Europe & Eurasia Bureau focused on the challenges of transparency and accountability in education, especially in school management and finance. The group as a whole discussed higher education development and long-term sustainability. Positive higher education systems can help create a more viable middle class and this can lead to more economic and social growth.

For the full session summary, please click here: Priorities and Opportunities Summary

Youth Education, Employment and Livelihood Development in Rural Areas

This session presented key ingredients for success in rural areas, what existing programs would do differently and what have they learned from their experiences. Winrock International presented their program “Nepal: Education for Income Generation,” which aims to increase access to education and training for youth ages 16-30, focusing especially on ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. The program focuses on building literacy and life skills, as well as providing agriculture productivity and enterprise training. The group Agriculture for Children’s Empowerment (ACE) presented a program in Liberia that works to foster economic growth in rural areas through value chain activities, as well as to facilitate increased investment in education and nutrition for rural children. The World Cocoa Foundation examined the genesis of the knowledge packaging education model and how it impacts education programs targeting youth in rural settings.

For the full session summary, please click here: Youth Education, Employment and Livelihood Development in Rural Areas Summary

For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com