Author: Khattri, N.; Adamson, B.; Jones-Dube, E.
UNICEF China is currently in the final year of its 1996-2000 Education cycle which has been carried out in collaboration principally with the Ministry of Education and the China Association for Science and Technology. The overall programme objective is to facilitate the achievement of the national goals of: universalizing primary education; and eliminating illiteracy among youth and adults 15-40 years old by 2000. The program comprises of five projects: improving education planning and management; distance education; reorienting the content and process of education; primary education in poor areas; and non-formal education.
Purpose / Objective
This end of cycle program evaluation is primarily to inform the design and implemetnation of hte next cycle scheduled for 2001 - 2005. The main evaluation questions are as follows:
1. Are the program /project designs appropriate?
2. Has implementation been effective?
3. What are the outcomes?
4. Are the processes and ideas introduced through the projects sustainable?
Three projects were selected as the largest in terms of scope and two are the largest in terms of financial allocations. They also reflect a balance of formal and non-formal, and national and sub-national activities. Data collection included reviews of UNICEF and government documents including Education Program Plan of Operations, Annual Project Plans, Annual Reports, Mid-Term Reviews, and reports by the Shanghai Institute for Human Resource Development for data on the Primary Educaiton in Poor Areas project. Semi-structured interviews were held with key officials at the Ministry of Education, China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) and UNICEF. One province per project were visted to collect primary data including: semi-structured interviews with province and county officials, project partiicpants (community members, teachers and students), and site observation of the use of project-provided materials.
Note: MOE and CAT staff were present at most interviews.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The Evaluation Team found that the programme is linked to both GoC and UNICEF
policies and goals in education, but not well translated into projects with
specific, focused, and realistic objectives. Projects were designed with
several ambitious objectives but without setting out long-term, coordinated
strategies for achieving them. In addition, a rigorous monitoring and
evaluation system was not instituted, compromising project management and
planning, and making it difficult to assess project outcomes and, therefore,
programme impact. A mostly top-down planning and delivery, particularly for
the formal education projects, together with a lack of coordination across
components, led to unwieldiness and lack of focus when the projects and project
activities reached the grassroots level.
Despite these design and implementation weaknesses, it is important to note
that the Evaluation Team found evidence of notable project achievements,
including innovative project-initiated activities that are clearly supporting
project and programme objectives. These tended to be found in situations in
which there was scope for local decision-making and, therefore, ownership.
There is also some evidence of sustainability of the new ideas and processes
introduced through UNICEF, especially with regard to management, non-formal
education, and, in places, financial planning. However, some of the
project-introduced processes and ideas are likely to lose momentum without
funding earmarked for continuing them - a problem endemic to poor areas with
the greatest needs.
Key findings of the evaluation are summarized below:
Projects are linked to programme objectives but are constrained by the
· The scope and size are over-ambitious for the available resources;
· Implementation strategies are mostly short-term;
· The design is top-down in the formal, but not in the non-formal education,
· Management and planning mechanisms are generally ineffective (although much
better in non-formal education as compared with the formal education projects).
Capacity-building at the provincial level and below has enhanced
· There is insufficient monitoring of projects;
· Evaluation data are weak;
· Some activities are incorrectly targeted, especially those that are designed
· Trickle-down implementation often fails to reach remote areas and those in
· The coordination is loose at national level for the formal education projects.
· Progress has been made in realizing GoC/UNICEF education objectives, but:
· The degree to which objectives have been met is unclear, due to lack of
rigorous data collection system for outcomes.
Even in the absence of long-term financial inputs, several phenomena are
contributing to sustainability:
· Local channels for information sharing are better than multi-level channels,
which are quite weak in the formal education programs;
· Community support for locally-relevant activities ensured ownership; and
· Capacity-building of participants at all levels is contributing to new
management practices becoming institutionalised.
The major recommendations of the evaluation are:
· Restructure the programme to allow for more flexibility in project design.
· Reduce the scope and size of projects.
· Sharpen the focus of projects.
· Enhance the devolution of project initiation and management.
· Introduce synchronized "milestone" planning.
· Develop more rigorous systems of monitoring and evaluation.
· Institute stronger channels of information sharing.
· Establish independent, external advisory panels for projects.
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Education - Other
Minstry of Education, China Association for Science and Technology