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Lunch Discussion: Comparative Education Strategies
August 23, 2011 – 12:30 p.m.

Presenters:  Richard Prouty, Fast Track Initiative (FTI)
Richard Arden, World Bank/Department for International Development (UK)
Elizabeth King, World Bank
David Barth, USAID

Moderator:  Wendy Abt, WPA, Inc.

Wendy Abt, the moderator of this session, asked panelists a series of questions regarding the challenges their organizations have faced in developing an education strategy. Richard Prouty reported that one of FTI’s greatest challenges is aligning development goals with national priorities. While countries work on their education objectives as whole, development organizations can often only focus on a particular sector, such as basic education, which can lead to a disconnect between what countries want and what development organizations can provide. When it comes to budget concerns, civil society groups within countries often feel organizations should increase their funding for social programs while governments intend to cut public spending in some of those same areas.
Richard Ardent, a World Bank Senior Education Specialist, spoke of his experience with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). He mentioned that the new government has stressed accountability and resource management. As a result, DFID intends to ‘graduate’ several countries from its aid program and focus more narrowly on providing technical expertise. In speaking about budgetary policy, Arden pointed out that while DFID is the only ministry in the UK that received increased funding from Parliament, it still seeks to cut costs by reducing headquarters staff and increasing the number of in-country advisors.

Elizabeth King underlined the importance of impact evaluation, which is a World Bank priority. She pointed out that because the World Bank serves countries with different development and education priorities it is difficult to have a narrow focus. Instead, it must focus on learning as a whole, rather than on individual sectors. King also mentioned the challenge of specifying indicators and standards across countries in a way that does not interfere with national sovereignty.

David Barth of USAID began by saying that while access to education receives a lot of attention, more development projects should focus on the quality of education. He mentioned the increasing importance of assessments and impact evaluations, especially in a time when governments want to see measurable results. Barth noted the challenge of focusing on reading when many countries want to focus on mathematics. Barth concluded that it can be challenging to reach the lofty goals that USAID sets for itself.

Key take away points Government aid agencies and international organizations face different challenges and constraints in developing and implementing education strategies. There is, nevertheless, agreement that monitoring, evaluation, and impact assessments have become increasingly important. Partnership among aid agencies and international organizations, with emphasis on sharing best practices and lessons learned, will be key to ensuring aid effectiveness and not “reinventing the wheel.”


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For questions related to the 2011 Education Workshop,
please contact Rachel Kozolup at rkozolup@jbsinternational.com