What We Are Learning About Learning Networks [CIES 2024 Presentation]

The USAID Leading Through Learning Global Platform (LTLGP) and USAID Improving Learning Outcomes for Asia (ILOA) presented a panel at the 2024 CIES Conference on what each project has been learning about establishing and implementing learning networks. Presentations from three USAID learning networks (HELN, GRN, ECCN) and one regional hub managed by LTLGP along with a presentation from ILOA discuss how each learning network utilizes collaboration, learning, and adapting (CLA) to assess how well their networks are reaching and meeting the needs of their members and how they have adapted and adjusted their networks based on CLA fedback.

Can the Middle Tier Drive Foundational Learning at Scale?

An integral part of a decentralized education system hierarchy is the “middle tier” comprising subnational actors in charge of education delivery at the regional, provincial, state, district, municipality, city, or circuit and cluster levels. The general roles and responsibilities of the middle tier are described in research on district leadership in OECD countries. Their responsibilities range from planning, monitoring, and implementing reforms at the subnational and school levels, to ensuring school-based accountability through data and evidence, to innovating, supporting, and monitoring improvements in teaching and learning in schools through instructional leadership and fostering professional learning communities at the district and school levels. While rigorous academic evidence may be lacking on the ability of middle managers to bring about improvements in foundational literacy and learning outcomes at scale in LMICs, we have theoretical and programmatic evidence on (1) their role in instructional leadership, (2) the importance of building their capacity to drive teaching and learning, and (3) the importance of trust and support within the education system that fosters learning at scale. Thumbnail Credit: Pakistan Reading Program/IRC

Building an Assessment of Community Defined Social-Emotional Competencies from the Ground Up - A Tanzanian Example

Most of the research that informs our understanding of children’s social-emotional learning (SEL) comes from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic (WEIRD) societies where behavior is guided by a view of the self as autonomous, acting on individual preferences. In the subsistence agricultural communities (home to more than a quarter of the world’s population), obligations and communal goals override personal preferences and individuals see themselves as part of a social hierarchy. These contrasting models of the self have profound implications for SEL. Many studies underestimate these implications because they use assessment tools developed in WEIRD settings to understand SEL in lower- and middle-income countries. The aim of our study was to build an SEL assessment from the ground up, based on community definitions of valued competencies in southern Tanzania. In Study 1, Qualitative data from parents and teachers indicated that dimensions of social responsibility, such as obedience and respect, were valued highly. Teachers valued curiosity and self-direction more than parents, as competencies required for success in school. Quantitative assessments in Study 2 found that individuals more exposed to sociodemographic variables associated with WEIRD settings (urban residence and higher parental education and SES) were more curious, less obedient and had poorer emotional regulation. Overall findings suggest that the conceptualization of social-emotional competencies may differ between and within societies; commonly held assumptions of universality are not supported. Based on the findings of this study we propose a systematic approach to cultural adaptation of assessments. The approach does not rely solely on local participants to vet and adapt items but is instead guided by a rigorous cultural analysis. Such an analysis, we argue, requires us to put aside assumptions about behavioral development and to consider culture as a system with an origin and function. Such an approach has the potential to identify domains of SEL that are absent from commonly used frameworks and to uncover other domains that are conceptualised differently across contexts. In so doing, we can create SEL assessments and SEL programs that are genuinely relevant to the needs of participants.

Jordan Kindergarten Data for Decision Making

This report presents findings of a national survey of parents regarding enrollment in preprimary education (kindergarten) in Jordan. The findings are surprising because they suggest that the real enrollment rate is significantly higher than what government statistics indicate. The discrepancy seems to be due to a high level of kindergarten provision from private sector and civil society actors who are not licensed by the Ministry of Education.