A key feature of the Global Partnership for Education’s monitoring and evaluation strategy is to take a close look at our country-level theory of change and operational model to assess the partnership’s contributions to GPE’s goals at the country level.
GPE 2020 goals are to improve learning, equity, and gender equality. These are to be achieved through three objectives at the country level: strengthened planning and policy implementation, mutual accountability, and effective and efficient GPE financing to support the implementation of sector plans focused on equity, efficiency and learning.
Country-level evaluation in 28 countries to assess GPE’s operational model
In March 2018 we launched a country-level evaluation, which will comprise a set of case studies in 28 countries, looking retrospectively at the sum of GPE’s work in 20 countries (summative studies) and assessing over a period of 2 years GPE’s contributions to the education sector as work progresses in eight other countries (prospective studies). This full set of studies will be completed in December 2019.
By March 2020, when the final report is published, we will have studied a significant cohort of GPE partner countries.
The 28 countries in this evaluation account for approximately 68%of primary school age students in partner countries, 64% of primary school age out-of-school children, and 62%of GPE financing through implementation grants.
Findings from the first set of case studies
Findings from the first set of 15 studies - seven summative and eight prospective first year reports, eight of which are in countries affected by fragility and conflict - are now available and we are learning a lot.
The evaluation questions are:
- Has GPE support contributed to achieving country-level objectives of better planning, mutual accountability (dialogue and monitoring), financing and plan implementation?
- Has sector plan implementation contributed to effective and efficient education systems?
- Have changes in the education system contributed to improved learning outcomes, equity, and gender equality and inclusion?
What do the answers reveal?
Education sector planning has been strengthened
GPE was instrumental in supporting improvements in sector planning, which was enhanced in several areas.
Plans tended to be evidence-based and address key impact areas, and there was improved coordination around plan development, mainly due to quality assurance review processes and guidelines, plus GPE’s financial support.
However, key weaknesses remain. Plans tended not to be achievable, as assessed against the GPE/International Institute for Educational Planning standards, with limited prioritization of objectives and less than desirable attention to equity issues (for example, learners with special needs).
In addition, the quality of sector plans does not necessarily lead to its adoption, due to several factors, such as weak operational plans and a lack of short- or medium-term targets.
It is also difficult to assess how much GPE contributed to sustained national capacity in planning through its support to the sector development processes.
Mutual accountability among education partners was slightly stronger
GPE contributed to improving dialogue and monitoring, for example by encouraging sector review mechanisms to be participatory and inclusive.
GPE support was less effective in ensuring that local education groups and joint sector reviews influenced harmonization, financing, and monitoring of plan implementation. Sustaining inclusive dialogue beyond the planning phase is another area for improvement.
Mixed picture in education financing
Domestic education financing generally increased in absolute terms in the sample countries, driven largely by countries’ macroeconomic conditions. Nonetheless, it remained insufficient to cover planned education sector expenditures. However, GPE’s advocacy and funding requirements were considered helpful in keeping the focus on domestic financing.
Recurrent costs (e.g. salaries) comprised the vast majority of domestic expenditures.
Trends for 2010-2016 in international education financing were positive overall and GPE grants did not crowd out other international education sector financing. However, there were strong fluctuations of aid to education in some countries and financing was channeled mostly through project modalities, likely contributing to fragmented plan implementation.
There are early indications of promising effects of the GPE Multiplier on resource mobilization. Initial findings also show that good GPE-supported sector planning may positively influence the quality (i.e., greater alignment with sector plans) and quantity of international financing by strengthening development partner trust in the country. This issue will be further explored in the upcoming studies.
Improving sector plan implementation, but critical challenges remain
Countries’ sector plan implementation has shown progress in several areas, including removing barriers to education access, improving quality and improving sector management. Under GPE’s funding model introduced in 2016, the variable tranche, which is dependent on proven achievement of specified results, shows promising signs of focusing attention on sector implementation.
There are several areas for improvement. Sector plan implementation was frequently fragmented and incomplete for reasons including: insufficient financing (with funding gaps ranging from 19% to 77% of the planned amounts and salaries absorbing most of the domestic spending on education, ranging from 70% to 95%); weak operational plans (lack of clarity on who is responsible for doing what, and poor collection and use of information to track progress); gaps in countries’ implementation capacity; and weak or lack of coordination between the government units or ministries jointly responsible for plan implementation.
There were improvements in sector management and the education management and information systems that provide information, but progress was uneven, and problems remained pervasive with respect to the availability and use of data as well as the interoperability of data systems.
However, the prospective evaluations note that monitoring tools may be improving under the more recent education sector plans. The requirements of GPE’s funding model, especially the performance-related variable tranche, may provide an additional incentive for tracking sector plan implementation. This is an issue that will be explored in the next set of studies.
GPE support for education sector plan implementation accounted for between 0.9 and 17% of costs. GPE funding mostly financed non-recurrent expenditure, frequently supported innovations, and made contributions to specific sub-sectors such as early childhood development.
More to do to improve the work of the partnership
GPE support assisted governments to make improvements to: education access (e.g. school infrastructure, measures to decrease the number of out-of-school children); education quality (e.g. the supply of qualified teachers and development of national learning assessment systems); and effective and efficient sector management (e.g, strengthening education management information systems)
However, data were incomplete to identify patterns of progress linked to sector plan implementation. In addition, the reviews found that it was too early to measure the outcomes of many of the interventions of the current sector plans and GPE funding support.
But where are the countries now in terms of impact? When data were available, the studies found that:
- Learning outcomes increased modestly in one country and one province, and no recent data were available on learning improvements in the remaining summative countries
- Primary out-of-school rates improved in three and worsened in three, with no data available for two country/province
- Gender parity for primary out-of-school children improved in three countries but worsened in another two, with no data available for three countries/province.
These findings give us a rich agenda for improving how GPE operates so that we, as a partnership, can continue to strengthen our efforts to work in ways that deliver results in partner countries.