Tag Archives: Ghana

Scanning the education news from Africa

To provide links for our twitter feed, every week or ten days, we look for news, research, and other media reports on educational change and improvement from a particular part of the world (Africa and Middle East; Asia & the Pacific; Central & South America; The Nordic countries; Europe; or the UK and Canada). While it’s always hard to determine the “hot topics” through these “non-random” scans of traditional and new media, we’re going to start pulling together some of the links we find in these scans and posting them here a little more frequently. This time, the scan focuses on Africa and the Middle East, and over the past two weeks, we’ve noticed more stories about testing-related scandals than almost any other topic. Maybe it’s just exam season, but the stories have come from Egypt, South Africa, Algeria, Morocco, and Ghana:

  • Helicopters, scanners no match for Egypt’s exam cheats – Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East http://buff.ly/1J8lT8Z
  • allAfrica.com: South Africa: Basic Education On Progress in Group Copying Investigations http://buff.ly/1GnglQZ
  • الشروق أون لاين Education Unions: “Protected and not afraid of punishment… those behind leaked exam topics on Facebook” http://buff.ly/1IoO6Ts
  • Exam Leaks Are a Threat to Morocco’s Education System. Morocco World News http://buff.ly/1H3yQ3I
  • BECE cancellation was a collective decision – Minister of Education | General News 2015-06-18 http://buff.ly/1Gnp59M

Unfortunately, extremism, in this case in Egypt and in Kenya, also continue to be in the news:

  • ‘A trip to the farm’: Egypt canceled these school lessons to combat extremism | Al Bawaba http://buff.ly/1J8m9Fd
  • Education in Kenya Suffers at Hands of Shabab Extremists – The New York Times http://buff.ly/1J8vJI3
  • Kenya: Education crisis looms near border with Somalia as 2,000 teachers flee due to al-Shabaab attacks http://buff.ly/1J8vOLX

In addition to those stories, there were also frequent mentions of basic issues of rights and access to education in the Sudan and Algeria, education budgets and costs in Ghana and Ethiopia, teacher’s pay and teaching education in Uganda and Nigeria respectively. But no scan would be complete without a story or two on world rankings (Morocco) or educational performance (Nigeria):

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Real-time Data for Real-time Use: Case Studies from Ghana and Mali

As part of a symposium focused on educational innovation around the world  at the annual conference of the American Educational Assocation in Chicago next week, we are sharing commentary papers from the participants.  Today’s contribution is from Radhika Iyengar, of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

A common and most often used source of education data comes from household surveys. These household surveys are helpful to measure the “impact” of the education strategies and policies adopted by developing countries. The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (or MICS) are household surveys that various countries along with UN agencies (specially UNICEF) use to collect data on educational outcomes-such as net attendance rate, net intake-rate, primary school survival rate. These indicators are helpful to track progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) indicators. The primary focus of the MDGs is to measure the progress towards universal primary education for both girls and boys. The indicators focus on issues like whether girls and boys alike attend primary school at the right age and are able to complete a full primary school cycle.

Despite their potential utility, household surveys like the MICS come with a set of challenges. The process of collecting household-level data using the surveys is very time intensive. Not all countries have the time and the resources to conduct these surveys on an annual basis. Even if they do, a full population census to calculate the denominator of indicators like Net Enrollment ratio could be a decade old. For the most part, the data is entered at the national level. The data is then cleaned, processed and sent back as aggregate numbers usually at the state level. District indicators are hard to find. The schools that patiently supplied this information and the households that took time to respond to those lengthy surveys never get to see the “end product.” The data appeared to vanish in thin air and what comes back in aggregate form is usually not useful for a school or a district to measure its progress. In fact, by the time the data is released, a student who was in Grade 2 may have dropped-out or may have proceeded to the next class without learning anything.

To address this lag in feedback, The Millennium Villages Project along with the Sustainable Engineering Lab have designed and implemented an android phone-based data collection system that collects real-time data. This data is then analyzed using faster back-end processing to provide feedback to the schools and the district education offices on a monthly-basis. This data collection, management and utilization system was developed after multiple years of practice based learning from the Health care system. The processes were tightened and improved upon and tis system is now being utilized for an integrated planning approach for the Education Sector as well as the Water Sector.

Let us first try to understand why is it important to collect all this education data in the first place. Figure 1 below shows that people’s perception don’t always reflect reality. The reality is that many children are not able to do Grade 2 level literacy and numeracy even when they are in Grade 4. This seems counter-intuitive to the general perception that things are going well in education.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 9.37.38 AM

Figure 1. Satisfaction Results in Education (In East Africa)

Source: Pritchett (2013) . The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning

However, we need quicker and useful data to make any difference. If time goes by and the people who supply this data don’t ever get to “see” the usefulness of collecting this data in the first place, these indicators may just become statistics.

In the Millennium Villages Project site at Tiby Mali, the data collected via the phone-based collection system showed an interesting geographic trend. Figure 2. presents the proportion of enrolled students attending observed classes at the time of observations for a particular month. In Tiby, Mali the data shows that the schools circled in green have a much lower student attendance than the schools circled in blue. It is surprising to see a clear geographical clustering of indicators based on the location of the schools. Why is it that the schools clustered near each other (in blue) have better attendance than the rest of the schools scattered (in green)? This map helped to form the basis of discussion with the District Education Offices. The discussions showed that the geography was a part of the problem. Schools are much more dispersed (in the north and south) than schools near the towns therefore distance to get to schools may be longer. The discussions also suggested some structural issues that promote teacher absenteeism. For instance in Mali full working days are Monday, Tuesday and Friday, with two school sessions per day but on Wednesday and Thursday schools are working with only a morning-shift. Absences are more frequent on Wednesdays and Thursdays because many teachers use those days to take care of their personal and administrative needs. The data helped to start a conversation in Mali on teacher attendance issues and made those issues much more visible and easy to understand. As a result of this early detection of the teacher absenteeism trend, government school inspectors have increased their school supervision and focus on the specific schools that showed repeated student attendance issues. The Mali example shows how stakeholders are able to use the data to assist in the functioning of the schools.

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 9.37.53 AMFigure 2. Proportion of enrolled students attending observed class at the time of the visit in Tiby, Mali.

Source: Millennium Villages Project Database.

Another very important indicator is that of student’s learning levels in basic literacy skills for numeracy and language. The data are collected on a monthly basis to measure if children are falling behind. The data are intended to help the school and the teachers to plan for remedial education based on understanding the gaps in the literacy measure. For instance, if a majority of the children tested are in the word recognition category, the teachers can focus on activities that are geared towards move children from the word recognition level to higher levels of readings – reading paragraphs and simple stories. The monthly data depicted on a map from Bonsaaso, Ghana suggested that the schools that lack full time teachers are also the schools where students lack basic reading skills. Surprisingly all these schools are grouped towards the south of the cluster.

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Figure 3. Reading Levels of children in Grade 3 in Bonsaaso, Ghana.

Source: Millennium Villages Project database

Further discussions with district education officials revealed that these schools are located in the remotest part of the cluster with many in the Amansie West District. The area lacks basic infrastructural amenities and teachers do not accept postings to those areas, hence lack of teachers is one of the characteristics in that area of the cluster and the district as a whole. Many of the teachers who accept postings to these areas are untrained. Since reviewing these data, multiple-stakeholder meetings have focused on improving the learning environment of these southern schools.

These case studies bring up several points. First, regarding the data collection and utilization process, frequently collected data with frequent feedback helps to make the data more useful. Also, the people who can in a position to act after seeing the data are best suited to collect the data. The closer they are to the issues, the better the data use is going to be. The second point centers on the use of technology to improve the functioning of the schools. Often the use of technology is limited to laptops used by students for learning and by teachers as teaching aids. However, the use of technology as a lever to improve education planning as a whole leaves much to be desired. “Real-time” data collection using efficient technology has more chances of being used. The time elapsed between data collection and feedback needs to be relatively short, since people forget what data was collected in the first place. We also need to keep in mind that different data users (policymakers, district officials, school members) often like to see different indicators. Therefore data displays need to be created at various levels.

However, efficient adoption of this technology-based solution for issues of data collection depends on many factors. Political will as well as local capacity to collect frequent data and disseminate the results is key. Stakeholder buy-in from a multi-sectoral perspective can help to gain insights from already existing practices from other sectors such as health. A democratic process that weighs the different data needs at the national, state and district levels is also critical in maximizing data use. This is critical since different stakeholders at various levels may have very different data uses. Who uses what data and how much capacity the system has to collect and process the data are iterative discussions. Despite relatively limited resources, innovation is still possible and can lead to quicker diagnosis and remediation. It is clear that education planning not only requires outcome indicators from the survey, but also process indicators from facility (school) inventories. A great step forward is the UN Secretariat on Data Revolution, which recognizes the importance of such facility mapping (see the case study on the Nigeria Information Management System). Real-time data leading to real-time use should be the data mantra for UN’s Post 2015 Agenda.

 

 

What’s New? Challenges and Possibilities for Educational Innovation Around the World

Over the next two weeks, we will be trying something different at IEN. We are participating at a symposium – “What’s new? Challenges and possibilities for educational innovation around the world” – at the annual conference of the American Educational Assocation in Chicago (April 17th, 8:15 to 9:45 AM, Swissotel, Lucerne Level, Lucerne I). In order to broaden the conversation, we will be sharing short papers by the participants in that symposium who will be talking about efforts to support educational innovations in Mexico & Colombia, Finland, Ghana & Mali, and Singapore:

  • Bringing Effective Instructional Innovation to Scale in Mexico and Colombia, Santiago Rincón-Gallardo, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
  • How Do School Sites Support the Adoption of Educational Innovations in the Finnish Context? Jari Lavonen, Tiina Korhonen, & Kalle Juuti
    Department of Teacher Education, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Real-time Data for Real-time Use: Case Studies from Ghana and Mali, Radhika Iyengar, Earth Institute, Columbia University
  • A Framework to Organise the Enabling Factors for the Spreading of Curricular Innovations in a Centralised-Decentralised Context of Singapore Schools, Paul Chua and David Hung, National Institute of Education, Singapore

While the participants will be focusing on what has worked in their countries as well as the challenges they’ve faced, in the symposium we will also be looking across contexts and discussing some common questions including:

  • What kinds of resources, expertise and networks are needed to create an “infrastructure for innovation” in different contexts?
  • What commonalities are there in the spread of innovations across these contexts? To what extent are these “context-specific” lessons?
  • To what extent and in what ways are “innovations” in these countries really “new”?
  • What really changes and “improves” if/when innovations take hold?
  • When, under what conditions, and for whom, can innovations be considered “good”?

We invite you to follow along and share your own examples of the possibilities and challenges for innovation in different contexts.

Widespread call to improve vocational education

Christopher Furlong, BBC

Christopher Furlong, BBC

News reports from this past month have shown that many countries are rethinking the role of vocational training in their education systems.

In Denmarkwww.dr.dk reports that the government is considering new academic entrance requirements to vocational programs that some fear would result in thousands of students being barred from such programs.

Denmark is not alone in it’s effort to “raise the bar” on vocational education. The BBC reported that a survey of British employers showed almost 60% believe the government does not do enough to provide students with the vocational training they need.  The Guardian has also reported that a new standard will be applied to vocational education, allowing for diplomas endorsed by companies such as Kawasaki, Honda, and Volvo, but also hotels and even the Royal Ballet School, which is backing a qualification in performing arts.

Similarly, Thailand is also pledging to reform education to meet the demands of employers by reforming their system of vocational education. As reported in The Nation, the Education Ministry shared plans to work with the private sector to jointly design curriculum and training programs that give students real-life experiences as well as an academic education. The Thai government will also work with Germany, Australia, Japan and China – countries that have large investments in Thailand. However, in an earlier article, The Nation also reported that some researchers have expressed concerns that the government could still be doing more.

Similar news reports, collected from online sources over the past month, show a widespread call to improve vocational education, to reconsider the academic curriculum, and for educators to work alongside employers. These reports can be found coming from countries such as MalaysiaNigeriaThe United Arab EmiratesLiberiaSudanGhanaIreland, and India.