A quality check for education sector plans, from the Philippines to Burundi

17 May 2021


Children from a public school, where FUSADES had a programme to improve social services.

The appraisal of an education sector plan is a quality check. Typically conducted by an independent consultant or group, the appraisal gauges a plan’s credibility and feasibility to achieve education goals, and assesses whether a large variety of voices are represented. Over the past year, IIEP-UNESCO, in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education, has offered the training course Fundamentals of independent appraisal of education sector plans.

Self-paced, free of cost, and online, the course is striving to standardize the appraisal methodology across countries worldwide. So far, about 100 individuals have successfully completed the course, and several hundred others have enrolled. We caught up with several participants to see its impact thus far. 

In the Philippines, it’s helping address equity

Teresita Felipe is a UNICEF education specialist who is currently assisting with the development of her country’s upcoming ten-year education plan. Upon completing the course in February 2021, Felipe says that it was paramount for her to understand what kind of criteria an appraiser would examine. This helps her ensure a certain level of quality in the plan from the start.

“The appraisal criteria, such as ownership and leadership within the Ministry of Education, now all stick to my mind during the discussions and consultations for the education sector plan.” 

- Teresita Felipe, UNICEF. 

Felipe’s involvement in the training course has also had an impact on the plan’s content. “The course really reinforced the equity lens. It is present throughout the modules, from the beginning of the course, through to the end. We need to be very clear on who is left behind, whether it is gender issues or social inclusion, and make sure that fairness and inclusion are key to the plan.” 

Is an education sector plan of high quality, and are the goals achievable? An appraisal provides an independent, external opinion of a plan's content, and the process of its preparation. It opens a window of opportunity to improve its quality through expert recommendations, and helps pave the way towards its endorsement. 

In the Kyrgyz Republic and El Salvador, it's helping prepare for appraisal 

For some participants, the course was an optimal opportunity to prepare for the appraisal of an upcoming education sector plan. 

Education consultant Kent Lewis, who is based in the United States, registered for the course ahead of a mission to appraise a new 20-year education plan for the Kyrgyz Republic. Lewis was gearing up to travel to the Kyrgyz Republic just as the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. As a result, he had to completely shift his approach and conducted the entire appraisal virtually.

"I really appreciated having the methodology spelled out and it helped me think through some of the trickier issues ahead of time,” Lewis says. He paid special attention to the variety of voices represented during the planning process, and made specific recommendations so that the plan would be widely communicated at the local level.

“You really need the people who are going to deliver the plan – such as teachers, especially rural ones, and school leaders – involved and aware.”

- Kent Lewis, education consultant.

From El Salvador, Helga Cuéllar-Marchelli, the Director of the Department of Social Studies at the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES), took the course under the request of the Ministry of Education as it was starting the development of the next education sector plan. “It was important to have Salvadoran professionals trained to be able to assess the plan’s quality and robustness while following international standards,” she says. 

Mastering the methodology has helped Cuéllar-Marchelli understand how to balance the technical and political side of the appraisal process. “There is a need to be empathetic and to put oneself in the shoes of others and to understand all the different needs and perspective,” she explains. 

Helga Cuéllar-Marchelli presenting a proposal to the Ministry of Education about how to improve education services at the local level in 2019.
Title Text: 
Helga Cuéllar-Marchelli presenting a proposal to the Ministry of Education about how to improve education services at the local level in 2019. (Fusades)

The course’s focus on equity was also highly pertinent to the Salvadoran context. While enrollment in basic education is quite high, Cuéllar-Marchelli says it will take a lot of effort and resources to reach the remaining out-of-school children. “We have to identify the vulnerable groups. We say we are going to close the gap, but we need to give precise measures,” she says. The plan appraisal process can help in this regard.

“It helps make sure that all the needed elements for a plan are there. For example, are the objectives coherent with the indicators, is there adequate funding, and do all the activities really work on equity and reducing inequalities?” 

- Helga Cuéllar-Marchelli, the Director of the Department of Social Studies at the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development.

In Burundi, it's an opportunity for professional development 

Scholastique Mpengekeze, who graduated from IIEP's Advanced Training Programme (ATP) in 2008, also took the online course on the fundamentals of independent appraisal of education sector plans. 

"As a member of the Planning Office of the Ministry of Education in Burundi, I have been involved in the development of my country's sector plan. As an extension of this experience, taking this course was a no-brainer for me: I wanted to learn more about the requirements of a credible sector plan based on objective, external and neutral criteria." 

- Scholastique Mpengekeze, Ministry of Education in Burundi.

While she has recently joined the team of the General Inspectorate of Education, she has not yet had the opportunity to participate in an appraisal n since completing the course. However, the training has changed her view of the issues and played a role in her career development. "I have just been selected as an analyst to write the national report for the PASEC 2019 evaluation of Burundi (the Programme for the Analysis of Education Systems from the Francophone Ministerial Conference for Education - CONFEMEN).” For her, the training has helped deepen her investigations, and helps create stronger links between educational analysis and planning.