4 insights from a new evaluation on GPE support to education sector planning

Strengths and weaknesses of GPE’s support to planning as revealed by a newly released evaluation of GPE’s work, and insights for the future.

June 18, 2020 by Nidhi Khattri, Global Partnership for Education and Anne Guison Dowdy , Global Partnership for Education Secretariat
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4 minutes read
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GPE and country officials from ministries of education, gender, and health, as well as representatives from civil society and teachers’ organizations gathered for the Guidance for developing gender-responsive education sector plans (GRESP) workshop, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya. November 2018
GPE and country officials from ministries of education, gender, and health, as well as representatives from civil society and teachers’ organizations gathered for the Guidance for developing gender-responsive education sector plans (GRESP) workshop, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya. November 2018
UNGEI/Sarah Winfield

GPE has just released a new evaluation which investigated the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of GPE support to sector planning, especially through its education sector plan development grants (ESPDG).

The evaluation draws evidence from a number of country evaluations and stakeholders interviews to further explore the conclusions of the desk study carried out last year.

The evaluation presents four main conclusions that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of GPE’s support to planning and provide insights for the future.

  1. The quality of sector plans has improved since 2016, when significant changes were introduced to GPE’s model.

    Sector plan development grants and their related application requirements have contributed significantly to this increase in quality. Plans are now meeting a greater number of quality standards. Before 2016, most plans met less than five out of the seven GPE quality standards, versus at least six standards after 2016.

    More plans are now “achievable” –financially sustainable, feasible and monitorable– and “strategic” –how they address learning, equity and efficiency– the two least-fulfilled criteria before 2016, especially in fragile contexts.

    There are also improvements in quality for countries with two consecutive plans, between their first and second plans.

    Overall, remaining issues include the lack of prioritization, overambitious objectives in comparison to the funding available, and short implementation timelines.

  2. Different modalities of support are strategically relevant to GPE’s aim of helping countries develop quality plans.

    The ESPDG funding has served as an incentive for partner countries to receive implementation grants, and our quality assurance processes have had a consistently positive influence on sector plan development across different contexts.

    Education sector analyses, financed through ESPDGs, are increasingly and better used in sector planning processes. The more recent sector plans are based on better quality and more up-to-date data from these analyses. The ESPDG mechanism and funding also enabled a more inclusive and participatory approach to sector plan preparation, with resources used for consultations at both the national and sub-national levels, and advocacy conducted for more inclusive dialog.

Evaluation of GPE’s support to sector plan development – Final report
  1. GPE’s support to planning is not fully operationally relevant when it comes to helping country governments implement their plans.

    While sector plans of higher quality are more likely to be implemented than weaker ones, good quality plans are not necessarily effectively implemented. Plan ownership of country stakeholders influences the extent to which an endorsed plan is subsequently used.

    Limited ownership at decentralized levels and beyond basic education remain big challenges. Broader contextual factors (e.g. government turnover, conflict or emergencies, macro-economic shocks, lack in donor harmonization, etc.) are significant impediments but are not adequately taken into consideration by GPE for a more flexible support to plan development and, importantly, its subsequent implementation.

    This situation is exacerbated by the fact that country plan development, implementation and monitoring capacity at all government levels is weaker than needed. This is an area where GPE support has the potential to improve and that will be considered in our new strategy.

    ESPDGs fund activities for strengthening stakeholders’ plan development capacity, but it is unclear how or whether capacity does increase as a result of those activities, since progress is not being tracked in that area.

    GPE’s support to countries could also pay more systematic attention to assessing key capacity gaps and building sustained capacity for plan implementation and sector monitoring, both in terms of technical capabilities and institutional arrangements.

  2. GPE largely employs good management practices for its support to sector planning, but needs a sharper focus on learning from the planning processes and assessing whether the planning cycle achieved its intended purposes.

    The ESPDG approval process works generally well (and it has become more structured over time), its procedures are clear and the approval criteria transparent. However, the application process is perceived as too cumbersome in light of the amount of funding made available.

    GPE should also reinforce its monitoring and learning focus, and related country support activities, during and across planning cycles, and its instruments in support of planning.

    The evaluation will help inform the post-2020 strategic planning process and the development of new operational modalities, especially with respect to GPE’s approach to planning support.

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