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Welcome Plenary: Education: the Foundation of Social and Economic Transformation

Office of Education Director Richard Whelden welcomed participants to the workshop emphasizing that upcoming sessions would focus on supporting implementation of the new Education Strategy, and that leadership is actively seeking input from participants. He described education as the “unsung hero” of development given its importance to outcomes in other sectors. Wendy Abt discussed USAID Forward and noted that change is initially sparked by an idea and then bolstered by understanding evidence of what works. She spoke of the importance of building partnerships and the need to rely on country systems, as well as the need for programs to be designed and redesigned in order to meet country needs. The Education Strategy will attempt to achieve better outcomes through capacity building and rigorous evaluation. Hilda Arellano noted that many countries that have graduated from USAID had education programming that was integrated into that of other sectors. She spoke of the importance of expanding partnerships to work with other donors and local partners in order to achieve USAID goals. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University discussed the correlation between education and economic growth. Drawing on the case of Latin America, he argued that it is the knowledge gained and the skills developed during years of schooling (and not school attendance alone) that leads to growth. He noted that countries‟ policies can influence how well students do. However, there is little evidence that greater government expenditures translate into higher achievement; rather it is teacher quality that is key. To attain higher teacher quality, institutional reforms are needed, including centralized examinations, accountability for results, autonomy, and direct performance incentives.

Plenary 2: USAID’s New Education Strategy

During this session, members of the USAID Policy Task Team (PTT) presented the purpose and the composition of the PTT, and the guiding principles that drove the formulation of the new Education Strategy. The PTT was developed to create an agency-wide Education Strategy, a framework with goals that guide programs and policy in the education sector, and the criteria for tracking outcomes. The new Education Strategy is aligned with broader foreign policy goals given the underlying assumption that quality education is a necessary prerequisite to broad based economic and social-development. Parsing out specific focus areas, the new strategy is designed to increase program selectivity by focusing on programs that can have a measurable impact on a national scale, programs that address the three cost-effective primary goals (improved early grade reading, improved tertiary and workforce development programs that lead to a workforce with relevant skills, and increased equitable access to education in crisis and conflict environments), sustainable programs that involve local stake holders, and programs that can show a strong link between the intervention and the program‟s impact. These measures are designed to elevate USAID leadership in the education sector.

Lunch Discussion: The View from the Hill

In this session, presenters Robin Lerner and Lori Riley addressed communication gaps between USAID Washington and program implementers which inhibit mutual understanding. In order to bridge the divide, the speakers emphasized the need for regional staff to provide information on results and prioritize regional projects as the Agency is faced with budget constraints. Acknowledgement of these constraints by implementers will allow them to exercise some control over which programs will be cut and which will be maintained. They also suggested that implementers should think about how they can enhance program productivity. The presenters were open about the pressures faced from constituencies and difficulties faced by allocating funds for foreign assistance with many domestic issues yet to be addressed. They indicated that programs that can demonstrate effectiveness and are directly linked to the new USAID strategies will be those funded, and acknowledged that there will be conflicting priorities in cases where education initiatives are a means of bolstering national security.


Supporting the Evaluation Policy: Improving the Quality of Education Design

This session addressed the ways in which evaluation designs can be improved in light of USAID‟s Evaluation Policy. Ron Raphael of the Office of Education and Elizabeth Roen of the Office of Learning, Evaluation and Research opened the session with an overview of how performance and impact evaluations can be utilized to gather information key to increasing learning and accountability. Roger Rasnake and Marcia Odell from JBS International presented recommendations for strengthening evaluation scopes of work. Among the issues addressed were selection of appropriate evaluation methodologies, the need for well-focused research questions, and the amount of time required to recruit and field an appropriate evaluation team, engage in a fruitful collaborative process of evaluation design, and conduct fieldwork. Best practices from previously conducted evaluations were reviewed. Ron Raphael addressed budgeting concerns in the process of developing an evaluation, and Christine Beggs of the Knowledge Services Center provided examples of reasonable expectations for sample evaluations.

Gender Issues and the Education Strategy

Julie Hanson Swanson led this discussion of how USAID can integrate gender considerations into activities carried out under the Education Strategy. The session began with a discussion of how gender relates to the education strategy and what terms such as „gender integration‟ mean in the context of the strategy. Participants felt that gender should undergird all work done in relation to the strategy, but were worried that it would get lost during implementation. Participants also noted that understanding gender issues was essential to achieving educational goals and facilitating gender equity in society. Gender analysis was mentioned by participants as a key requirement for effective planning, implementation, and evaluation of programming. Leveling the playing field for boys and girls was seen as key to programmatic success, and reaching gender equality in educational outcomes was viewed as a process of identifying barriers or constraints that affect boys and girls, ensuring equality of access to formal and informal education as well as equality in the learning process, and working towards equality of educational outcomes. Participants brainstormed ways in which gender might relate to the Education Strategy‟s three goals and identified key entry points: the use of gender analysis, the collection of sex-disaggregated data, the depiction of men and women and men in reading materials (i.e. avoiding stereotypes), not underestimating changes in gender roles that have occurred in a society since the last time materials were updated, and placing a priority on understanding and gender issues‟ relationship with changes occurring in post-conflict, conflict, or crisis situations.

Effective Principles of Inclusion and Disability Programming

Given the recent renewed focus by USAID on disability, this session focused on programming to effectively include children with disabilities in mainstream education efforts. In the US and other countries, inclusion efforts have been very successful to the point where often no separation exists between „regular‟ education and special education; rather provision is becoming general education. An important issue is how to make the best practices and lessons learned in these countries more accessible to others. As parents recognize that children with disabilities can benefit from participation in quality mainstream education, they become stronger advocates for improved education provision. Teachers need to become better equipped, through training, to accommodate all children with diverse learning skills. Physical accessibility to schools needs to remain a focus of disability efforts, as does technology which supports successful strategies for improving learning of special needs children. In response to inquiries from participants about future USAID funding of inclusion efforts when no mention is made in the new education strategy of disability, it was noted that disability can be included as a smaller component of other sector initiatives, e.g. health, economic growth, and democracy and governance, thereby creating a space to articulate and focus attention on disability issues. As parents, communities, and governments see the benefits of inclusion efforts in other sectors, the need to expand education efforts to include disability gains prominence.

Higher Education Institution Assessments

This session outlined the role of HED in conjunction with USAID in forming successful Higher Education Institution partnerships between US Institutions and host country institutions. Azra Nurkic of HED outlined the general process of designing programs and partnerships that would ensure results by formulating data-collection driven RFAs and results-oriented interventions. She clarified the process in which a US higher education institution and host country higher education institution form a partnership and receive funding from USAID and HED. Cornelia Flora of Iowa State University gave specific evidence of this process in the context of the African Higher Education for Development Initiative. She outlined the indicators of successful relationships between US and host-country higher education partnerships, the factors that make good partner universities, and those that create sustainable ties between these institutions.

Introduction to Human and Institutional Capacity Development

This session focused on Human and Institutional Capacity Development (HICD), and how USAID has developed the HICD policy, model, and means to integrate HICD into strategic planning and design of development activities. Presenter Julian Selb of USAID‟s Office of Education emphasized the importance of HICD policy to promote effective and sustainable U.S. foreign assistance and the HICD model to identify and address performance gaps through a wide array of solutions. The integration of HICD into strategic planning and design of development activities was addressed.


From Assessment to Action: Designing Reading Interventions to Reach Goal I

Led by Mitch Kirby, this session provided an overview of the key technical issues to consider when designing reading programs that would be covered in later sessions. In the context of aligning education programs to the strategy, the need for evidence-based programming and steps for analyzing the type of programming needed were previewed. The focus of a program targeted toward Goal 1 should be on reading outcomes and challenges which may arise when doing so were noted. The key components of a reading program were noted as assessment and measurement; teaching the teachers; aligning standards, curriculum and materials; school management, governance and accountability and community participation, and; going to scale—making sure systems are in place to ensure sustainability. Elements discussed were reliable data; in-service and pre-service teacher training in pedagogy, assessment, and content; management capacity--shared goals, distributive responsibilities, and accountability processes; willingness within the system to change; the time needed to teach reading; and building experimentation into design. Key points for further thought were: (a) a renewed emphasis on analysis and evidence-based programming and analytic rigor, (b) determination of the appropriate mix and sequence for reading interventions—curriculum, standards, materials in context; (c) a measured approach—the inclusion of appropriate metrics to measure the rights kinds of things at the right times, and (d) the identification of entry and exit points in country context in order to increase sustainability.

Increasing Capacity for and Quality of Research in Higher Education

The focus of this session was primarily on activities related to Goal 2 of the Education Strategy, „improved ability of tertiary and workforce development programs to produce a workforce with relevant skill to support country‟s development goals.‟ Higher education was emphasized as a mechanism to address development challenges. Presenters used examples of initiatives in Africa and Russia, such as the Basic Research and Higher Education (BRHE) model, and Enhancing University Research and Entrepreneurial Capacity (EURECA) project to illustrate the importance of higher education in host countries. University research with the potential to contribute to development was identified, and the benefits of partnering with universities in the U.S. that share common research interests was highlighted. Teshome Alemneh from HED, Dan Davidson from American Councils for International Education, Brian Darmody from University of Maryland and Marilyn Pifer from CDRF Global stressed that the new Education Strategy strives to develop long term relationships among stakeholders to ensure that the programs are sustainable. Political support and private sector involvement were found to be critical for program sustainability. Presenters agreed that science and technology fields have particularly great potential to bring about social and economic development.

Youth Development, the Challenge of Complexity and Size: Cross-Sectoral and Systems Approaches to Programs

This session focused on youth development, specifically addressing cross-sectoral and systems approaches to youth programs. The session was moderated by USAID/Jamaica representative Claire Spence and the presenters were Bonnie Politz, Vice President and Senior Technical Expert at FHI 360, and Erik Butler, Director of International Youth, Workforce, and Economic Growth Programs at Education Development Center. The presenters defined the term youth development, described core youth development principles, explained the continuum and effective characteristics of USAID youth-related programming approaches and considered Jamaica, Rwanda and El Salvador as examples of how cross-sectoral systems thinking can help achieve Mission and country objectives for youth. The speakers emphasized the importance of creating age-appropriate youth development programs and listening to youth without pre-judging them. In addition, the presenters stated that many programs focus on “fixing” youth, but it is important to concentrate on their strengths rather than identifying their weaknesses. The presenters discussed the usefulness of EQUIP3, for working within and across sectors. They stated that evaluating the outcomes of programs is important, not just observing the outputs. Lastly, presenters emphasized the benefits of using a cross-sectoral approach.

Cost Effectiveness Analysis

This session addressed the importance of cost benefit and cost effectiveness analyses in education programs. The three presenters discussed themes related to measuring cost effectiveness of USAID programs. Juan Belt emphasized that reliable cost effectiveness or cost benefit analysis at the beginning of the program can identify the variables that affect the final outcomes, and can set up valid and reliable monitoring measures for the program cycle. A project analysis of any kind should include many different types of analyses, including financial, beneficiary, institutional, and environmental analysis. Joe DeStefano discussed a program comparison done by RTI International to measure the cost effectiveness of programs related to community-based schools. The USAID programs were compared to public school programs funded by the Ministry of Education. Caitlin Tulloch emphasized that cost effectiveness analysis can be efficiently used to compare various education interventions. If a program is to increase student attendance, for example, myriad program options are available: cash transfers, deworming programs, school construction, etc. J-PAL is working on several different analyses related to education outcomes. One of the most important components of a cost effectiveness analysis requires rigorous estimates of impact in order to measure the cost effectiveness ratio. In order to do this, program officers should build rigorous evaluation techniques into the research design.

Presentations for all sessions and recordings (as available) will be posted on the Workshop Website (www.usaideducationworkshop.com) shortly after the close of the workshop.

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