Connecting Innovators in Secondary Education – Stories from PSIPSE

Jordan Worthington

As learning partners and local learning partners for the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), the Results for Development Institute and our local partners in India and Nigeria, Catalyst Management Services (CMS – India), the Center for Social Sector, Education, and Policy Analysis (CSSEPA), and The Education Partnership Centre (TEP Centre – Nigeria), work jointly to facilitate connections between PSIPSE funded projects. Throughout 2013 and the first half of 2014, the PSIPSE-funded projects mentioned below have been networking with others in similar thematic areas, through sharing expertise and connections with influential stakeholders within their countries. Some of these connections are happening virtually with the help of local learning partners, while others are occurring through in-person events such as PSIPSE convenings, conferences, and workshops.

East Africa | In East Africa, we’ve seen that many connections were formed with in-person interactions or introductions through learning partners and local learning partners, and are continuing through virtual means.

  • The Global eSchools and Communities Initiative (GESCI), Promoting Equality in African Schools (PEAS), Sazani Associates, and Asante Africa Foundation (all 2012 projects) have been working together on a PSIPSE Learning Fund-financed series of webinars on strengthening M&E systems for incorporating ICT into teacher training. The first webinar took place in May 2014, and from these initial activities, Asante Africa Foundation has sought out further advice from GESCI on incorporating ICT into teacher training. GESCI was able to use technology to leverage and facilitate connections between organizations located in Nairobi, Kampala, Arusha, and Zanzibar, and the organizations involved in the partnership are excited to continue using this webinar format to connect as they grow in their collaborative efforts to improve their M&E systems.
  • Build Africa Uganda, a project piloting and researching how to best facilitate transition to secondary school in rural Uganda, identified that it needed assistance in engaging girls in its program. Staff members at Build Africa met fellow Ugandan innovators, the Forum for African Women Educationalists Uganda (FAWEU) and Century Entrepreneurship Development Agency International (CEDA International) at the PSIPSE East Africa convening, which took place in March 2014. FAWEU and CEDA International work extensively in programming for adolescent girls in Uganda and are well-positioned to help Build Africa improve its curriculum and teacher training resources for helping engage adolescent girls.
  • Additionally, following the PSIPSE convening in East Africa, War Child Canada (WCC) and Cordaid teams working in Bukavu, DRC, have begun to network and share their local experiences. Moving forward, they plan to work together to share project information and jointly develop a plan for engaging local and national Ministry of Education officials to prioritize secondary education in DRC.

 

India | We’re excited to see that the connections forming in India are initiated by in-person meetings and developing further in collaborative workshop settings.

  • When the India School Leadership Initiative (ISLI), an initiative of Akanksha, ran a series of workshops from November 2013 to March 2014 for low-cost private school leaders in Delhi through the PSIPSE Learning Fund, it sought out the expertise of Pratham, a fellow expert organization in the field of low-cost private education. Not only were Pratham and Akanksha able to provide advice, they were also able to have representatives attend the workshop and were able to source attendees to the workshop from their schools.
  • The Aga Khan Foundation in India held a workshop in May 2014 to discuss the baseline survey and needs assessment design for its project in technical and vocational training (TVET) for minority students. The Foundation wanted to better understand its needs assessment and define the M&E indicators for its project. Because of its research in TVET, the Aga Khan Foundation invited ERU Consultants to attend the workshop. Organization-led workshops such as these are showing that PSIPSE-funded projects are growing increasingly familiar with each other’s work and value the insight of their peers enough to invite them to workshops on their own accord.
  • CMS held a learning session in Delhi on the vocationalization of secondary education in May 2014. The event included participants from Aga Khan Foundation, the American India Foundation, Going to School, the ISLI, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), Lend-A-Hand India, and Pratham, as well as other important stakeholders. The session helped organizations situate their work within the larger landscape of vocational education in India and provided attending organizations the opportunity to identify cross-learnings and areas in which they can further connect with one another.
  • A project led by the Center for Budget and Policy Studies (CBPS) focuses on research in open and distance learning (ODL) models. The Center reached out to Pratham’s Open Schools, a project that provides classes for adolescent girls who have left the formal education system. While the connection isn’t formal, CBPS has been able to learn from Pratham’s experience running its Open Schools program to inform its own ODL research. Examples such as this are illustrations that not all connections require extensive amounts of staff time to bring useful insight to research or project implementation.

 

Nigeria | Project connections in Nigeria are a good illustration of programs interacting that may not have had the opportunity to learn and benefit from each other’s work, were they not part of a larger partnership.

  • TEP Centre has connected research teams from the Catholic University of America and the British Council. Catholic University has been conducting research in Nigeria since 2013, while the British Council has just begun its work. They will be meeting at the end of May 2014 to share lessons and learnings from their methodologies, fieldwork, and emerging findings from their work in Nigeria. This is an example of organizations that are connecting over their similar thematic work as well as their experience conducting research in Nigeria. In many cases, sharing knowledge over efficiencies and best practices in their processes can be just as valuable as sharing the outcomes of their research.
  • In addition to projects that are working together on similar topic areas, some projects are able to facilitate connections with in-country stakeholders for each other, sometimes without working in the same thematic areas of education. The development Research and Projects Center (dRPC), which works with at-risk girls in northern Nigeria, introduced colleagues at Co-Creation Hub (CcHUB) to the Nigerian curriculum design organization, the Nigeria Educational Research and Development Council (NERDC) in mid-2013. The connection with the NERDC can assist in providing CcHUB with access to appropriately developed academic content and tests for the Efiko mobile app.  Meanwhile, CcHUB is looking to include Kano schools which are supported by dRPC in its northern rollout of Efiko

 

Given that these projects have been affiliated with the PSIPSE collaborative’s learning partner work for less than a year and a half, it’s exciting for R4D and our local learning partners in East Africa, India, and Nigeria to see connections form between projects transforming the way communities are thinking about secondary education. Some of these connections have happened organically through meeting at large events and convenings, while others have happened through targeted support from local learning partners. Just as there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to transforming secondary education, there isn’t a uniform approach to fostering connections between these organizations. As a learning partner for PSIPSE, R4D’s job is made easier when organizations such as these are driven by increasing access to quality education and eager to draw on lessons from their fellow grantees. As the projects progress in their implementation, they encounter bumps and challenges along the way that can present themselves as opportunities to draw on the expertise of their peers.

Moving forward, we at R4D would like to work with our local learning partners to identify opportunities for peer learning and connection across regions. There are many organizations funded by the PSIPSE collaborative that are working in similar thematic areas across different parts of the world, thus creating enormous potential to share valuable lessons and insights. 

Photo courtesty of Build Africa Uganda

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