2002 BAN: Non-formal Education Project 3 (Hard to Reach): Mid-term Evaluation Report
Author: Eusuf Associates with the Center on Social Research and Human Development
The Non-formal Education Project 3 (Hard to Reach) started in 1997 as part of the Government's obligation to the "Education For All” and is due to finish in December 2003. The Project's target beneficiaries are hard-to-reach children between 5-14 years who are disadvantaged by lack of opportunities for formal education and are forced to undertake employment during childhood. The Project offers a 24-month course on literacy, numeracy and skill development for working children in six divisional cities. The Project is funded jointly by the Government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, the Department of International Development (DFID), and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The objectives of the Project are to: (i) impart non-formal education to poor and under-privileged children of six divisional cities; (ii) develop a database on working children; (iii) develop and provide need-based, learning-teaching materials; (iv) formulate national policy and strategy on the education of urban working children; and (v) promote research and innovative activities.
A Mid-term Evaluation was conducted to assess progress, tentative benefits, to identify problems and constraints, and to suggest necessary changes and improvements. The main objectives of the mid-term evaluation were to assess progress achieved in terms of the effectiveness, impact, relevance and sustainability of the project, with particular emphasis on the benefits of the program to different groups, particularly target children.
The study adopted a combination of several methods including: review of secondary materials; discussions with concerned professionals; field visit and discussions with participating NGOs, learners, parents, teachers, supervisors, coordinators; surveys and achievement tests (to determine the level of literacy, life skills and use of the skills) of the learners. The study covered 238 centers, 238 teachers, 46 supervisors, 46 NGO representatives, 43 community leaders, 8 DNFE officials and 4,772 learners (all interviewed and 2,108 tested), 120 illiterate children as a control group, 227 CMC members, and 46 employers of working learners.
The study findings were discussed in detail with the concerned professionals of the Project and UNICEF, and in a workshop that was attended by representatives of UNICEF, DFID, SIDA; senior officials of the DNFE and the Project; and relevant professionals from the concerned NGOs. The suggestions from the participants were further analyzed and incorporated in the final report. Findings and Conclusions:
The average enrolment per center is 30 children (13 boys and 17 girls). The study estimated an average drop out rate of 10% (3 per center) that varied, with minimum in Khulna and maximum in Dhaka. The study found that the achievement of the learners after completion of first cycle in reading, writing and numeracy was quite satisfactory, which indicated a highly satisfactory learning outcome after completion of one full cycle of 24 months. The performance of the learners in life skills was found to be exceedingly better compared to literacy and numeracy skills. In gender dimension, the girls performed better.
The study reviewed the existing curriculum and found it quite satisfactory. However, the curriculum may be revised with a greater focus on marketable skills development and training. The curriculum needs to be more activity-based and work-oriented. The Government may link the financial support system with the successful graduates of the Project so that they can start independent income-generating activities.
The study noted that the socio-economic conditions of most of the learners is poor, that their access to education is constrained by the need to work for survival. The study also noted that while all learners are from poor families, all are not the poorest. The study suggests that the children of the hardcore poor families need income substitutions or wage compensation to be effective.
The Project has made significant physical progress as it met the target of establishing centers and enrolling learners with the help of participating NGOs. The NGOs recruited teachers and supervisors who were trained by the Project as needed. The performances of the NGOs as proactive service providers were generally satisfactory. Although it was not possible to assess the performance of individual NGOs using a common performance indicators due to time and resource constraints, the study noted that, while the performance of a large number of the NGOs were laudably good, a few could not provide the necessary high-quality service. This is perhaps due to the institutional and financial capability of some of the NGOs.
The study reviewed the NGO selection criterion adopted by the Project and the consultants have reasons to believe that, had the prudent criterion been properly and uniformly applied in selecting the NGOs, the wide variations of capability and performance could have been minimized. The weakness of the NGOs seem greater in areas of financial capability to support the program under the lengthy reimbursement system. The study team also reported that contracting a large number of NGOs resulted to insufficient turnover and below break-even costs. The study, however, could not undertake a detailed financial analysis of the workability of the contract size of individual NGOs.
The financial management of the Project is not simple but rather complex, and involves too many steps contributing to delays at all stages. However, the Project, with the cooperation of the DNFE and UNICEF, has made payment to NGOs simpler and faster than before. The study noted that the Project lacks the necessary staff for finance and accounts to make prompt payments. The Project also lacked sufficient monitoring staff to monitor the activities of the NGOs.
Almost none of the teachers and supervisors had any previous experience and training in teaching. Since the students, the curriculum and teaching methods in non-formal education are quite different from the formal system, the teachers and supervisors should be more rigorously trained. Duration of training may be increased and refreshers' training should be introduced. The study also reviewed the contents of the training and observed that it needs to be more comprehensive. The study further noted that UNICEF has already started the special training of supervisors. The study suggests continuation of the training for the supervisors and also to initiating special training for the teachers.
The teachers and the supervisors play a very important role in the non-formal education system. The study team has reported that the very temporary employment and low salary (generally paid irregularly) is a deterrent to the full devotion and commitment from teachers. Consequently, the turnover of teachers and supervisors negatively affects the quality of education. Benefits have to be offered. Government may consider permanent employment for the teachers of the non-formal education system.
The study observed that the supervision of NGOs on the center management, performance of the teachers including attendance and quality of teaching, performance of the students regarding attendance and academic attainment, and community participation are weak. On the other side of the scale, the monitoring and supervision from the project is also inadequate. The success of the Project in terms of quality largely depends on the supervision and monitoring from both NGOs and the Project.
The study noted that the levels of awareness and motivation of the learners, parents and employers are quite satisfactory. Social mobilization may further increase upon greater participation of the community, especially the Center Management Committee (CMC) and the employers and local people. Increased participation of the community will improve the management of the center and the quality of the teaching- learning process.
The study noted that the employers are not that involved with the program. In order to increase their involvement, the NGOs should motivate the employers to follow the learning outcome of the children. The employers should enquire if the children are learning reading and writing and whether they need any assistance. These will also help to bring the dropped-out learners back to the centers. Stronger motivation and community participation, consent from employers and parents for the poorest children to attend the centers, and a stipend to compensate the loss of income due to learning, could be tried.
Although the Project will close in December 2003, the evaluation suggests the following follow-up actions to further improve implementation and operational performance of the Project:
- Like the special training for the supervisors already started by UNICEF, the Project should offer a special training course for the NGO staff on financial management and supervision to enhance the management capability of the NGOs.
- The Project should assess the number of teachers and supervisors lacking the necessary qualification and training, and offer a special course.
- The Project should emphasize frequent teacher-parent and teacher-employer meetings to increase community participation.
- The Project should emphasize the enrolment of the poorest who are the hardest to reach and most disadvantaged.
- DNFE should take steps to improve the existing curriculum for future similar programs (though not for the remaining period of the Project).
- The Project should emphasize strict monitoring of the activities of the centres by the NGOs and the performance of the NGOs by the Project staff.
- DNFE and the Project should further simplify the existing fund management system, including the payment of the fees and costs to the NGOs.
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