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Plenary 3: Panel: Early Grade Reading: Summary of Evidence, Implications, and New Directions from Donors

This plenary session presented current evidence to support an increased focus on early grade reading and learning strategies. Donor organizations, including the EFA/FTI Secretariat, USAID, the World Bank, DFID, and Hewlett Foundation, share a similar perspective on the need to re-focus policy from access to quality issues. The panel highlighted the importance of research, the evidence base, and best practices to indicate what has worked and how efforts focused on early learning efforts are effective in improving student achievement. Investment in reading in the early stages has a high rate of return, as children have a better base on which to continue learning, and teaching children to read well is less expensive than teaching adults to read later. Speakers identified remaining gaps in research and implementation that donors will need to address in individual strategies. Some of the issues addressed included: the need to promote an environment of assessment and accountability, the need to focus on equity that ensures the poorest children have access to quality learning opportunities, improved teacher skill beyond rote learning methods, promotion of accountability and understanding by school-level staff to focus on early learning, building capacity and understanding of host governments to take the lead in early reading improvement efforts, and ongoing assessment of students. The need for continual research and dissemination of findings was reiterated by all presenters, as was their common strong support for global improvements in quality of education.

Assessment Approaches and Application: The Basics of Measurement and Assessment for Policy Dialogue and Action

In this session, Annie Duflo, from Innovations for Poverty Action, shared their experience with the Teacher Community Assistant Initiative in Ghana, and the effective use of impact evaluations to determine how to spend limited resources, and learn how to improve programs and their delivery. Luis Crouch, from Education for All Fast Track Initiative Secretariat, spoke about measurement and assessment in early literacy programs. He provided four reasons to measure: to motivate; to monitor and manage; to report; and to prove impact. He noted that in some countries there is a need to motivate governments to engage in such measurement trials. Measurement is also important as a management and monitoring tool; essential for reporting on results; and a way to prove programs are having the impact they are intended to have. Emmanuel Mensah-Ackman from USAID/Ghana spoke about the National Literacy Acceleration Program (NALAP) in Ghana, a national program in mother tongue literacy instruction. While it is too early to assess results, the program has been well received. Support from the government for this program has been key, though an increased level of effort will be needed for mother tongue programs given the prevalence and preference in the country for English instruction. Aabira Sher Afghan, USAID/Malawi, presented the findings of the first application of EGRA in Malawi, which was done under the Malawi Teacher Professional Development Support Activity. Findings showed very low scores across all sub-tests. The program is currently in a process of dialogue with the government given that results of this study were disputed and have not yet been released. A participant aptly noted that while much emphasis has been put on rigorous evaluation and measurement, there is so much yet to learn about policy constrants. The work needs to focus on how to use this knowledge and results to learn, and more effort need to be put into exploring ways in which we can use M&E in the policy environment we are working in.


Leveraging Technology for Education in Complex and Challenging Environments

From South Sudan to the Congo to Port-au-Prince, technology is playing a role in the delivery of valuable educational content in the world‟s most difficult and constrained environments. Mike Laflin (EDC) reported on the methods and successes of interactive radio instruction (IRI) in the Sudan, where strife and conflict have made the consistent delivery of quality education nearly impossible. In Haiti, where 86% of university graduates leave the country to work abroad, Microsoft (represented by David Yunger) and World Vision International (represented by Lou August) are building partnerships to deliver quality education at scale and to promote rooted entrepreneurialism for sustained growth. UNESCO's David Atchoarena similarly reported that partnership development is crucial for using technology productively in the places where it can have the most impact: environments with extremely low resources and those with ongoing conflict. USAID‟s Anthony Bloome echoed the sentiment expressed by this session's skilled panel: the value of technology lies in the quality of its use, much like a piece of chalk on a blackboard.

Education and Conflict: What Do We Know?

Findings on the relationship between education and conflict from recent qualitative and quantitative research were discussed during this session. Dana Burde (NYU) and Henrik Urdal (Harvard) acknowledged that 'education and conflict' is a recent field of study and currently lacks data from past research and other evidence based studies. Both strongly support the need for more research to understand the entire spectrum of the relationship between education and conflict. Drawing from the limited data and the recent research studies, the presenters briefly highlighted the key challenges, suggestions and way forward. Research indicates that education may have the potential to mitigate conflict depending on content, access to education and quality of education provided. Educational content that is inclusive, non-discriminatory and related to peace and reconciliation has the potential to aid in conflict mitigation, as data shows lesser conflicts with increase in higher levels of education in general. Reducing inequality in education was also considered important in mitigating conflict. There is some evidence that when the threat to education is reduced, both boys and girls are willing to go to school. Community education, activities that engage communities in a non-formal way and use women for education assistance in schools have shown some positive effect in providing safer access to education for all children, especially girls. Teacher training, special interventions in conflict areas, and evidence of what works differs from regions that are stable, and thus 'quality of education' in conflict and post conflict regions needs to be addressed differently. Another key point was the importance of including education as part of humanitarian response in conflict areas. More data on evidence-based education programs and an understanding of problems specific to conflict regions were proposed as areas that can benefit in planning for short term and long term approaches to development in these regions.

School-to-Work Transition: Linking Workforce Development with Entrepreneurship

This presentation highlighted the systemic view required to understand the link between workforce development and entrepreneurship. Presenters Sibylle Schmutz of SwissContact, Cornelia Janke of EDC, Tim Haskall of EDC, and David Rurangirwa of USAID/Rwanda focused discussion on the definition of market orientation; improving entrepreneurship skills, and assessing the impact of these interventions. The USAID funded, Education Development Center (EDC) 'Akazi Kanoze' project was showcased.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Financing Modalities

Suezan Lee led this session which focused on USAID's experience with projectized and non-projectized education funding assistance, specifically in Africa and the Asia and Middle East countries. The presenters were Joe DeStefano, Senior Education Specialist at RTI International, Meredith Fox, USAID/Ghana Education Officer, and Hala El Serafy, USAID/Egypt Senior Education Specialist. Mr. DeStefano discussed the historical context of non-projectized assistance. He stated that some officials thought that non-projectized assistance would provide an easier management burden, but in fact, a larger management burden occurred and the monitoring and keeping track of funds became an issue. In addition, he stated that many organizations think that more non-projectized assistance should be provided, however, the new USAID education strategy seeks tangible results, and due to the issues that arise from providing non-projectized assistance, it may not be the proper funding modality. Ms. Fox discussed her experience in Ghana and the use of implementation letters to fund education programs. She saw implementation letters as an opportunity to build the capacity of the country while meeting USAID/Ghana's specific objectives. In addition, she implied that the potential for sustainability is increased when there is a high level of ministry involvement from the beginning. Ms. El Serafy discussed the cash transfer mechanism that is being implemented in Egypt, which allows the Government of Egypt to receive reimbursement upon achieving established objectives. She stated that the cash transfer mechanism enabled the government to set its own reform priorities and enabled the capacity building of the Ministry of Egypt.

Lunch Discussion: Comparative Education Strategies

During this working lunch, panelists representing four organizations were asked to identify their organization‟s comparative advantage in the field of education, as well as challenges to developing an education strategy. Highlighted comparative advantages included: partnerships and stakeholder alignment (FTI), education expertise in every country (DFID), knowledge and policy (World Bank), and field presence and innovation (USAID). Panelists then identified the major challenges to developing an education strategy, which included fitting development goals with national priorities and emphasizing financial accountability and resource management. While the institutions differ in their structures, the representatives collectively agreed that measuring outcomes and impact will be increasingly important. Participants concluded by underlining the need to disseminate best practices across organizations and strengthen partnerships.


Plenary 4: Conflict, Crisis, and Education

This session presented three perspectives of conflict and education. The moderator, Yolanda Miller-Grandvaux from USAID's Office of Education, noted that the field of education and conflict is just six years old. The internationally adopted paradigm that emerged from 2006-2008 seeks to answer to what extent education contributes to, and mitigates, conflict. Reuben Brigety II from the Department of State‟s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) discussed PRM's experience in emergencies and the programs they support, as well as the challenges of providing education in a crisis setting. He stressed that humanitarians and development actors must interact, develop coordination, and share information with each other. Nigel Roberts from the World Bank presented the World Development Report 2011 which focused on modern violence. He discussed how the violence of the Cold War was replaced by another type that is more intractable and less prone to resolution. Countries that have been able to break the cycle of violence have done so through reforming and strengthening their institutions, which can take a generation or more. He noted that education in these settings has the power to change psychology that is so dominant in creating violence, and has the power to move people out of the circumstances that they find themselves in. Marleen Wong, the Assistant Dean of USC, discussed the steps the Department of Education has taken to mitigate the impact of crises and conflict on students. Since the 1990s, programs have been developed to deal with readiness and emergency management, among others. The Department of Education also created a model that discussed the four phases of emergency management: prevention-mitigation (identify hazards that are present), preparation, response, and a recovery. She also spoke of how schools are the first place parents, students, and communities turn after a tragedy.

Teach the Teachers (and Their Supervisors): System Strengthening for Improving Teacher Effectiveness

The session presented effective practices for teacher training programs that will lead to increased student reading levels. Practices presented were gleaned from current research on teacher training as well as reading programs implemented in Mali, Liberia, and the Philippines. Effective reading instruction involves allowing adequate time for reading to be built into classroom instruction time, consistent instructional routines especially for teachers with low levels of reading themselves, and availability of appropriate and sufficient materials that children can read independently. Determinates in changing teachers behaviors include sustained training over time, training that is imbedded in larger professional preparation, and training that‟s appropriate to what‟s needed for classrooms. A minimal level of teachers‟ content knowledge that is the same as is needed for classroom level instruction is necessary. Teachers need to be taught using the same types of activities as students need to use to learn. Continuous student assessment is required as is research on programs that are not showing improved student learning in order make changes in programming. Investments in teacher training programs are only effective if children are learning.

Integrating Preparedness and Recovery Planning into Education Programs

This session underlined the importance of preparedness and recovery from disasters or crises in school systems. Marla Petal from Risk Red focused on prevention by giving an overview of comprehensive school safety, disaster-proofing in the education sector. In her presentation, she addressed the three key areas of risk assessment and planning, physical and environmental protection, as well as response capacity development in disaster-proofing education programs. Dr. Petal also spoke briefly about the three goals of comprehensive school safety, 1) student and staff protection, 2) educational continuity, and 3) culture of safety. To better prepare, an incident command response system needs to be created and drills and/or simulations need to be carried out. An incident command response will aid response and recovery as differing levels of disaster or crisis would require different actions. Dr. Petal suggests adding in different scenarios to make drills and simulations as realistic as possible. Dr. Marleen Wong from University of Southern California focused on the mental health aspect of recovery for children affected by disaster or crisis. She spoke about challenges that school systems faced with regards to response and recovery during a disaster or crisis as the mission creed of schools emphasizes academics and testing although it is critical to first address the emotional needs of students during such an event. Post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD has an emotional, cognitive, and neurological impact on an individual affected by disaster or crisis and has serious implications on children between the ages of 1 to 5. Thus, it is crucial that the mental health of children is being addressed through psychological first aid in order to enable children affected by a disaster or crisis to function and reinstate their emotional well-being.

Financing Education Services in Crisis and Conflict-Affected Situations

Malcom Phelps of USAID/Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs and Katie Donohoe USAID/Pakistan presented on a different financing approach, Government to Government (G2G) assistance model, a bi-lateral relationship with USAID and Pakistan, and USAID and Afghanistan. G2G model is practiced differently in each of these countries to suit the country situation. In Afghanistan, the agreement is between the Ministry of Administration, Afghanistan and USAID is yet to be signed. Ms. Donohue pointed out that Pakistan has greater capacity to rebuild than Afghanistan. The key attribute in both cases is working closely with the Government at the host country and thereby getting greater political support which is required for program sustainability. On the other hand, Technical assistance for rebuilding efforts have involved many senior technical and management professionals from countries such as the U.S. and Canada and this adversely impacts the potential for program sustainability. The reason being, Pakistanis or Afghans are not being mentored or trained to perform the same function. G2G has the advantage of being cheaper than having other independent contracts, but also comes with a time consuming process and rigorous assessment and evaluation prior to signing the agreement with the host countries. There are ongoing efforts to help government with capacity building, program extension to different regions and improving program sustainability.

Application of Science and Technology for Development

This session explored the ways by which support for Science and Technology programs can align with development goals. Cathy Chan-Halbrendt (University of Hawaii) and Tammo Steenhuis (Cornell University) reported on their fruitful partnerships with universities in Albania and Ethiopia, respectively. These partnerships balance the need for building trusting relationships across diverse faculty and disciplines with the need for delivering productive outcomes within short timeframes and with limited means. Marilyn Pifer (CDRF Global) discussed her work in establishing Technology Training Offices as bridges between research and industry. The session‟s discussion focused on the need to ensure that innovation, critical thinking and leadership are qualities embedded in higher education development broadly speaking. In many instances, promoting these developments involves extensive partnership and trust building. The results can be dramatically positive for the promotion of shared value between the university or institute and the domestic economy which benefits from increased skill and increased productivity.

Innovative Evaluation Approaches for Youth Employment

This session brought to the table innovative evaluation approaches for youth employment. Accordingly, the session format was also innovative. After a short introduction to the topic by Kevin Hempel and David Newhouse from the World Bank, and Mark Lynd and Jeff Davis from School-To-School, participants were divided up into “speed dating” discussion groups in which specific impact evaluation designs were discussed, as well as specific questions from participants. At the start of the session, moderator Daniel Oliver from the International Youth Foundation provided a comprehensive introduction to impact evaluations and set the tone for the discussion that followed in each table. Oliver noted that impact evaluation is a distinct method of evaluation and that emphasis on this approach is new to the development world. It has been used in the US for a while, in particular by the US Department of Education. Impact evaluation is seen as the gold standard, and it is now filtering into the development world bolstered by donor demand. The World Bank has been a leading donor in this respect, and a growing interest exists within USAID to further use this evaluation method. He noted that impact evaluations use a sophisticated set of statistics to determine impact, that is, to verify how interventions are affecting beneficiaries. In sum, they provide the evidence as to what is working or not, and allow us to better judge what is successful and what is not.

Managing Activities to Minimize Vulnerabilities and Maximize Accountability

This session discussed a range of project management issues, in the context of audits and fraud awareness. The discussion included useful tips on monitoring project activities and tracking results in geographically and politically challenging environments. It described the steps taken when OIG audits a program. Joseph Farinella of USAID/OIG noted that the main criteria utilized in a performance audit is contained in the scope of work or project's objectives. He added that looking at results is not about measuring outputs or metrics but impact and outcomes. A project is successful when it achieves the goals proposed in its design. When financial management presents challenges, OIG provides recommendations to improve its performance. Though implementers are considered partners in a project's execution, the presenter highlighted the critical monitoring responsibility of USAID. Joseph pointed out that when evidence of implementation problems in geographically and politically challenging environments are raising doubts the situation should be disclosed. During the discussion participants shared their past experience with OIG, emphasizing its effective intervention providing them with financial internal control.

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