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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2014 Brazil: UNICEF's Upstream Work in Basic Education and Gender Equality 2003-2012: BRAZIL Country Case Study

Executive summary

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This case study on Brazil was conducted as part of the Evaluation of UNICEF’s upstream engagement in education, commissioned by the UNICEF Evaluation Office. Case studies also took place in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Zimbabwe. The focus of the evaluation was UNICEF’s contribution to “upstream” work in education in the ten-year period, from 2003 to 2012.


The purpose of the evaluation was to examine UNICEF’s upstream work in education and assess the extent to which UNICEF has engaged strategically in education sector policy articulation and advocacy. It also assessed how far upstream engagement efforts have supported better policy and practice in the education sector and helped to strengthen systems across the sector, and translated into desired transformations in education sector policy and practice and national systemic strengthening at country level.


The overall evaluation occurred in three phases as follows: (i) a desk-based a review of UNICEF upstream engagement was undertaken in 14 countries across the seven UNICEF administrative regions, as well as at UNICEF headquarters to understand education upstream work from a global perspective; (ii) field-based data collection was undertaken in Afghanistan, Brazil, Cambodia and Zimbabwe, in UNICEF ROSA, and UNICEF, New York; (iii) a survey of UNICEF Country Office staff, key global partners and professionals responsible for education programmes.

Data collection in case study countries at the field level was built around the selection of two to three mini-case studies per country, utilizing document reviews, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and harvesting of quantitative data from secondary sources. The application of these instruments was country-specific. Afghanistan was selected as a country case study from a larger pool of 14 desk review countries, based on the nature of its portfolio as a middle-income country that has gone beyond the traditional education sectors partners to engage with local and municipal governments, as well as the private sector.

Findings and Conclusions:

The evaluation found that UNICEF Brazil country programme is primarily upstream work, focused on policy dialogue to draw attention to populations in remote, disadvantaged areas to particular groups and categories of school age children whose right to education was not being met. Significant progress had been achieved in access to education over the last decade, reflected in the figures that show near-universal school enrolment for all primary school age children (Fundamental Education, 6–14 years). It is important to clearly locate this success within the specific profile of Brazil when seen along-side other countries supported by UNICEF. Between 16–18 per cent of total government expenditure is allocated to the sector (see Figure A3.1). As mentioned above, this resulted in a doubling of the education budget from US$1.8 billion to US$3.5 billion between 2002 and 2006, and is set to remain at least at this level or higher for some time to come.

Large increases in education spending by government have allowed the country to increase funding for the basic inputs to any education system, such as schoolbooks and teachers, and invest substantially in school building and refurbishment at both State and Municipal level, and at both primary and secondary level. Indeed the list of national programmes for all areas of school life is impressive.  Within this perspective, there is also a growing recognition for the need for policy solutions to address children’s development, not only for very young children, but for adolescent and to tackle issues faced by young adults.


The analysis by the evaluation team has brought out the strong focus of the UNICEF Brazil programme on upstream work. However, there are some recommendations to be made that can improve the way it is being done and enhance its impact in the future. While these recommendations are made with an eye to the Brazil programme, and accepting that the Brazil case has many characteristics that set it apart from other countries, most of them are also relevant to other UNICEF programmes which are moving towards a more upstream focus and engagement with government and stakeholders.
1. Document the experience of upstream work in the education sector in Brazil to inform UNICEF-wide engagement in upstream work
2. Develop a medium to long term vision of upstream work in the education sector to guide country programme implementation
3. Identify opportunities for working across thematic areas within the UNICEF office to enhance opportunities for learning and for using resources effectively
4. Provide in-service training in upstream work for present staff, and develop new TORs for future staff
5. Improve the use of monitoring data and ensure that upstream components of the Country Programme are evaluated to contribute decisions on future strategies/ engagement
6. Do upstream work at national level and in local governments

Lessons Learned:

There are several very clear examples of how UNICEF’s work has influenced policy and the implementation of that policy by creating new programmes and capacity. Some of the lessons include the following;
• The development and management of the programme is well adjusted to the specific context and how the country is organized.
• UNICEF in Brazil builds admirably on its reputation for integrity and competence – ‘UNICEF gives credibility to its partners and is credible as a partner’ sums up many statements made during interviews. UNICEF uses its power to facilitate and to broker solutions. As a multilateral, as a reputable and respected organisation, as a competent organisation – it brings people together who might not otherwise engage, convene and direct discussions, create space for debate and constructive decision making.
•  UNICEF Brazil has maintained a long engagement and commitment of a strong national team that is not subject to the conventional rotation cycle of international staff, and which each round of new international leadership is able and willing to move alongside and maintain continuity while also bringing in new ideas.
• Successful upstream programmes have a long gestation period, and upstream impact is also a result of this long-term continuity which allows for impact and results to be properly assessed in a realistic time scale.
• Monitoring and evaluation of programme activities is of a high standard and allows for management by results and for adjustments to be made that improve implementation as programmes are being developed and rolled out.
• UNICEF successfully uses the rights-based agenda based on the World Summit and subsequent international processes to establish and manage an agenda that is seen to be morally and ethically correct, politically impartial, and intersectoral; all those interviewed emphasized that this raised the profile of what they do with UNICEF support, and makes it easier to integrate their work into the political framework.

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