Problem the program addresses: The basic education system in Sudan continues to exclude vulnerable children, including former child soldiers, children in remote areas, displaced children, demobilized children, street children or nomads, and especially girls. As a result, more than 1.8 million primary school-aged children in Sudan have no access to primary education. The drop-out rate is high, and less than one in five children completes primary education. For basic education through traditional means to reach these children, the formal education system would need to overcome the following barriers: 110,000 teachers are currently undertrained and need further training, 15,000 classrooms would need to be constructed every year, and the present government education budget would need to increase at least five-fold. Currently, neither the infrastructure nor the budget is in place to realistically expect these developments to occur.
Description of the solution: An Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) has been developed to enable out-of-school children to catch up on basic competencies on an accelerated timeline, outside of the formal education system. The Can't Wait to Learn Sudan program will enable children in hard-to-reach areas to complete Book 1 of the primary ALP mathematics curriculum by accessing digitized content on tablets. Book 1 covers the first three years of the traditional mathematics curriculum. The program ultimately aims to cover all subjects in grades one to eight, offering children the opportunity to acquire the two certificates that lead towards the Certificate for Primary Education after completing three cycles of primary education. This Certificate is a requirement for access to secondary education or for formal employment.
In 2013, a pilot of this project took place including the development of draft digital content covering just the first unit of Book 1 of the ALP mathematics curriculum. This unit was tested and content and software is now being developed for the rest of Book 1 of the curriculum (units 1-8). Open source principles are being used to ensure replicability, scalability, and sustainability. The software used on the tablet for children to access the curriculum uses “applied game” frameworks that have been approved by the government and university partners. Testing of the “applied game” software will be undertaken at village level in the three target states; testing will also occur in the Sudan Innovation Lab in the coming weeks. Android tablets have already been procured for the testing phase, with more on the way. Upcoming activities include:
- Software developed and quality tested for Units 1-8 in Book 1 of the ALP mathematics curriculum based on open source principles
- Additional learning materials including videos developed in Sudan and embedded into the software
- All materials tested and contributed to by Sudan Innovations Lab participants
- All materials approved for use by the Ministry of Education
The tablets will be available in ALP centers in each participating village. Each center will have a central server, and the tablets will be powered/charged using solar power. Community members will be trained to support the program including training on basic hardware/software troubleshooting and data collection relating to the program. These trained community members will be able to assist learners during the pilot as they use the tablets to access learning activities and materials. Remote support will also be available through the web-enabled tablets.
- Community: One of the primary objectives of the program is to increase community engagement in children's education. Communities will be directly involved in implementation through training of facilitators, observers, community leaders, and other stakeholders. In addition, teachers at local formal schools will be encouraged to interact with children and the program, to support the filtering of children into formal education where possible at the end of their engagement with the eLearning program.
- Government: The program is being planned, tested, and implemented in coordination with the Ministry of Education and the National Council for Literacy and Adult Education (the MoE department responsible for Accelerated Learning Programs for out-of-school children). Government counterparts are engaged at national, state, and local levels in the three target states.
- Schools: Due to the nature of the project targeting rural, hard-to-reach areas with high numbers of out-of-school children, implementation of the project will not occur within traditional public schools. Rather, children will be accessing the eLearning curriculum through ALP centers. Teachers in the nearest formal schools will be engaged with the project, particularly to support the transition of children out of the ALP centers and into formal education where possible, once they have competed the first cycle of the ALP.
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CEI approaches in action
The scale of the pilot, including number of villages and number of number of tablets per village, will be determined based on available resources.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The following monitoring and evaluation processes will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the program:
- To analyze program effectiveness, learning outcomes and psychosocial indicators will be compared with baseline data, with MoE data from its education surveys, with data from other pilot areas, with data from different demographic groups within the pilot area, and with data from control groups
- Program outputs will be monitored by facilitators and observers in participating villages, including keeping records of tablet use
- Program outputs will also be directly measured by the software, which will collate data on hours spent on the eLearning modules and technical issues
- Participants will be surveyed using Indicator Progress Cards developed by War Child Holland, which aim to quantify psychosocial indicators
- Qualitative data collection will include facilitated sessions with beneficiaries by project staff, video diaries kept by children participating in the program, and focus groups of community members involved in the program as participants and facilitators to discuss key issues arising during program implementation, including civil society groups who will report on changes in community opinions on the program and the importance of education
Expected results include:
- Participating vulnerable out-of-school children will achieve mathematics competency at the Grade 4 level
- Reduced knowledge gap between marginalized and other children
- Increase community engagement in children’s education
- The program will contribute to the evidence base about eLearning, including whether children can learn in a self-directed way, and what factors affect their ability to do so
- The program will contribute to the evidence base about the social effects of participation, the impact on children’s relationships with their community, and impact on their self-confidence and psychosocial profile
- The program will contribute to the evidence base about the cost-effectiveness of eLearning versus traditional schools, including a basic assessment of the Social Return on Investment (that is, an analysis of the costs of not funding primary education in a fragile state)