Giving Thanks for A Fruitful Year

Calla McCabe

On the fourth Thursday of November, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving.  The national holiday which was originally celebrated to offer thanks for the previous year's harvest has developed into a celebration of the year's blessings. Here at CEI, we are taking the opportunity to share a few things we are thankful for in 2014. CEI has had an exciting and busy year.  So far, we have profiled 93 new innovative programs, bringing our total profiled programs up to 560.  Additionally, we have launched topic pages that combine original data, programs, research and evidence, and data visualizations to provide in depth analysis on select countries and themes in global education. Our in-country partners also have a lot to be thankful for:

The Bertha Center, CEI's South Africa hub, shared these highlights from 2014:

Offering our profiled initiatives an opportunity for evaluation through partnership with Institute for Monitoring and Evaluation at University of Cape Town

Early in 2014, CEI's South Africa hub formalized a partnership with Professor Joha Louw-Potgieter, Director of the Institute for Monitoring and Evaluation at University of Cape Town. CEI South Africa invited some of their profiled initiatives that meet the “evaluable” criteria to make themselves available to an M&E Masters student in 2014 to examine the objectives, content, implementation and outcomes of the program. At the end of the process, the initiative will receive a useful report which will enable them to make more strategic decisions, allocate resources wisely and plan for the growth of the program. Eight initiative recommendations were submitted to the University. In the period 2007–2012‚ seventeen of the dissertations have been published in scientific evaluation journals.   Early in March 2014 the conversations came to fruition. We were delighted to hear that three programs had been chosen, namely: 

  • Always Keeping Girls in School‚ which provides young schoolgirls from disadvantaged backgrounds with information about puberty and menstruation‚ free sanitary towels‚ educational resources‚ and motivational talks aimed at keeping them in school (Proctor & Gamble).
  • Bridging Year Program which helps promising‚ motivated matriculants from under–resourced schools to develop the academic and life skills they need to access and succeed in higher education‚ learner ships and meaningful employment (SAEP).
  • The Shine Literacy Program aims to address the low literacy skills of foundation phase learners through providing structured support‚ storybooks and readers and empowering parents through training workshops (The Shine Centre).

This exercise satisfied CEI’s need to offer our profiled initiatives meaningful opportunities for capacity building. Monitoring and Evaluation is such a vital way to show impact, but it is extremely expensive so we were delighted at being able to provide this link to providing an evaluation document that can inform program design and funding to the three selected initiatives.

Seminar Series: CEI Conversations with J-PAL

The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab’s (J-PAL) South Africa hub has partnered with CEI_SA to conduct a seminar series on randomized control trials that have produced an evidence base for education in developing countries. This is an informal gathering where the research is presented and the audience can participate in conversations with the researchers. The series was a highlight of CEI_SA’s networking events, usually drawing 30 to 40 participants per event. The feedback has been positive and we hope to stimulate more debate going forward as some of the greatest learnings for the audience are distilled from participant discussions. The series included conversations on:

GEMS Education Solutions, our partners in East Africa, shared a summary of their past year and what they are thankful for as 2014 draws to a close:

In 2014 CEI East Africa has played an active role analyzing and connecting stakeholders in ECD. A key milestone was the first ECD Thematic Forum in Kenya which is now being followed up with a Community of Practice.  We are thankful for the innovative work of edupreneurs and implementers who are actively addressing the issues of integrated programming and up-skilling caregivers using practice based on research and evidence as well as community involvement to give children in Kenya the best start in life irrespective of their economic status. We are grateful to policymakers in the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health who this year have acknowledged the importance of ECD and in Vision 2030 state a specific ECD strategy to integrate 2 years of free early childhood into primary education. CEI has played a role connecting our profiled programs to funding opportunities in ECD. This year we are thankful to LEGO Foundation, Ashoka, IDEO and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation who have networked with CEI and released ECD specific challenge funds and ongoing grants. As a nation Kenya has made major advancements in ECD, particularly around school readiness and compares favorably to its African neighbors. We look forward to the commitment and innovation all stakeholders will deliver in 2015 to further advance development in the informative early years.

As 2014 draws to a close CEI East Africa celebrated success in the region with the Education Social Enterprise Forum. The event brought together 120 edupreneurs, policymakers, investors and implementers to explore how best to continue building innovative education social enterprises, how to scale existing models, how to ensure that social enterprises are targeting and supporting national education priorities, and finally, how best different stakeholders can work together within the education ecosystem.  We are thankful to the Social Enterprises and edupreneurs who are profiled by CEI and showcased their sustainable models which serve as learning points for the sector. We are thankful to the policymakers from the Ministry of Education, County Government and KICD who engaged in the forum and followed up with smaller meetings to embrace the innovations we showcased. We are thankful to the investors and donors who actively collaborated and enlightened their innovative financing models for supporting different stages of a model from start-ups to national programs. This collaboration allows for a more aligned sector with opportunities for quick learning and diffusing best practice.  We are thankful to all stakeholders who came together to passionately share their knowledge and collaborate to improve the quality of education in Kenya and our neighboring countries.

In India our partners, Catalyst Management Services, also shared their reflections on 2014:

In light of validation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious agenda of economic and fiscal reforms, India regained its ‘stable’ rating. Getting a stable Government has been a very high point for India in 2014 with people having high hopes from the new Government about development on all the fronts. A stable Government would get more room for addressing serious and fundamental economic challenges on the infrastructure deficit and need for skill formation. In India on the education front two of the critical points have been education for all with improvements in quality of education (to improve teaching and learning outcomes) and education-to-job linkages. Manpower for skill and occupational needs in the next twenty years will be high as the economy urbanizes, modernizes, and becomes more service-sector oriented. Government has already announced the initiative of ‘Skill India’ movement. It is aimed at equipping youth with skill with an emphasis on entrepreneurship as well as employability. A National Rural Internet and Technology Mission for services in villages and schools, training in IT skills and E-Kranti for government service delivery and governance scheme has also been proposed.

To share the challenges and knowledge of practitioners in the skill development sector and bring the non state actors on a common platform, CEI India took the step of hosting a learning site. Recognizing the good practices of an organization, Graduate Finishing School, Dharwad, the organization was developed into a learning site to hold discussions around relevant topics at the conceptual level. The topics were finalized after discussing with the profiled organizations of the sector. The challenges being faced by the organizations were noted and taken up in the form of sessions dividing the session in various topics. People operating in the sector at different levels were also invited to draw from their experiences. The first chapter was divided into three weekly sessions discussing three different issues significant to the organizations. When Government is taking active part in the improvement of a sector, this seems to be all the more pertinent to connect the organizations for sharing of knowledge and bringing various issues on the surface. Such steps can help strengthening the organizations to shape up the policies of a sector.

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