Accelerated Education: Aligning Programs with National Systems
Accelerated Education Programs should not be created in a vacuum. Accelerated Education Programs that are accredited and certified as part of the education system create a safety net for vulnerable and marginalized children to receive an education. They facilitate the entry of out-of-school children and youth into the formal education system or vocational training schools, and increase their employability. To meet that purpose, Accelerated Education Programs (AEPs) need to be designed in alignment with local education authorities, including relevant ministries of education, ministries of youth or other ministries overseeing non-formal education.
Learn about the 10 principles of AEPsGet the Guide to the Accelerated Education Principles
Setting up for Success
When planning an AEP, it’s important the program is informed by an education sector assessment. If this does not already exist, then it should be part of the planning process. This assessment describes the education system using relevant data and indicators, which will provide an analysis of successes, weaknesses, gaps and challenges.
No single organization can tackle the gaps of an entire sector alone, so a successful AEP needs the buy-in of many different stakeholders. Forging strong partnerships is necessary to achieve programmatic goals. These partnership groups include the Ministry of Education, other government authorities, local NGOs and community-based organizations, teacher training institutions, researchers, and communities.
Aligning AEPs with the National Education System
The most successful AEPs are integrated into the wider education system and are recognized by the government or relevant education authority. Furthermore, in a humanitarian context, AEPs need to be part of a coordinated sector response, which means that program managers must be an integral part of the donor coordination group that usually exists in the country.
AEPs can strengthen the wider education system when approved and accredited by relevant education authorities. In some cases, they can also influence national education approaches. In Ghana, for example, the Schools for Life AEP successfully tackled the major challenge of out-of-school children in the northern region, stimulating the demand for formal education. This success provided a scalable model for the Ghana Education Service to roll out countrywide.
Many governments incorporate AEPs into education sector plans. Sierra Leone’s 2014-2018 Education Sector Plan, Learning to Succeed, identifies AEPs for over-age children as a key intervention to support primary school enrollment and completion. Both Sierra Leone’s Complementary Rapid Education Program and South Sudan’s Accelerated Learning Program, are examples of long-running AEPs with full government support.
Legitimizing AEPs to Connect Learners to the Formal Education System, Training Programs, and Jobs
To be successful, AEPs must be a legitimate, credible education option that results in learner certification. AEPs may be designed for primary or secondary school equivalency. This legitimacy comes from coordinating with the Ministry of Education or other relevant non-formal education authorities. By working with ministries, learners are able to take the appropriate exams upon leaving the AEP and earn a certification that will allow them to re-enter the formal system, or pursue vocational training or employment.
To prepare learners for these exams, AEPs can arrange a mock certificate test in the final phase of the AEP cycle. Mock tests give students the chance to practice and help teachers identify who needs extra help. There is evidence that the sooner learners take the official test after they complete AEPs, the better they will perform in national examinations. Delays between the end of AEP and scheduling of exams leads to poor performance and fewer transitions into the formal system.
When preparing students to take national examinations, AEP teachers, education authorities and program managers need to consider what extra support each student needs. This may include both academic and logistical support. Program managers and education authorities should work together to arrange for testing, whenever possible, to take place at convenient and accessible places, and sometimes provide transportation to test locations if feasible.
Talk more about this topic with USAID’s Accelerated Education expert by emailing Nina Weisenhorn at firstname.lastname@example.org.