2009 Global: Child Friendly Schools Programming -- Global Evaluation Report
This Executive Summary briefly describes the evaluation approach and presents the main findings from the evaluation. Detailed results and recommendations are presented in the full CFS evaluation report.
The Education Section of UNICEF‘s Programme Office introduced the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) framework for schools that "serve the whole child" in 1999.19 Today, the CFS initiative is UNICEF‘s flagship education programme, and UNICEF supports implementation of the CFS framework in 95 countries20 and promotes it at the global and regional levels. This chapter introduces the first global evaluation of CFS. It contains three sections. The first describes CFS and its evolution and presents a conceptual model of CFS that was developed for and guided this evaluation. The second describes the evaluation approach and methodology. The third provides an overview of the report.
UNICEF grounded the CFS framework in the 1990 Convention on the Rights of the Child‘s principles of children‘s rights, as well as other international human rights instruments and international declarations such as the Declaration of Education for All (1990). These principles emphasize the right of all children to receive free and compulsory education in settings that encourage enrolment and attendance; institute discipline humanely and fairly; develop the personality, talents and abilities of students to their fullest potential; respect children‘s human rights and fundamental freedoms; respect and encourage the child‘s own cultural identity, language and values, as well as the national culture and values of the country where the child is living; and prepare the child to live as a free, responsible individual who is respectful of other persons and the natural environment.1 Three other inputs shaped the early development of CFS. The first was effective school research, which emphasized the importance of school factors for disadvantaged students. The second was the World Health Organization‘s mental health promotion initiatives, which focus on the importance of connectedness, caring and access to support. The third was UNICEF‘s interest in child-, family-, and community-centred approaches to school improvement. UNICEF envisions and promotes CFS models not as abstract concepts or a rigid blueprint but rather as "pathways towards quality" in education that reflect three key, and inter-related, principles derived from the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNICEF, in press): Child-centredness: Central to all decision-making in education is safeguarding the interest of the child. Democratic participation: As rights holders, children and those who facilitate their rights should have a say in the form and substance of their education. Inclusiveness: All children have a right to education. Access to education is not a privilege that society grants to children; it is a duty that society fulfils to all children.
UNICEF anticipates that CFS will evolve and move towards quality education through the application of these principles. The following features of CFS derive from these principles and as the principles gain traction these features are strengthened.2
1 See https://www.unicef.org/crc/
2 Adapted from the UNICEF Child Friendly Schools manual (UNICEF, in press).
UNICEF contracted with the American Institutes for Research (AIR) in January 2008 to conduct a global evaluation of the CFS initiative, which was to be built upon site visits to Child Friendly Schools in six countries. The evaluation study was set out to be a baseline that addressed the challenge of variability and examined inclusiveness, pedagogy, architecture and services, participation and governance, systemic management, and cost. Specifically, the evaluation was to address three questions, each of which had several objectives:3
o What are the underlying principles of CFS schools and what do they look like in practice? Data and analyses here were to assist UNICEF promulgate empirically grounded principles for CFS.
o Does CFS programming realize UNICEF‘s objectives for "child-friendly schools"? Data and analyses were meant to provide evidence for quality improvement and strategic planning.
o Can UNICEF CFS programming have an impact at the national level? Data and analyses here were to provide evidence for the added-value of CFS implementation and its sustainability in the national context.
3 Following the award of the contract to conduct the evaluation, UNICEF and AIR collaborated to refine the evaluation design to address UNICEF‘s priorities for this evaluation.
The evaluation utilized a mixed-methods design to determine whether the CFS framework could produce the type of school that its designers visualized, as described by Bernard (1999, cited in Chabbott 2004): The value being added by the child-friendly school framework is precisely in its bringing together and attempting to integrate, conceptually and operationally, under the auspices of the CRC: (i) the well-established conditions and characteristics of effective, child-focused teaching and learning and (ii) the goals of sustainable human and child development, including health, protection from harm and peaceful participation. (p. 13) In addition, the evaluation was designed to describe how CFS models have been implemented in multiple contexts to provide data on the extent to which the key principles of CFS—child-centredness, inclusiveness, and democratic participation—are being realized, to identify challenges, and to provide a baseline and create tools to monitor future progress.
The evaluation consisted of 10 distinguishing features.4 It: employed site visits by teams – the data collection included one-day or two-day site visits by teams to approximately 25 schools in two or more regions/districts in each of the six countries—Nigeria, South Africa, the Philippines, Thailand, Guyana and Nicaragua. A total of 150 schools were visited; focused on the range of schools – schools were selected to represent the range of CFS schools in terms of location, duration of implementation and demography; employed randomization – students, teachers and families were randomly selected for interviews, focus groups and/or surveys, and the classrooms to be visited were randomly selected; addressed phenomenological issues – the evaluation employed survey instruments to explore how a representative group of students and staff experienced the school; balanced sensitivity to local context and analytical uniformity by combining AIR and local evaluators/data collectors; created and/or tailored instruments and scales to address the needs of the evaluation – AIR developed and/or customized 14 instruments and 17 reporting scales to meet the needs of the global evaluation; combined quantitative, qualitative and visual data and employed Hierarchical Linear Modeling (HLM) to apply a rigorous standard to the patterns observed in the quantitative and qualitative data. This combination allowed triangulation of data from multiple sources, tested the consistency of findings obtained from different stakeholders and through different instruments, and the evaluation team was able to clarify and nuance the findings appropriately (Greene et al., 1994; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004); employed a Delphi survey of UNICEF Education Officers to contextualize findings – a web-based modified Delphi survey was designed and administered to contextualize findings that were limited to two or more regions in six countries; and drew on AIR‘s experience with CFS through other projects with UNICEF and on AIR internal experts.
4 More detail about the evaluation methodology, including instruments, sampling, and analysis is provided in Appendix A.
AIR designed a mixed-methods evaluation to determine whether the CFS framework could produce the type of school that its designers visualized, as described by Bernard (1999, cited in Chabbott 2004):
―The value being added by the child-friendly school framework is precisely in its bringing together and attempting to integrate, conceptually and operationally, under the auspices of the CRC: (i) the well-established conditions and characteristics of effective, child-focused teaching and learning; and (ii) the goals of sustainable human and child development, including health, protection from harm and peaceful participation.‖ (p. 13) In addition, the evaluation was designed to describe how CFS models have been implemented in multiple contexts to provide data on the extent to which the key principles of CFS are being realized, to identify challenges, and to provide a baseline and create tools to monitor future progress.
The site visits to six countries with different experiences implementing CFS, data collected from UNICEF Education Officers around the world implementing CFS, and a review of prior studies and literature on CFS have demonstrated the following: The CFS initiative has been effective in engaging stakeholders at all levels of education systems in creating schools with conditions that reflect effective, child-focused teaching and learning and in encouraging educators to think about how to serve the whole child. School heads and teachers across all countries we visited "speak the language" of CFS. The conceptualization of CFS appears to be ―sticky‖ (Heath & Heath, 2007), helping stakeholders grasp the need to address the whole child in a manner that embodies the principles of inclusiveness, child-centredness and democratic participation. In interviews with teachers we heard – with the exception of one school – universal support for CFS principles. They are enthusiastic in their support of the ideals of CFS and committed to striving to meet them, even in challenging circumstances. This speaks to the ability that CFS has to effectively engage stakeholders, an important element in implementing the CFS model. Often when asked, teachers, school heads and families who have some comparative perspective stated that CFS changed the way in which they and others thought about education.
The CFS initiative has provided Ministries of Education with a useful framework for improving education that promotes child development and is inclusive, participatory and responsive. Ministries support and have embraced, although to varying degrees, the principles of CFS models. According to more than half (54 percent) of UNICEF Education Officers who responded to the Delphi survey, the Ministry of Education has ― integrated the Child Friendly Schools initiative into its education strategy.‖ However, ministries do not "operate" CFS in all cases.
CFS in varying contexts successfully apply the key principles of CFS models. We observed schools operating in very different national contexts and with different levels of resources and serving populations with different needs succeed in being child-centred, promoting democratic participation and being inclusive. UNICEF Education Officers state that the CFS model is one that can be and is adapted and adopted successfully to meet local needs. Most agree that the CFS model is flexible, adaptable to different contexts and broadly appropriate, and is a model that is heuristic and changeable – CFS is ―not a blueprint‖ and can be implemented in different ways with different levels of support depending on local needs.
For the most part, countries where the CFS initiative is more established are more successful than countries that began creating CFS more recently or have not integrated the initiative as well into their respective education sector strategy. The Philippines and Thailand, which have been implementing CFS since the late 1990s and where the CFS model is now implemented as a national strategy for school reform, have many schools that realize the goals of CFS; our survey and observational data indicate schools‘ success in creating child-centred learning environments and teachers and parents attest to changes in outcomes. In both of these countries, the Ministry of Education has embraced the CFS framework. It is the education strategy and other donors rally around the CFS model. Moreover, the UNICEF Regional Office has been a champion of CFS. At the other end of the spectrum, UNICEF only recently began supporting the CFS initiative in South Africa. Although the evaluation indicates that the CFS initiative in South Africa has many challenges to overcome, the objectives of CFS are integrated into the education sector strategy.
UNICEF Education Officers indicate that UNICEF collects and uses data on CFS. However, we were unable to obtain school-level data related to key CFS objectives (e.g., attendance, dropout rates) for this evaluation from UNICEF country offices. This suggests that these data are not regularly collected or accessible to UNICEF country offices. In some cases national education management information systems may not be fully operational, or they may not be maintaining data systematically.
Having insufficient resources is perceived by school staff as a challenge to being child-friendly. We observed that school heads and teachers feel hampered by lack of resources to support instruction – from instructional materials to trained teachers – and schools struggle to maintain the physical plant. Reports from UNICEF Education Officers, who note the difficulty schools have with these issues, demonstrate that these challenges extend beyond the six countries we visited. At the same time, many aspects of the CFS model are not resource-intensive and can be implemented with little expense, which UNICEF Education Officers also point out.
The evaluation recommended that UNICEF consider the following actions to improve CFS implementation and make schools child-friendly:
1. Focus on operationalizing the core principles of CFS by being clear about the underlying principles and providing concrete examples of what a CFSs looks like, and what it is not.
2. Include efforts to assess and enhance schools' and communities' readiness to implement CFS in implementation strategies, and where appropriate, extend the time line for the provision of training and technical assistance in order to help schools realize CFS principles.
3. Using the CFS principles, reconceptualise life skills to include a strong SEL component, and provide for necessary adjustments to include intentional SEL and its assessment in programming for life-skills education.
4. Provide additional training for teachers to enable them to employ positive behavioural approaches and child-centred pedagogies in a manner that enhances student learning and performance.
5. Improve the collection and use of data for monitoring, quality improvement and evaluation. For both school and subgroups, this would include data on attendance, attrition, achievement, conditions for learning, and how students perceive CFS.
The evaluation also recommended additional strategies to improve programming in post-conflict and transition countries, such as inclusion of a SEL component for teachers and students suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. For middle income countries with high levels of income inequity, UNICEF was advised to target advocacy efforts and programming to pockets of poor and vulnerable children. A strategy recommended for UNICEF country officers was to use data-driven strategies to select programming priorities, including examining composite indices such as those contained in the Human Development Report, the Human Development Index, Human Poverty Index or Gender Empowerment Measure6 when determining how to adapt and focus the CFS model.
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