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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2014 Bosnia-Herzegovina: Increasing Early Opportunities for Children in Bosnia and Herzegovina



Author: Camelia Gheorghe and Nedzada Faginovic

Executive summary

With the aim to continuously improve transparency and use of evaluation, UNICEF Evaluation Office manages the "Global Evaluation Reports Oversight System". Within this system, an external independent company reviews and rates all evaluation reports. Please ensure that you check the quality of this evaluation report, whether it is “Outstanding, Best practice”, “Highly Satisfactory”, “Mostly Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” before using it. You will find the link to the quality rating below, labelled as ‘Part 3’ of the report.

Background:

BiH is a transition country severely affected by the global economic crisis. The country is facing high and constantly rising unemployment and poverty. Children are disproportionally hit by poverty and deprivation: the absolute poverty rate is 30.5%  compared to 23.4% for the overall population. Preschool education in BiH is a major weakness of the education system, having the lowest preschool participation rate in the region: 14.2% in 2012/2013 . The worst situation was registered in Brčko District (6.6% compared to 14.4% in the Federation of BiH and in rural areas (7.9% compared to 22.8% in urban areas). The main reasons for low coverage of children in preschool education have been insufficient preschool physical capacities to cover the children left out from the preschool education; uneven distribution of the network of preschool institutions across the country, lacking primarily in small towns and rural areas and being overcrowded in urban areas; limited number of qualified staff, primarily kindergarten teachers and professionals to work with CwD; insufficient funds allocated to ECE on the background of insufficient preparedness of education authorities to implement the laws at local level; over-reliance on municipality and parents’ contribution for non-compulsory preschool education funding; prejudices against Roma children and limited awareness amongst Roma parents of the importance of early learning; poor development of inclusive education to ensure access of CwD to early learning programmes.

Purpose/Objective:

The objective of the evaluation is to conduct a formative Mid-Term Evaluation of the Project ”Increasing Early Opportunities for Children in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, showing the increased participation of children aged 4-6 in early learning programmes and documenting system changes initiated by the Programme and the contribution of UNICEF to these changes. The purpose of the evaluation is two-fold: a) to inform the amendment or better adaptation of the activities of the Project to the needs of its beneficiaries during the remaining implementation period i.e. December 2014-March 2015; b) to provide recommendations for future programming of support in the area of preschool education and early learning opportunities for vulnerable groups of children. The evaluation covers the implementation period January 2013 – May 2014 and 46 participating municipalities across the country, following the way the Project has been conceptualized in the Project Document (PD) and Theory of Change (ToC). The evaluation was carried out by a team composed of an international consultant and a national consultant, selected by UNICEF following a vacancy notice

Methodology:

The evaluation was carried out in three phases. In the Inception/Desk Phase, the team reviewed the project documentation and all relevant literature and reference documents. Following the evaluability check, several primary data collection methods and evaluation tools were developed. The Field Phase was devoted to the collection of data from key stakeholders at entity, district, cantonal and municipality levels via a survey in sample and control groups, semi-structured interviews, focus groups, discussion groups and site visits to a representative sample of municipalities. In the Synthesis Phase, the team applied the standard evaluation criteria analysis (relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability) in combination with Human Rights-Based Approach (HRBA) and Results-Based Management in order to assess the achievement of planned results until the cut-off date of the evaluation, draw informed conclusions and provide recommendations.

Findings and Conclusions:

As far as human rights and cross-cutting issues are concerned, the Project is highly relevant for BiH’s international commitments deriving from the ratification of CRC and its status of EU potential candidate country. It had a major contribution to the promotion and realisation of child rights through opening access to pre-school education services and early learning development to children who are left out of the system.

The Project was effective in improving the ECE and ECI provision for the most vulnerable children. It did so by contributing to the reduction of the underlying causes of inequality and discrimination, increasing parents’ awareness on the importance of early education and opening access of vulnerable children to inclusive and generally well staffed and equipped ECE and ECI services.

The implementation of the Project until the cut-off date of the evaluation is assessed as moderately efficient. The Project has been managed in an inclusive and culturally-sensitive manner. The participatory strategy used by the Project worked well for ownership, but affected efficiency of support on short term.
Considering its rather limited resources, the Project is likely to have a good impact level, making an important contribution to increasing the coverage and participation of vulnerable children in preschool education. Around 98% of parents would have not enrolled their children without the Project support, given the inability to cover the associated costs and lack of awareness on the benefits of preschool education.
Based on achievements until May 2014, effects and outcomes of the Project are less likely sustainable.  The severe financial constraints at the level of government (especially in poor cantons and municipalities) and scarce resources of parents make the continuation of reform dependent on external funding. 

Recommendations:

Operational Recommendations (O) – relevant for the implementation of the current Project:
O1: Document good practices and lessons learnt to inform future policy measures and projects
(Addressed to: UNICEF country office)
O2: Organise a quality assurance workshop
(Addressed to: UNICEF in cooperation with the Agency for Preschool, Primary and Secondary Education)
O3: Develop a sustainability plan for project results
(Addressed to: PMB and WG on ECE and ECI with the assistance of UNICEF country office)

Strategic and Programming Recommendations (SP) – aimed to inform policy making, prioritising and programming of further support:
SP1: Further invest in the country-wide expansion of early learning programmes, with focus on children aged 3-5 years living in under-developed municipalities, to ensure higher and more inclusive coverage of vulnerable children in preschool education
(Addressed to: Municipalities, preschool institutions and NGOs with the support of UNICEF, Dubai Cares and other donors)
SP2: Develop the framework for securing the financial sustainability on long-run of ECE programmes in least developed municipalities, based on the principles of equity, cohesion and social solidarity
(Addressed to: Government (education, health, social welfare, labour, public finance authorities) in partnership with municipalities, UNICEF and international donors)
SP3: Prioritise the participation of Roma children in early childhood development projects, based on inclusive and sustainable approaches
(Addressed to: Canton, entity and local governments with the support of UNICEF)
SP4: Improve the design and evaluability of future projects
(Addressed to: UNICEF Country office)

Lessons Learned:

1. Expansion of early learning opportunities requires both hard and soft investment.
2. Securing ownership and empowerment of national counterparts may decrease efficiency of support on short-term, but yield important investment returns on long-term

Find below:

"Report" - Evaluation Report
"Part 2" - Annexes
"Part 3" - GEROS



Full report in PDF

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Report information

Year:
2014

Country:
Bosnia-Herzegovina

Region:
CEE/CIS

Theme:
Emergencies, Early Childhood Education

Type:
Evaluation

Language:
English

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