Education officials learn from successful experiences in other countries
Representatives from African partner developing countries with a seat on the GPE Board of Directors meet this week in Addis Ababa, ahead of the full Board meeting on November 18 and 19. This is an opportunity for these members to prepare for the decisions they will have to take during the Board meeting.
Like many other countries, Benin is now in the home stretch leading to the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The country recently updated its ten-year Education Development Plan (PDDSE) for the 2013-2015 period. Thanks to a GPE grant of US$42.3 million Benin will be able to implement this plan.
In order to best meet the challenge of the 2015 horizon, Beninese education officials decided to check with other GPE member countries, where progress has been good and where dynamic processes enhance the national education system. The idea for an exchange program between education officials from Benin and Ghana originated on the sidelines of the meeting of the three African Constituencies of the GPE Board of Directors, which was held in Accra in September 2012.
Looking for inspiration in other GPE developing partner countries
“As part of Benin’s efforts to update our ten-year plan, we felt it was important to look for new sources of inspiration in countries that, despite sharing regional characteristics with Benin, are making significant strides in education. We believed that different and innovative models could inform discussions and the analysis of the Beninese education system, which is heavily influenced by the French education system.” Maoudi Johnson, PDDSE’s Permanent Technical Secretary of the Coordination Committee
In early 2013, eight high-level officials representing the four Beninese ministries with responsibility for education and the PDDSE’s Permanent Technical Secretariat traveled to Accra for a week-long series of meetings and discussions with their Ghanaian counterparts. The study tour was made possible through the German BACKUP Initiative – Education in Africa, which supports South-South exchanges among GPE developing partner countries.
From decentralization to technical and vocational education and training
With support from its partners, Benin has made remarkable progress in improving access to education. But challenges remain, in particular on quality and equity in impoverished communities, especially for girls.
In Accra, the two delegations discussed a wide range of topics, including education strategic plans, decentralization, technical and vocational education and training, literacy, human resources management and procurement. The Ghanaian experts presented progress made in each area, highlighting difficulties encountered and remaining challenges, and explaining the results that have placed their country among the good performers in education.
The Beninese delegation was interested in learning about procurement as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET). Benin is experiencing major delays in the execution of contracts due to the complex nature of its budgetary procedures. Furthermore, although TVET is the second priority in the Beninese education sector, this area is struggling to provide the human resources needed to revive the national economy.
The Beninese team understood that Ghana’s achievements are the product of a well-structured, results-oriented system that is firmly rooted in macroeconomics. They also understood that there are fundamental differences between the two countries. Ghana has an efficient information management system in place while the implementation of Benin’s system is in preliminary stages.
Although a number of line ministries in Ghana have their own TVET training structures, the entire subsector is being managed by one single umbrella organization, which provides coordination. The smooth flow of information between ministries is an important measure of success. When reaching a deadlock, it is not unusual that a team from the education sector visits other ministries to find a quick and practical solution to the problem. It is hard to imagine this happening in Benin where four ministries have responsibility for education.
Sharing newly acquired knowledge
Armed with this new knowledge, the Beninese delegation is now eager to implement some new aspects in Benin. However, the system transfer process is complex. Merely attempting to replicate Ghana’s achievements runs the risk of creating confusion and potential failure. This is why the study tour group decided to communicate their findings to a wide audience in Benin to create the conditions for a seamless transfer of best practices from Ghana.
They did so first during the meeting of the Local Education Group (LEG) in Benin, during which participants asked that the report and findings be published at the highest level. This would help ensure that the four ministries with responsibility for education in Benin coordinate their work closely and introduce qualitative changes in Benin’s education system. The meeting of the Ten-Year Plan Coordination Committee provided another opportunity to present the results of the exchange trip. Securing the buy-in of this group of policymakers is essential to move forward with the decentralization of sector reviews and a more efficient statistical data production mechanism.
Looking ahead: more exchanges
A positive outcome of the visit would be to pave the way for more South-South exchanges between GPE member countries. Albert Adagbe, Staff Director in the Ministry of Nursery and Primary Education and Head of the Beninese delegation, noted that “the exchange mission to Ghana was an extremely enriching experience. The various presentations and discussions with our Ghanaian counterparts allowed us to understand their concept of education, which differs from ours in Benin.
Although the challenges and the goals are the same, the methods implemented in Ghana rely more on a certain degree of autonomy, strong private sector engagement, and efficient use of public resources. Although everything we learned cannot be transferred to Benin, we have come back home with a number of ideas that must be developed and tailored to meet our needs.”