Top Commentary Posts of 2017

Although our International Education SharEd community is barely 1 year old, we have enjoyed the opportunity to share personal stories of projects and programs we are working on or areas of research interest through the commentary ("blog") feature. A total of 20 articles have been posted, although some of these were reposted from other blogs dating back as far as 2011.

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Fee-free public education and parental participation in Tanzania

Like many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Tanzania has attempted to abolish the practice of requiring monetary contributions for school attendance, both at the primary and, more recently, the secondary level.  There are certainly many positive outcome of abolishing contributions, such as increased attendance rates and a greater likelihood of attaining higher levels of schooling, not to mention governments simply sticking with their promises to provide access to free schooling. These have been well documented. However, it should surprise no one that abolishing required monetary contributions is not a silver bullet for educational change. Fee abolition has been shown to worsen certain quality standards (such as increasing class sizes) and governmental capitation grants, which are supposed to replace parent contributions, have historically been insufficient to fund school operational expenses. It is a complex undertaking. But could getting rid of monetary contributions also discourage parents from participating and volunteering at their children’s school? That question seems counterintuitive. Why would an educational reform that is designed to expand access to schooling act as a deterrent for parent participation? However, that is precisely what we discovered during a recent monitoring exercise of the Tusome Pamoja educational activity in Tanzania.

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Low-tech improvements to evaluation and learning: Reflections from the annual AEA conference

The best ways to improve evaluations are less technical than people think. We evaluators have an uneasy attitude to this conclusion--our livelihoods depend on maintaining the impression that we have complex technical knowledge beyond the grasp of ordinary folk. I am not going to do anything to undermine that impression, but it’s striking how much simple, common-sense approaches can improve evaluations. I recently attended the American Evaluation Associate (AEA) conference in Washington, D.C.

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