The Teacher Professional Support System in Nepal: A case of implementation research informing policy [CIES 2023 Presentation]

In 2014, the Nepal Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology (MOEST) developed a National Early Grade Reading Program (NEGRP), aimed at improving the reading achievement of early-grade students throughout Nepal. USAID has supported the government’s efforts to improve early-grade reading under NEGRP through both Government-to-Government funding and through the Early-Grade Reading Program (EGRP) I & II from 2015-2022. The NEGRP focused on evidence-based pillars for foundational literacy: Curriculum and materials, Teacher training and ongoing support, Community Mobilization, Assessment, and Systems strengthening. This paper will focus on the teacher ongoing support pillar of NEGRP and describe how processes of Monitoring, Evaluation, Research, Learning and Adaptation informed the evolution of the Ministry’s Teacher Professional Support System. EGRP & EGRP II were implemented in the context of Nepal’s transition to federalism, which began following the ratification of its constitution in 2015. This resulted in a situation where roles and responsibilities within the education system were in flux and authority for decision-making and funding shifted to the local level. Thus, implementation decisions had to recognize and adjust to a context in-flux. From the outset of NEGRP, the model for ongoing teacher support was based on evidence in the field on what works, with a heavy reliance on external coaches who could provide feedback and support to teachers on a regular basis. Challenges in the Nepal context, including the diversity of contexts within Nepal, as well as the changes taking place due to federalism, made it apparent that adjustments would be needed. As a result, EGRP supported the MOEST to undertake the first implementation research study, which supplemented Monitoring and Evaluation data to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the teacher support model, as well as to identify possible alternatives. A second iteration of the government’s model for Teacher Professional Support was developed based on the findings from this learning and joint reflection by stakeholders, government officials, and project staff – together with the continuing evolution around teacher learning and support in the field more broadly. A second round of monitoring, learning, and operational research enabled EGRP and MOEST to further hone the model – as well as to provide needed further adjustments to align with the newly federalized system as it evolved. Based on those findings and joint reflection, GoN developed a Teacher Professional Support that incorporates a flexible menu of options that enables local authorities to determine the combination of approaches that will be most suitable for their local context and to address local challenges. This paper will briefly present the iterations to the NEGRP ongoing teacher support model, explore the MERLA approaches that were used in this adaptive process and discuss lessons learned. The authors would then seek to engage the audience in discussion around the broader implications and pose the question: how can program design build in opportunities for this type of iterative learning from the outset?