Plenary 5: Mobilizing Higher Education for Development Impact
This session addressed Goal 2 of the Education Strategy and provided insight into current research on the role of higher education and leadership development. Gary Bittner from USAID/Office of Education introduced the session by discussing USAID’s focus on outcomes with its new policy on Human and Institutional Capacity Development. He noted that assessments of higher education institutions are critical if programs are to have an impact. Susy Ndaruhutse of the CfBT Education Trust introduced her research that seeks to answer what role higher education plays in the development of leaders. To date, she has completed Phase One of a three phase study, mapping the GER of 164 countries against worldwide governance indicators and conducting a literature review. The findings highlight the different purposes of higher education and indicate that the development of leaders through higher education can take 20+ years. The findings also show a positive correlation between tertiary GER and indicators of good governance, though other factors are in play. Ndaruhutse noted that the purpose of higher education institutions has evolved over time, from training the elite, to educating the masses, to providing universal higher education; however, most developing countries are still at the elite development stage. Donor support for higher education has also gone through cycles and the challenge now is to find the balance between supporting basic education and higher education. In Phases Two and Three, she and her team will conduct further research and case studies and develop lessons learned. This research is available on the CfBT website.
If You Print It, Will They Read? Aligning Standards, Curriculum, and Reading Materials to Ensure Success
Stefanie Al-Otaiba of Florida State University opened this session with an overview of necessary inclusions in reading curricula and standards that should be in place as the foundation for development of appropriate reading support materials. Core reading programs should follow a hierarchy of instructions progressing from the easiest, simplest skills sequentially towards the final outcome of producing fluent readers. Standards need to align with the goals and tools that will be used in assessments, for example, with the EGRA. Thereafter, several other presenters gave an overview of the experiences and lessons learned in materials development for literacy reform from several individual country programs. Julia Richards from USAID/Liberia noted that standards for reading in curricula of developing countries are rarely found: therefore, the process is extremely time-consuming but necessary to put in place initial reading curricula and standards that will guide materials development and teacher training. For many reasons, materials are not useful or even used unless they are aligned specifically with the instructional process. From the USAID Ethiopia program, the presenter noted that materials need to be contextually appropriate and appealing to children so they benefit from them. Cory Heyman from Room to Read reinforced several points given by previous presenters, noting that children often don’t use books because they can’t read or are not interested in reading. Room to Read successfully uses local authors, illustrators, and publishers to ensure materials produced are context appropriate and cost effective. All presenters noted that materials need to be appropriately sequenced and linked to classroom instruction, teachers need to be taught how to use new materials effectively, and that literacy efforts are expensive and involve the input of many actors, but are highly successful in aiding early reading initiatives.
EARLY AFTERNOON SESSIONS
ICT4 Public/Private Sector Partnerships: Maximizing Opportunities for Scale and Impact
Senior representatives from private sector companies working in international education presented some of their current programming and the principles that shaped them. Representatives from Microsoft, Intel, Brainpop-Latin America, ISTE, and Scholastic International discussed the scope, location, and impact of current education projects and the extent with which they’ve partnered with USAID. James Bernard from Microsoft articulated the principles that guided their programming based on their research, such as emphasizing student-centered learning and innovative teaching practices, and facilitating the adaptation of innovative instruction from individual classrooms to the education system as a whole. Lynn Nolan suggested that standards from ISTE can help increase the quality of ICT education in partner countries. The question and answer section covered issues specifically related to the private sector’s programming in international education and the scope of the work they do. Issues addressed included managing the gap between corporate, NGO and USAID budget timing cycles, and the tension between proprietary and open source technology. Participants asked the representatives the extent to which their companies addressed higher education programming and accessibility for people with disabilities. The balance between spending resources on testing new innovative approaches and scaling programs nationally was also explored.
Increasing Equitable Access in Higher Education: Admissions and Distance Learning
Luba Fajfer and Roy Zimmerman moderated this discussion on obstacles to accessing higher education institutions (Goal 2 of the new Education Strategy), such as barriers to gaining entrance to universities, and to enrollment. Efforts to strengthen and create sustainable and equitable systems and policies that promote participation in higher education were highlighted. Yarema Bachynsky, Ukrainian Standardized External Testing Initiative (USETI), described the creation and implementation of a standardized entrance exam for all students wishing to study in Ukrainian higher education institutions. This action was taken in response to corruption in admissions. Since 2008, students have experienced increasingly equitable access to higher education. Carol Finmen, of Alamo Colleges discussed a University of Texas-El Paso partnership with Universidad Autonoma, a technical university located on the U.S.-Mexico border which provides Mexican youth with appropriate skills in order to attract maquiladoras back to the region. Ongoing and unpredictable violence led to a ban on travel by U.S.-based university staff to the region. Therefore, the team turned to distance learning to bridge the gap. Owing to their persistence and flexibility, faculty members and lab technicians have participated in online training via NEFSIS web and video conferencing, BlackBoard and existing ESL software packages to learn to develop new teaching competencies.
Examining the Youth, Economic Engagement, and Conflict Nexus: How Youth Economic Empowerment Can Enhance Stability
In this session Jon Kurtz, Rebecca Wolfe and Tara Noronha of Mercy Corps presented on some of the reasons youth join violent movements and how programs can address them in a holistic manner. Rebecca Wolfe divided reasons for why youth engage in violence or participate in violent movements into three categories: Economic, Political and Community/Social. Programs tend to focus on the economic reasons (financial incentives, coverage of basic needs) but there are problems with viewing youth and conflict through this purely economic lens. Youth do not necessarily make economically rational choices or do cost-benefit analyses prior to joining violent movements, and not all countries with high numbers of youth and high unemployment rates see conflict. Jon Kurtz presented research aimed at identifying predictors of youth engagement in violence and the hypothesis Mercy Corps tested: if youth are meaningfully employed, they are less likely to join violent movements for economic gains. Jon Kurtz shared about studies in Liberia and Kenya where qualitative and quantitative methods were used to test the hypothesis. The study concluded that the reasons for why youth engage in violent behavior or join violent movements are varied and job creation on its own is not enough. Rather, it is important to create avenues for youth participation and engagement and create a national identity that supersedes ethnic or group-specific classification. Examples of holistic programs shared by Taha Noronha included the Skills for Kosovo’s Young Leaders program, Start-up Kashmir Entrepreneur Development Project, and Local Empowerment for Peace Plus program in Kenya. Questions from the group included scaling these or similar programs and long-term evaluations and impact.
Capacity-Building: Models of Implementation
During this session, Steve Kowal from the USAID Office of Education offered a comprehensive explanation of the HICD (Human and Institutional Capacity Development) strategic approach to program design and implementation, providing a step-by-step guide to the model, beginning with identifying partner organizations and ending with developing action plans flowing from project assessment. Although the approach is very structured, it was noted that ultimately there is no linear process in project design and implementation. In fact, looking at individual components allows for easier application, because there are instances when certain features of the model may not necessarily apply. David Dzebisashvili of USAID/Georgia presented an HICD case study, illustrating how the Georgian Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation (MRA) implemented the approach to improve services provided for internally-displaced persons (IDPs). With the number of Georgian IDPs growing to about 140,000 in recent decades due to various conflicts, MRA approached USAID for small-scale technical assistance, which utilized the HICD approach. The model yielded successful results, which included recognition from the national government and positive feedback from IDPs concerning the efficiency of services within MRA departments.
Plenary 6: Participatory Round-Table: “Who Says You Can’t Have 21st Century Education in Low-Resource Settings?”
In this plenary, presenters from the public and private sectors gave brief overviews of their work with ICT in education. The moderator, Anthony Bloome, presented the context of ICT in education and asked, “Where can science and technology take us?” Professor Asha Kanwar of Commonweath of Learning (COL) guided the audience through the work that COL does in developing open education resource (OER) materials, and how these are improving the quality of education in India and Malawi by providing quality materials that are adaptable to local contexts. David Atchoarena of UNESCO discussed education transformation in the ICT context, and how new technology demands new skill sets of learners. Mathew Taylor briefed the audience on a successful pilot in Zambia using solar technology to create a computer lab for students. Presenters also discussed Inveneo’s work around the world, frameworks for using ICT in education, and applications of technology for learners with disabilities, as well as work done by the Peace Corps, in conjunction with USAID in the ICT sector.
LATE AFTERNOON SESSIONS
Contributions of School Management, Governance and Accountability, and Community Participation to Children’s Learning Outcomes: A Conversation
In this session, panelists shared recent evidence, exchanged field experiences, and distilled key lessons and practices in the areas of school management, governance and accountability as well as community participation in children’s learning outcomes. Jennifer Spratt gave a brief overview of educational decentralizations in the 1990s, as well as the various mechanisms designed to ensure accountability, and the linkages between the issues impacting student learning outcomes: teaching and classroom practices, opportunity to learn, school management, and accountability and governance. She then gave country examples which used experimental and non-experimental methods to generate evidence of best practices and lessons learned in school management, governance and accountability, and community participation. The moderator, Rebecca Adams, then called on the eight panelists, Claire Spence, Jean Beaumont, Luis Tolley, Aabira Sher Afghan, John Collins, Mariam Britel-Swift, Muhammad Tariq Khan, and Mary Tyler Holmes to share their field experiences and key lessons learned from their projects in the various mechanisms of accountability such as top-down performance control, school report cards and self-assessment tools, school improvement plans and grants, school-based management, and community participation.
Open Educational Resources: Increasing Access While Improving Quality
This session focused on how Open Educational Resources (OER) can improve access to educational content and quality of education, through the personalization of teaching and learning, and the aggregation of resources. Members of the panel described OER as a global movement aimed at improving access, quality, and usability of education content for teachers and students around the world through use of openly-licensed content and technology. Teaching, learning, and research content are digitized, made freely available in the public domain, and released under an intellectual property license that permits its free use and repurposing by others. Kathy Nicholson claimed that OER has 5 benefits: (1) the ability to make continuous improvements to enhance learning; (2) the ability to localize content; (3) accessibility for all; (4) greater learning efficiencies; and (5) radically reduced costs. She highlighted that OER’s goals are to equalize knowledge and improve teacher learning. Catherine Ngugi shared several examples of OER best practices throughout Africa and Hal Plotkin highlighted the Obama administration’s efforts to support OER and emphasized the importance of this initiative nation and worldwide. The panel ended the presentation by stating that Open Educational Resources can be used to help achieve education development goals in a scalable, practical, and cost-effective way but it is necessary to increase awareness that resources exist and that they are freely available. They added that to integrate OER into the mainstream, agencies could encourage open licenses via grant-making programs, support infrastructure projects, and engage in partnerships.
Assessing Conflict for Improved Education Programs
Yolande Miller-Grandveaux began the session by stressing the importance of monitoring and evaluation to ensure program effectiveness. However, when speaking of education in conflict, there are not many assessment frameworks available. The presentation stressed two assessment tools, one developed by the State Department and one by USAID’s Office of Military Affairs (OMA). Cynthia Lerner of the US Department of State introduced the Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework (ICAF), which has people from the embassy out in the field conducting interviews and “bringing the words of the people” back with them. The ICAF seeks to understand what the sources not only of conflict but of resiliency are at the local, national and international level. Taking a systems approach can help agencies see where resilience is present and can be used to mitigate conflict in a way that is non-intrusive and culturally sensitive. Christina Ciak of the Office of Military Affairs at USAID discussed the District Stability Framework (DSF). The purpose of this tool is to understand local populations and their environment, implement activities to address local concerns, and then measure effectiveness in reducing and eliminating local concerns that could lead to conflict. This tool has already been used in Afghanistan, but the OMA decided to pilot this tool in Garissa, Kenya as well to see if it would work in a different environment. The team created a local perceptions survey asking people about the population of their Bulla (neighborhood), the most important problems facing their Bulla, and who people trust or go to when trying to solve a problem. Responses indicated people were concerned about jobs and land disputes and that the local/national government was seen as the institution that should solve problems. Youth were many times perceived as contributing to the resolution of disputes. The DSK can ultimately help as a pre-step in education programming by identifying sources of instability, getting program officers/ partners thinking about obstacles to implementing education programs in conflict areas and facilitating communications between organizations. Miller-Grandveaux concluded by saying education in conflict zones is a new field that will be increasingly relevant and where there is plenty of room for cooperation and analysis to ensure effectiveness.
Financing Higher Education: Increasing Access
Suezan Lee of the USAID/Office of Education opened the session with a discussion of combining public and private financing to increase access to higher education in host countries. Bruce Johnstone from the State University of New York, Buffalo presented a range of financing sources, namely non-governmental revenues, philanthropic funding and cost sharing. Deferred payments, student loans and cost sharing mechanisms were a few of the proposed means of facilitating pursuit of higher education. In this context, Garth Willis, USAID/Office of Education shared an example from Kyrgyzstan in which a student loans model worked by providing external technical assistance to educational institutions for processing student loans. Al Jaeger from Putera Sampoerna Foundation of Indonesia shared a success story of a project providing access to higher education based on merit, in contrast to Indonesia’s status quo, that is exclusive and expensive. Student loans and pre-negotiated provisional subsidized tuition fees in overseas universities along with stringent review and selection processes for enrollment have contributed to the success of this initiative. In countries such as Vietnam, where the culture of borrowing is not popular, it was suggested that insurance or savings schemes appear to have greater potential than credit schemes. In conclusion, panelists emphasized that though these initiatives were successful, they were also faced with challenges (e.g. expanding and sustaining this model and creating job opportunities for graduates in home countries) which will need to be addressed in the future.
An Economist and an Education Specialist Get Off a Plane: Assessing Workforce Development Systems for Private Sector and Institutional Perspectives
This session unveiled contrasting views of workforce development/labor market assessments. Examples of such assessments were shared, in particular recent experience in Yemen and the Philippines. Phil Psilos from RTI International, discussed the economist’s approach. The different stages of assessing workforce based on a Stylized Private Sector Approach was shared with participants, including the research that needs to be done before the assessment starts, to the work to be done in country, including identifying key sectors, mapping out national stakeholders from the private, public and voluntary sectors (both demand and supply sides) who will be source of key information, as well as learning about web-based job boards or recruiter websites. A demand-side analysis is carried out, as well as an assessment of the supply side to understand the issues and to compose an accurate picture of the country’s labor market. In this approach, the main issues to consider are cost, quality and availability. Joseph DeStefano, also from RTI, spoke from an education policy perspective. He presented three TVET delivery models, and discussed in particular the roles the public sector can play to ensure a match of skills with labor market needs. This can be done by targeting resources via incentives, subsides and direct funding of some programs, as well as assuring quality and relevance (i.e., standards) of TVET training programs/providers. The role of the private sector was also discussed. In this model, key policy considerations in TVET assessments are access, quality and financing. Although different, these two assessment approaches do share a common focus on quality.