Problem the program addresses: Although Nepal has made impressive gains in access to education, actual learning outcomes remain poor and the internal efficiency of the education system is weak. Children in Nepal struggle to learn in schools for a variety of reasons, but three significant factors are:
- Lack of quality learning materials: limited distribution and access to textbooks, supplementary materials, and multimedia resources is a huge challenge in Nepal, particularly in remote mountainous areas home to the hardest-to-reach students.
- Poor teaching and learning processes: there is an over-reliance on rote learning and teacher-centered classrooms that do not engage students and do not adequately prepare students to think critically and be active learners.
- Lack of continuous assessment mechanisms: teachers need support in order to implement continuous assessment to monitor student progress and identify those who are struggling before they drop-out or fail final exams. While Nepal already has a policy of continuous assessment, its implementation to date has proved a challenge.
Description of the solution: Building on a small local pilot using low-cost, low-power, durable equipment, the program will provide interactive and learner-centered digital materials through an offline server for local access in remote areas without connectivity. Teachers will be trained in child-centered teaching practices and on the integration of technology into their pedagogical practice though workshops and engaging professional development videos that demonstrate good practice and innovative classroom management techniques. The program will directly track and monitor learning outcomes in real time. Teachers will inform the design of software which will allow them to track the progress of their students and automatically prompt interventions if learning outcomes fall above or below expected levels. Specifically, the program will provide the following support across three key areas:
- Provision of open-source, low-cost, low-power devices in secondary schools in mountainous areas.
- One classroom of computers will be made available to each school to be used by all grades.
- Educational content, online and approved by the government Curriculum Development Center (CDC), will be available through a central server hosting a digital library serving all the devices in the school.
- Teacher training on the use of computers to teach core subjects, with a focus on student-led learning and teachers as facilitators.
- Software that will support flexible yet robust monitoring of both student progress and more advanced metrics to be identified by teachers and program staff.
- 7-day teacher training program with follow-up monitoring and support visits from program volunteers and staff.
- Teacher professional development resources will be available, including videos and a digital library.
Related to connectivity, power, and software:
- The program will be designed to work without a mobile network, but depending on future cost assessments, clusters of schools may be provided with masts to allow for a mobile network and thus the ability to conduct real time M&E.
- The program will use solar-powered batteries given that many of the schools will not have a reliable power supply.
- The software and content developed by the program will be open-source to ensure it is easy to update at free or low-cost.
- Community: The community will be actively engaged in the design, implementation, and monitoring of the program, with a particular focus on women and parents from minority groups. Project Committees will be established in the community and young graduate volunteers will be mobilized and trained to support schools and teachers. The wider community will, where appropriate, be invited to contribute to a small proportion of the costs of the program, as a way of ensuring ownership and support for the hardware and program.
- Government: The government will be engaged at both central and local (district) levels. At the central level, the government (CDC) will be fully involved in reviewing and improving digital content and training (NCED). At the district level, the DEOs will be involved in selecting the schools, software design, and monitoring and evaluation progress.
- Schools: The targeted schools will be involved in all stages of the program, through concept development, testing, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation. Program staff and volunteers will work within the selected schools to understand learner and teacher needs, test the software as it is developed, undertake the training for communities and teachers, and create a safe space for technology to be used and stored. School community members will be involved in real time monitoring, where possible, of several inputs and outputs.
- Other: UNICEF Nepal is intending to partner with an NGO organization (OLE Nepal) with extensive experience in the development of digital content, provision of hardware in schools, and the training of teachers in Nepal.
Image courtesy of UNICEF.
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CEI approaches in action
The program plans to achieve the following scale: 50 teachers trained, 1,200 students with access to computers.
Monitoring & Evaluation
The program will track individual learners’ access to educational materials and their progress in terms of learning outcomes in real time, and this information will be available to the teacher within the classroom through a user-friendly teacher-designed interface. More advanced user metrics will also be collected, such as attendance and the frequency of engagement in particular types of digital materials. This data will be collected and stored on the server in each school in real time, and a data visualization tool will allow for easy monitoring by teachers and visiting program staff at any time. If the school has a mobile network, this data will also be aggregated and sent regularly to UNICEF Nepal’s national database for analysis.
Systematic monitoring followed by a final evaluation will measure how much students have progressed in terms of learning outcomes. In-school monitoring and potential SMS real-time monitoring will also aim to track the impact of teacher training and the adoption of child-centered teaching techniques and continuous assessment methods.
In order to facilitate ongoing program learning, in-person monitoring will take place by volunteers and program staff. Support and follow-up visits will allow for monitoring of the condition of the hardware, maintenance if necessary, and an understanding of how the technology is being used in the classroom.
The program is designed in order to target schools in two phases, and as such the second phase of schools will serve as a control group. There will therefore be an opportunity to undertake a quasi-experimental evaluation of the impact of the intervention.
A quantitative and qualitative study of the program’s pilot intervention revealed that among students within project schools who took surveys in English and Math, all students showed a significant increase in their test scores after one year of using the technology in the classroom (though the study did not include control groups). Results also indicated that the ICT intervention has led to a more conducive and equitable learning environment for all students. The target results for the new program are as follows:
• 20% increase in student performance across 4 core subjects for Grades 6-10 between pre- and post-test data.
• Increased retention (10% decrease in dropout rates) and promotion (10% increase in promotion rates) in target schools in Grades 6-10.