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Evaluation database

Evaluation report

2015 Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka Child-Friendly Approach (CFA) Evaluation

Author: David Clarke (lead consultant), Subhashinie Wijesundera and Prasad Sethunga

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 2’ of the report.


The CFA has been important as an idea and a set of actions, both theory and practice. It has been instrumental in changing ideas about how primary education is delivered, about what a school looks like and how it is experienced by children. It has brought about changes in the ways in which school principals and teachers view children and how they should interact with them in the classroom and in the school setting more generally. The CFA has helped people think more deeply and systemically about primary education. There is now the recognition that primary education reform involves changing culture, changing the attitudes and behaviours of all stakeholders involved in its delivery.


The evaluation of the Child Friendly Approach (CFA) in Sri Lankan primary schools is a joint Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) and UNICEF initiative. The purpose is to provide empirical evidence on changes in primary education resulting from CFA interventions to contribute to decision-making on Ministry of Education (MoE) policies and strategies for reforming basic education in Sri Lanka. Terms of reference (ToR) are included in Annex 1.
The objectives of the evaluation are to identify:

  1. What elements of the CFA have worked well and why;
  2. What elements of the CFA have not worked well and why; and
  3. What elements of the CFA should be prioritized for further mainstreaming and scalingup.

To do this the evaluation attempts to ascertain the results (outputs and outcomes) of CFA programming at school level in Sri Lanka and assess the relevance, effectiveness and efficiency of the interventions utilised in delivering these results. The evaluation also investigates the sustainability of CFA interventions. The evaluation includes a comparison of schools which have received targeted donor CFA support and those which have not (i.e. ‘treatment’ and ‘non-treatment’ schools).
This is an evaluation of an approach. It is not a standard project or programme evaluation, although it covers both of this. It is evaluating a concept, a framework and a range of interventions funded by GoSL and development partners in different funding arrangements.
The evaluation has elements of a proof of concept research. It a complex and wide-ranging.


1.4.1 Document Review. A desk review was conducted of documents on primary education, the CFA, and the UNICEF Programme of Cooperation, including reports and evaluations, CFA guidelines and tool kits, reports on learning achievement. A substantial number of these were provided by UNICEF and complemented by an online search using key works related to the CFA and primary education in Sri Lanka.
1.4.2 Qualitative methods. Field observations were carried out where the CFA has been implemented at school level among the 1,359 schools supported by UNICEF. Also included were schools where CFA-related interventions have been supported by other development partners.
1.4.3 School sample-based survey consisting of (1) Principal and Teacher Questionnaires and (2) a Structured Classroom Observation Schedule. A classroom observation schedule (OS) developed by Hardman et al (2014) was adapted and validated to recording teacher-pupil interaction in teaching Language (Sinhala/Tamil), Mathematics and Environment Related Activities (ERA) in Grade 4 classrooms of selected schools.
1.4.4 Case studies. 6 case studies were conducted in rural schools to investigate in greater depth the results of CFA interventions in a single school and to gather additional data to support the triangulation of data from other sources mentioned above. The case studies also attempt to identify good practices and barriers to effectiveness.

Findings and Conclusions:

The CFA is found to be relevant to education reform in general and to the development of primary education in particular.
Measuring the effectiveness of the CFA is problematic in the absence of a well developed functioning M&E system. There is mixed evidence of effectiveness from the case study schools. In some schools the quantity and quality of interventions were insufficient to bring about significant change.
Measuring the efficiency of the CFA approach is problematic. This is in part due to the fact that time bound targets are set by different projects rather than for national implementation. In this regard the evaluation of BESP efficiency was positive.
Sustaining the CFA involves continuing to ensure its relevance and that it is effective.


  1. Develop a substantive national policy framework for CFA implementation at primary (and junior secondary level). This will lend greater weight to its implementation and support consistency in approach. There are various ways in which this can be accomplished. Consider allowing schools to develop their own policies on CFA with guidance from the central level;
  2. Develop standards for CFA implementation in schools as part of policy;
  3. Develop a costed 5-year strategic plan to support national implementation of the CFA. This should include a specific M&E plan.
  4. Update the CFA framework to include some of the more recent developments in primary education development including the inclusive education toolkit and the out of school study.
  5. Develop a theory of change for the CFA. The vision for change as a result of the CFA is far from clear in CFA documentation. The CFA does not provide a clear vision for change, nor does it propose a clearly articulated strategy to bring about 26 changes in school cultures. There is a lack of a theory of change that is specific to the CFA in any documentation;
  6. Prepare a ‘how to’ manual for primary school principals/section heads for consistent CFA implementation

Some other recommendations to UNICEF and development partners:

  1. Focus on upstream policy and strategy work with MoE on advising on child-centred primary education reform/CFA and sharing good practices from other countries in Asia-Pacific region in collaboration with UNICEF regional and country offices;
  2. Work more closely with other development partners to help MoE reform primary education in line with the CFA to improve equity and quality in service delivery and learning outcomes;
  3. Continue to support the building of technical capacity at Province level focusing on strengthening PRTs implementation of the CFA;
  4. Focus on fewer technical issues at the school level for greater impact.

Lessons Learned:

Some of the good practices/LL:
The concept of a learning environment in which children are happy has gained traction. It is helping to change the conception of the primary school/section among school principals and teachers. This has resulted in a greater sense of ownership of the school by children: ‘this is my school’.
Although corporal punishment cannot be said to have been eliminated, it now seems unacceptable to use it in CFA supported schools. There is enhanced awareness of the negative impact of the practice. There is anecdotal
evidence that harsh punishment is in decline and positive discipline is being used more. Training and awareness raising on corporal punishment seem to be having an effect.
Attendance monitoring is part of the mechanisms in to be put in place to improve enrolment and prevent school drop out. These are often innovative and reportedly contribute to improved regular attendance and reduced
drop out.
Teacher training and support. Teachers are not yet putting into practice skills they have acquired through training on child-centred methods. Teachers are weak in classroom management techniques. Reading and writing skills seem not to be generally not taught well.
ELC monitoring is not conducted as intended. This suggests that the training approach is not sufficiently intensive or well followed up to be very effective in changing classroom behaviours.
The attitudes of some teachers are prejudiced towards slow learners and children with disabilities. For the full lessons learnt pls refer to the report.

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Report information


Sri Lanka




Government of Sri Lanka, NGO partners


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