Accelerated Education: Principles for Program Management
Effectively Managing Accelerated Education Programs
During a prolonged crisis or conflict where education services have been interrupted, communities and civil society are often the most effective in developing innovative strategies to meet the educational needs of children and youth. One innovative strategy has been Accelerated Education Programs, where children and youth can catch up on lost years of schooling. The Accelerated Education Working Group has captured learnings from these community-driven innovations and developed principles about program management in the Guide to the Accelerated Education Principles. Three of these principles focus on aligning goals and funding, managing an accelerated education center, and the role of the community in an Accelerated Education Program (AEP).
Align Goals, Monitoring and Funding
Effectively managed AEPs respond to real needs in the community, have clear goals and established methods for tracking progress, and include enough funding to support their mission while considering sustainability over the long-term. When developing a new AEP, bring in monitoring and evaluation specialists at the beginning to create a process for obtaining regular feedback and monitoring the program’s effectiveness.
To track student progress, each AEP should come up with a set of targets (such as test results) that are based on the context of the program, the specific students and the program’s overall goals. For example, the Learning for Life Program in Afghanistan created its own alternative tests to assess progress with input from the Ministry of Education. The Learning for Life tests measured the participants’ progress in the health-focused literacy curriculum. The test questions were given to the MoE for input, and they were piloted in multiple locations.
Measuring these targets can show the relevance and impact of the AEP, which is extremely important for securing funding. If possible, AEP funding should be part of the country’s national budgets, but the reality is that few education sector plans include specific budget lines for these programs. Most of the funding comes from international donors and non-governmental organizations.
Monitor an Accelerated Education Program Effectively
Effective programs have systems set up to collect data to monitor student enrollment, attendance, drop-out, retention, completion and learning. Why is this important? Because the data collected helps program managers determine if the program is achieving its objectives and if any budgetary and logistical changes are needed. Because AEPs are designed to reach marginalized populations outside the reach of the formal education system, data should be disaggregated by target beneficiary groups (e.g. sex, rural/urban, poverty, displacement, etc.) and analyzed in order to ensure programs are improving equity in the education system.
It’s also important to track what happens to students who have completed these AEPs. In theory, they should transition to formal education, vocational training or employment. The data you collect should tell you if your AEP is effective and achieving its purpose for marginalized and vulnerable populations.
Engage the Community and Ensure Accountability
A successful AEP is generally supported by the community. Community members can be involved in the program as students or teachers, or they can be advisors on program design, supervision and budgeting.
In Sierra Leone, Save the Children says that one of the greatest successes of their Accelerated Education Program has been the engagement of local communities. Not only did select community members participate in a three-day program design workshop, but they also provided valuable insight into effective program management.
But community engagement isn’t always a given. To get more engaged, the community might need more information about the benefits of an AEP or about the importance of girls’ education. (According to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, “girls are more likely than boys to remain completely excluded from education, despite efforts and progress made over the past two decades.”)
Educating the community also entails reaching out to potential gatekeepers and allies that are beyond the scope of the program. In Afghanistan, the managers of the Children in Crisis Community Based Education Centers met at the start of the program, as well as on an ongoing basis, with local police, civic authorities, and religious leaders to confirm they were aware of the program’s planned activities in the community and to ensure they had their support.
Talk more about this topic with USAID’s Accelerated Education expert by emailing Nina Weisenhorn at [email protected].