Global experts hone skills on appraising education sector plans

23 August 2016

A group of 20 experts recently gathered at IIEP-UNESCO in Paris, France to share experiences and sharpen their skills in the appraisal of education sector plans for countries worldwide. The three-day residential workshop followed a two-week online programme, held in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). Participants included international experts with a background in either developing or appraising Education Sector Plans (ESPs) and several national officials from countries actively involved in the implementation of plans.

Assessing the soundness and credibility of a national plan

Plan appraisal is an important step in planning education systems, which helps improve the quality of an ESP and allows governments and their partners to explore whether a draft plan is likely to deliver the intended results.

“An Education Sector Plan is by nature a national policy instrument, elaborated under the responsibility of government, which provides a long-term vision for the education system in the country, and outlines a coherent set of practicable strategies to reach its objectives and overcome difficulties. It is based on a sound analysis of the current situation and of the causes of successes achieved and difficulties encountered. It should include implementation and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) frameworks.” (Guidelines for Education Sector Plan Preparation)

Before a plan is fully embraced by a country and the process of implementation begins, the appraisal is used to identify the plan’s strengths and weaknesses with ample time to make any updates and revisions. Led by experts who were not part of the plan preparation process, an appraisal involves a thorough desk review of the ESP, interviews with key stakeholders, consultations and a final validation workshop of the appraisal report’s findings.

IIEP uses its professional expertise in sector planning to build the capacity of ministry officials to develop evidence-based education plans to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for education. GPE is mandated with supporting the development of credible, quality education sector plans by providing financing, technical support through partners, and advice. GPE also supports plan implementation, through its Education Sector Program Implementation Grants, and by encouraging all partners to align their support around the national education sector plan.

A blended course for experts

The course, including a ten-day online phase and three days in Paris, aimed to refresh the experts with the relevant principles and successful practices in plan appraisal. Combining peer learning, group discussions, individual work and plenary sessions, the course content was based on guidelines developed by GPE and IIEP.

Karen Mundy, the Global Partnership for Education’s Chief Technical Officer, notes that, “these guidelines were produced to enhance the capacity of developing country partners, working with the support of donors and other education stakeholders, to prepare and appraise education sector plans.  The training and guidelines contribute to global public goods in education, by providing best practice guidance on education sector plan development to all interested stakeholders irrespective of whether countries are applying for GPE financing.  In addition, these are living documents that will evolve as we continue to gather lessons learned and improve practice.”

“The response [to participating in the course] was overwhelming as participants enthusiastically engaged in discussing key issues such as the importance of context, the role and qualities of the appraiser(s) and the instruments and tools used in the appraisal of plans,” said participant and international consultant Mike Kiernan.

Improving the appraisal process through peer-learning

The training was also an opportunity for the experts to reflect on the overall appraisal process and to share these ideas with both IIEP and GPE. Alberto Begue, a senior education consultant who took part in the training, said the discussions and peer exchanges would contribute to improvements in the overall appraisal process.

Kiernan added that the overall aim was to gain consistency in the appraisal process. “This initially led to some criticism but during the residential course most participants could adjust their original positions to a degree of agreement – not easy when the group accounted for more than 600 years of experience,” he said. “The objective is to create a roster of ESP appraisers with a common understanding of the guidelines and a common approach to the task in order to ensure high quality appraisals that will contribute to supporting the development of robust education sector plans.”

A follow up course will be held later this year for French speakers.