What country evaluations teach our partnership
The first synthesis report of GPE’s country-level evaluations looks at some of the challenges that countries face and provides an opportunity for all GPE partners to see what works and what needs to be refined.
February 25, 2019 by Alice Albright, GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Children line up before entering their classroom. Burkina Faso. Credit: GPE/Olivier Badoh
Children line up before entering their classroom after recess in Burkina Faso. Burkina Faso is one of 15 countries where the GPE support was evaluated independently and the results included in a synthesis evaluation report.
Credit: GPE/Olivier Badoh

Education is key to all other areas of development.

A strong education system broadens access to opportunities, improves health, and bolsters the resilience of communities – all while fueling economic growth.

Education empowers women and provides the skills people need to thrive now and in future in areas such as renewable energy, smart agriculture, forest rehabilitation and health.

And yet, education is one of the most difficult services to deliver, because there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Each country faces specific challenges that require specific approaches to ensure that even the most vulnerable children are reached.  

The first synthesis report of GPE’s country-level evaluations looks more deeply at some of the challenges that countries face and provides an opportunity for all GPE partners to see what works and what needs to be refined.

There are rich lessons for GPE and I encourage all partners to examine them closely – and to do so with an open mind.  Several of the suggestions offered by the evaluators are challenging – to governments, to the GPE Secretariat, and to individual partners – and our responses will test our core commitment to mutual accountability and to results. 

The report is part of GPE’s commitment to learning and mutual accountability for results, as set out in our monitoring and evaluation strategy.

It also adds to our powerful portfolio of evaluative work, including the effective partnership review. I wish to thank the Universalia consortium evaluation team for this insightful work.

Education sector planning is important – but only a first step

I see three pillars to the lessons articulated in this first synthesis report, which we need to consider as we start the work on our next GPE strategy.

The first lesson is that while education sector planning is vital, it’s only a first step, and a good plan does not necessarily lead to good practice.  The report finds consistent evidence that planning processes and the quality of education sector plans have improved and GPE’s financial and technical support – such as quality assurance processes and guidelines – have made ‘notable contributions to helping countries develop systematic, comprehensive and evidence-based sector plans’.  However, while planning is an important part, we are the Global Partnership for Education and very focused on learning outcomes.

So, what do we need to do? The principal considerations are these:

  • Sector plans need to be more achievable, prioritized, and government owned.  We need to support and incentivize these features of the plans more strongly. 
  • Government implementation capacity matters - from the capital all the way down to the classroom. It’s a basic point but we need a better focus on capacity strengthening at all levels. 
  • We need good information systems, data, and evidence to support teaching and learning.  Weaknesses in availability and use of data remains a serious challenge.
  • We need to target GPE financing to incentivize performance more strongly. 

Better domestic and international financing

The second lesson is that sector financing needs broader attention both to domestic finance and external partner support.  While GPE’s programmatic approach and advocacy is helpful in keeping a steady focus on domestic finance, primary determinants are beyond the education sector. 

What we need to consider therefore are:

  • Whether we should place more emphasis on the quality of the public budget with commitments to pay for high priority, feasible reforms.
  • How best should GPE partners intervene in the macro-fiscal environment beyond the ministry of education to focus on effective financing.
  • How we can incentivize more aligned international financing at the country-level, for example through pooled funding mechanisms, or suggesting sector plans include specific proposals for how development partners adapt their support behind sector plans. Should donors be required to report on how their bilateral support aligns with the respective sector plans that they have endorsed?

A stronger partnership for better accountability

The third lesson is that we need to facilitate a more coherent and effective partnership at the country level. Things we need to think about and action are:

  • How GPE partners can reorient themselves to collaborate more closely on a common goal and hold each other accountable. 
  • How to provide incentives to make better use of joint sector reviews as tools to improve sector plan implementation.
  • How GPE can strengthen systems for government-owned monitoring and evaluation at the country level that can help with making ongoing decisions about implementation.

The effective partnership review currently underway to better define roles, accountabilities, and relationships between partners at the country level is already helping us find some concrete solutions.

Conflict and fragility are important factors to consider

But in thinking through these and other potential solutions, we must also consider country circumstances. Over half of GPE’s funding is directed to countries affected by fragility and conflict and the circumstances of the countries in which the studies were concluded is illustrative. 

Three countries included in the study were subject to political unrest, including a military coup, and two others dealt with the turmoil of the Ebola crisis. These are challenging environments for governments to deliver public services, let alone lead education system strengthening.

I commend the report to all GPE partners and I look forward to discussing further its findings. We all need to consider what it means for us individually and collectively as partners of GPE.

At the Secretariat, we are committed to learning and will closely examine the implications for our daily work.

Looking forward, we will distil what we can learn to adjust our approach as we develop the next GPE strategy to embrace the challenges of the coming five years. 

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