A way forward for leaders and policymakers
Until now, the evidence for political leaders and policymakers on how to plan and implement catch-up and accelerated learning has been fragmented and lacking in country-specific context.
Education.org’s newly released analysis offers governments a Synthesis of the evidence to date, much of it unpublished, along with actionable evidence-based Policy Guidance on how to apply the principles of accelerated learning to national contexts.
This guidance is based on a global literature review, analyses of national policies, and a novel approach to rapidly crowdsource both published and unpublished evidence. We reviewed 136 sources, three quarters of them previously unpublished, for example, recent program evaluations and government policy briefs such as in Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan.
We conducted deeper analysis of eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Uganda.
The analysis and guidance signposts the importance of:
- Starting with a thorough assessment of the national and / or local situation – there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to accelerated education programs so each must be carefully tailored to local needs, taking into account all the barriers to education in a specific context for diverse groups.
- Anchoring accelerated learning into existing national education sector plans, curricula and calendars. As the most successful accelerated education programs, such as Ethiopia’s Speed Schools, have shown, this allows learners to transition smoothly into formal education systems when they are ready.
- Focusing on foundational skill development coupled with an emphasis on learner and teacher wellbeing.
- Implementing policies for the flexible assessment, placement and promotion of learners – including training teachers and facilitators in how to conduct ongoing assessments so they can provide support in any weak areas and gauge when each child is ready to progress.
- Supporting the role of communities in enrolling, teaching and retaining children in school – this means working with parents and community leadership, including religious groups, to make the case for education, and promoting peer support groups such as the ‘self-help groups’ created as part of Ethiopia’s Speed Schools, where more than 200,000 parents have organized to generate income to cover future schooling costs.
- Including measures to proactively target the most marginalized students and to heighten support of teachers. Initiatives such as the USAID-funded Advancing Education in Northeast Nigeria program have shown how accelerated learning can succeed in a conflict zone by addressing the specific needs of adolescent girls, by working with communities, including religious groups, to prioritize their enrollment and employing “gender transformative” approaches in teaching and materials.
While COVID-19 has ushered in the worst educational crisis in history, with huge implications for the futures of a generation of children, the good news is that leaders can accelerate learning for all children if they put in place thoughtful policies based on the evidence.
For more information and country case studies, see: education.org/accelerated-learning