2012 Moldova: External Evaluation of the “Child-Friendly School” Initiative (2007-2011) in the Republic of Moldova
Author: Simona Velea
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Under the auspices of UNICEF Moldova and the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Child-Friendly School Initiative was implemented during 2007-2011. In line with the global model, the Moldovan CFS Initiative aimed at increasing participation in education, reducing dropout rates and improving the students’ academic achievements by transforming schools into inclusive and child-friendly institutions. The current document reports the findings of an external evaluation of the initiative, conducted in 2011.
With this evaluation, Moldova sought:
1. To objectively measure and document the changes brought about by the CFS Initiative, at a policy level as well as in the experimental schools;
2. To gather objective and comprehensive information that would inform national education reform and support the extension of the CFS model.
“Data sources” representing all categories of evaluation audience have been identified and several methods and techniques of data collection have been used in order to obtain complete and accurate information. The evaluation covered both the schools supported in implementing the CFS model (called experimental schools) and a control group of schools selected compliant with standards of a quasi-experimental approach (corresponding schools, as similar as possible to the ones participating in the initiative, but not having benefited from similar projects over 2007-2011).
The objective of investigating the two groups of schools was to compare the changes emerging at the experimental schools with their possible evolution in the absence of the Initiative, equivalent to the corresponding standing of the control group schools. Data were collected from as many sources as possible and through various methods: a) questionnaire (320 questionnaires for students and 116 questionnaires for teachers were collected at the 8 schools participating in the evaluation), b) separate focus
groups with students, parents and teachers (altogether 274 participants), c) semi-structured interviews and consultations with representatives of education authorities, institutions of pre-service and in-service training of teachers, local authorities, institutions operating in the area of education and school principals (altogether 20 people), d) observation of teaching activities (24 observations in grades 6-9, distributed equitably between the two categories of schools), e) analysis of documents – progress reports, initial evaluation of the education system’s readiness for CFS, UNICEF activity planning papers and reports, legislative documents, educational policies, curriculum documents, studies and surveys, etc.
Findings and Conclusions:
CFS Initiative is relevant for the Moldovan education system in through its objectives, congruent with national priorities and with the international aims for economic and social development. It also acts in synergy with other programmes/ projects implemented by different educational institutions, governmental or nongovernmental. Consultations with the representatives of educational authorities and of the institutions in charge of curricula, assessment and teacher training have shown their support for and interest in CFS, motivated by increased relevance of this initiative for the education system. The initiative contributed to the creation of the education policy framework and to the implementation of some measures meant to support the schools’ development and their adequacy to the social expectations, in general, as well as to specific needs of students, parents and other stakeholders. Thus, the new regulations on inclusive education, teacher training, curriculum and student assessment provided a favourable framework for transforming education.
For students, CFS meant: a comfortable and safer school environment, increased attractiveness of learning, closer teacher-student relationship. Amid these “benefits”, students’ behavioral changes reflect a better school participation (frequency and involvement in activities), better school results obtained by more children (noticeable progress was made by the low achievers; according to the statistical estimation, school performance increased with 16% in the experimental schools); development of transversal competences – problem solving and “learning to learn”; attitudinal and behavioral improvements – highers selfesteemand confidence in tehir skills, better communication and relationships, expression of their opinions, tolerance, responsibility, decrease of school violence, better integration of children with special needs, children from poor families or from vulnerable groups.
Because of its success, the CFS Initiative deserves to be extended. Since, at a national level, the necessary legal framework for promoting CFS has already been created, mainstreaming the Initiative is the best extension option.
• The CFS Initiative has resulted in comprehensive improvements at the level of the experimental schools, due to actions implemented on several fronts simultaneously, including the creation of a favorable legal and political framework for supporting the transformation of education in line with the CFS principles.
• It is unlikely that implementing only one dimension of the CFS Initiative would have generated the same results as the CFS initiative in Moldova.
• The monitoring of the process is crucial and in this case served as a quality-assurance tool and a source of data for evaluation. Monitoring data were used along the way, especially during interviews with representatives of the institutions implementing the Initiative.
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