The GPE Secretariat just published the Practical guide for organizing effective joint sector reviews (JSRs), which offers basic elements, guidance and tools to education stakeholders who wish to engage in a collaborative process of assessment, review, and course correction of the national education efforts.
The guide was developed in consultation with partner developing countries, multilateral and bilateral development actors, international NGOs, civil society and academia. Its objective is to support country teams in identifying opportunities for joint monitoring and in overcoming some of the challenges they may face when organizing a joint review.
The guide provides:
- an effectiveness framework for JSRs,
- practical process guidance for preparing, conducting and following-up a JSR, illustrated by country examples, and
- tools to facilitate multi-stakeholder collaboration around the JSR process.
The joint sector review is a key moment to assess the implementation of our policies and programs, to draw lessons and to anticipate the next steps for the following year. It is an opportunity for having substantive exchange with our partners, either social partners or technical and financial partners. It is also an essential moment to measure the impact of our actions and redefine new actions. It contributes to the involvement of all.
Head of planning division in a partner
Rather than advocating a one-size-fits-all approach, the guide encourages education stakeholders to use the guidance and tools for achieving the unique purposes of their JSRs, while ensuring that the review efforts are aligned around an agreed-upon policy framework, evidence based, inclusive and participatory.
Effective joint sector reviews inform decision making
The guide builds on the lessons on enablers and bottlenecks to effective JSRs that were distilled in the paper Effective joint sector reviews as (mutual) accountability platforms, which underlined the importance of JSRs as both a monitoring tool and an instrument for change.
Many countries invest considerable time and resources in sector diagnostics and education sector plan preparation, and partners commit to technically and financially supporting the implementation of these plans. When organized regularly, the joint sector review can help ensure that plan implementation remains on track and is adjusted as necessary every year based on lessons from the review.
They allow operational planning to be more agile and responsive to address issues faced during implementation, and as such they can be seen as a means to capitalizing on investments made earlier in the process.
These benefits are linked to the two essential functions that JSRs can fulfill. First, while JSRs are part of the regular stocktaking of performance in implementing a national sector plan, looking back at past results and shortcomings through the JSR enables an assessment of whether targets are being achieved on time and as planned.
Second, when effectively embedded into the policy cycle, JSRs can be responsive to bottlenecks, system changes and emergent needs and fulfil a forward-looking function. The JSR discussion and consensus, informed by diverse perspectives, helps fine-tune planning and influence domestic and external financing based on priorities and actions agreed by stakeholders. An effective JSR can thus work as management and policy support for sector planning, programming, and budget preparation.
Not all JSRs may fulfill these core functions of monitoring and responsive planning from the outset. JSRs often evolve from one to the next. This is why the guide introduces the notion of 'maturity' (JSR maturity ladder). This means that each JSR has a different level of maturity depending on the point of departure and country context, but always has the potential to evolve and improve its effectiveness, which can be informed by lessons from the previous JSR and/or from review practices in other countries.
The example of Lesotho
The forum was characterized by open and lively discussions and debate, as well as focus group discussions on the most critical issues facing the sector – a sign that the constructive development relationship with partners continues to mature.
Ministry of Education and Training, Lesotho
Lesotho, a partner country since 2005, has committed to revitalizing sector monitoring and planning through the reestablishment of an annual, multi-stakeholder review of progress. Since January 2018, the country has been strengthening the monitoring arrangements for the Education Sector Strategic Plan 2016–2026 with the participation of relevant ministries, development partners, civil society organizations and other key stakeholder groups.
The GPE Secretariat worked with the planning unit in the ministry of Education and Training to provide guidance for organizing the review, including mapping existing knowledge, formalizing the key aims of the JSR and designing a roadmap for the 2018 exercise, led by a high-level committee and technical sub-committees. The meeting took place in June 2018. The team benefitted from tips and options in the guide in the run-up to the meeting and used the JSR self-assessment tool after the meeting to assess what aspects to improve in the 2019 review.
The Lesotho experience highlights the need for a process that is adapted to the country context and for tools that allow countries to build and improve on their current practices. It also reaffirmed the value of bringing together diverse stakeholders to share and analyze sector data and discuss progress.
With renewed confidence, Lesotho is beginning to pilot a new technology solution for their education management information system, which is expected to increase the availability and accuracy of data for decision-making during their JSRs and beyond.
Building communities of practice on joint sector reviews
The team involved in organizing the JSR in Lesotho expressed interest in exchanging experiences with other countries on how to organize and improve the effectiveness of JSRs. Across partner countries, there is a growing interest in learning from other countries’ experiences.
Communities of practice are emerging. In 2017, senior government officials from Madagascar and Chad attended as observers the third joint review of the interim education plan in the Democratic Republic of Congo. This was followed by cross-country exchanges around the JSR in Chad, and more recently in Cameroon.
The GPE Secretariat supported the initial effort of experience sharing as part of its work on effective JSRs, through which it also tested the tools of the guide with country teams, now available as a toolbox to facilitate cross-country exchanges and peer learning.
Given that JSRs are key to monitoring education sector progress, GPE placed them at the heart of its strategic objectives and results framework. This reflects the importance that the partnership gives to sector policy dialogue through JSRs, as a means of monitoring performance and ensuring a responsive planning mechanism, and to translating mutual accountability into practice.