Author: Riley, K.; Giffen, J.
This evaluation has been conducted as part of the Mid-Term Review of the Programme of Cooperation/Master Plan of Operations between the Government of Azerbaijan and UNICEF for the years of 2000-2004. The Active Learning and School Leadership Project is part of the Ministry of Education-UNICEF's wider Education Programme 2000-2004, which aims to assist the Government of Azerbaijan in improving pre-school and primary education. The overall goal of the Project is to change the principles, content and approaches to teaching and learning, and to the curriculum.
Purpose / Objective
The terms of reference for the evaluation were to:
- Assess the extent to which the Project responds to the actual needs of the Education System of Azerbaijan
- Examine the degree to which the project is in keeping with the goals endorsed by the World Summit for Children, the Convention of the Rights of the Child and Education For All
- Evaluate the impact of the strategies used to implement the Project and the effects, at the global and national level (access to quality education); in education i.e. in institutions (schools, pre-service and in-service institutions); with care providers (teachers, school administrators, methodologists, parents, community members); and with the children.
During the course of the work, senior education staff and national politicians were met; the main documentary sources were reviewed; and five pilot schools in the Project were visited, where parents, teachers, directors, pupils, and trainers (112 in all) were met, lessons were observed and a questionnaire (to 100 children) was administered.
Key Findings and Conclusions
27 training events have been held since July 2000 in 6 locations, involving 652 people. The training events -- which have been enthusiastically received -- have involved directors, parents and teachers from the pilot schools. In addition, a May 2001 Conference involved a wider group, including educators from the World Bank's 20 pilot schools. The core trainers are enthusiastic and committed.
Each pilot school has received teaching resources and materials for use in the classroom. These include consumables (stationery, craft materials) and equipment (white boards, TVs/VCRs). Specific materials were developed for the training events and 3,000 copies of four training manuals based on this material have been produced and are due to be distributed to schools.
Teachers are enthusiastic about the learning opportunities they have had so far: a good intermediate indicator of long-term impact. Observations of classroom practice in the five pilot schools indicate that: a) teachers have adopted their practices to reflect what they have learned through training; b) children are very enthusiastic about the new learning opportunities; c) the classroom environment could be improved by greater use of visual displays.
Across the five schools, those aspects of the project that were of particular importance to teachers related to pupils working together on common tasks; enabling pupils to be more questioning and challenging; teachers using discovery methods to enable pupils to acquire concepts; teachers setting targets to monitor pupil performance and progress. Of less importance was developing regular displays of children's work and activities around the school (seen as having been discouraged in the past); using a range of learning styles and approaches; involving parents in the classroom; working with other teachers across the schools to develop and implement the schools' goals; and the support and encouragement of the school director and senior staff.
In all or most schools, students were very positive about life at school, beliefs about themselves and perceptions of their teachers. Whilst ratings varied markedly from one school to another, no one school was consistently more positive than the others. Students spoke particularly warmly about their teachers and their lessons, criticisms being confined to the behavior of some other children and the condition of the school building. The most important aspects of their learning were firstly, math, and secondly, grammar and spelling. Compared with a sample of children of the same age in a socially disadvantaged area of a London borough, the Azerbaijan pupils seem, generally, more positive about enjoying school and the 'basic' aspects of the curriculum.
Girls appear to be participating well: (c.f. national data suggests that girls underperform in comparison with boys). Girls held significantly more positive beliefs than boys about their intrinsic ability, while boys expressed significantly more positive perceptions about their confidence, in general, and feeling safe in the playground. There are few children from the IDP population in the pilot schools.
There was a high level of commitment and enthusiasm from parents for Active Learning methods, particularly from those who had been involved in training. Active Learning was seen as being in tune with the changing nature of the Azerbaijan society, and the development of a democratic and open nation. Some concerns were expressed about content depth; methods of monitoring children's individual progress; and the loss of some high standards set by previous Soviet Education System.
Consolidation of learning of those who are currently involved in the project by:
- Enabling them to reflect on what they have achieved so far
- Helping them to identify what needs to be done next
- Supporting them in learning how to plan what to do next
Increasing the capacity of schools to engage in planning their educational goals through:
- Enhancing the skills of the school leadership team (i.e. director and deputies)
- Creating school self-evaluation tools that will enable schools to evaluate their own progress
- Developing a basic framework for school development planning that would enable schools to set both short- and long-term objectives for further improvement.
To date, the Project plans have been of a very general nature, which makes monitoring of achievements rather difficult. The monitoring indicators selected are not precise enough to really reflect the contribution being made by the project. To give greater focus to the next stages of the project and to identify meaningful ways to monitor its progress, it would be useful to identify the specific activities that need to be carried out in the project plan for the next two years.
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Education - Participatory Learning
Ministry of Education