by Charry Lee
In mid-July, the DeliverEd initiative hosted the second session of the bi-monthly African Policymaker Forum on Delivery Approaches and COVID-19 Response. During the inaugural session, representatives from education ministries across Africa shared key challenges they were facing including delivering education remotely, sacrificing longer-term priorities to focus on immediate needs, and prioritizing with limited resources. (Read more about the first session here.)
The second forum included policymakers from Angola, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal, and a new participant from Rwanda. The participants shared their goals for overcoming challenges and the various delivery approaches needed to achieve the goals. Drawing on lessons from others’ experiences, the community of practice (CoP) charted a pathway forward to improve delivery that is relevant and suitable for different country contexts.
Learning from DeliverEd’s research
Ms. Dana Qarout, Project Manager of the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University, presented key takeaways from the conceptual framework for defining and characterizing delivery approaches and the managerial mechanisms for impact. She also shared findings from the DeliverEd paper A Global Mapping of Delivery Approaches that maps more than 150 delivery approaches, the combination of managerial functions leveraged, and variations in design.
From the mapping exercise, we learned that sub-Saharan Africa has the largest number of Delivery Approaches (DA) worldwide, with 39 DAs identified; 30 of the 39 DAs identified in sub-Saharan Africa use new or reorganized structures. The majority of DAs in sub-Saharan Africa are established within the center of government and most of these leverage more accountability-intensive managerial practices. (Read about the five key insights from the paper)
Debate is ongoing and empirical questions abound regarding the most effective DA design features that truly improve service delivery. DeliverEd plans to investigate country-level empirical work and hopes to understand the adoption and longevity of DA’s design features.
Meaningful goals to address learning challenges
Zimbabwe’s former Minister of Education H.E. Dr. Dzingai Mutumbuka facilitated the forum and representatives from Senegal, the Gambia, and Ethiopia shared their goals for the 2021/22 academic year, solutions they are pursuing, and the resources needed to achieve their goals. Dr. Mutumbuka stressed that the goals should address challenges related to learning outcomes and that they should be able to move the needle. Participants reflected on their own goals and the activities most important to successfully address their delivery challenges.
Some of the collective challenges many ministries are facing include:
Access and connectivity
Access to electricity and the internet is limited, especially in rural and remote areas. Even in urban areas, if students cannot pay for data, they cannot use learning platforms or ensure continuity of learning. Even in countries with pre-existing e-learning platforms, the bandwidth or capacity for all students to log on simultaneously was limited. With teachers’ limited time and capacity, the content available on the platforms was also limited and not always an effective mode of learning.
Underperformance and disrupted learning
The majority of students are unable to pass the national assessments. Students are experiencing severe learning loss given COVID-19’s disruptive impact on learning environments, curriculum, and content delivery.
Many teachers were unprepared to deliver curriculum in this e-learning environment as they lacked the pedagogical knowledge and skills to facilitate learning using online platforms.
As country policymakers shared strategies and solutions they’ve tried to tackle their challenges, the forum provided a valuable opportunity to learn from each others’ experiences on measurement and monitoring, access and equity, digitization of curriculum, strengthening teacher capacity, and hybrid approaches to in-person and online learning. Participants are eager to harness this CoP for financial and technical support, collaboration and convening for strategy sessions, and country dialogues.
We look forward to the next African Policymaker Forum on September 30 to tap into the region’s expertise and enable this CoP to continue exchanging experiences and knowledge on data utilization, evidence-based decision-making, and hybrid learning models.