Transforming primary education relies on collective resolve throughout the whole system. Lasting change is possible when every person along the chain – from central government, down through regional and local government to head teachers and classroom teachers – buys into the same priorities and takes responsibility for their part in the ‘revolution’.
Uganda has the world’s second-youngest population, yet it faces challenges in delivering equitable and quality education learning outcomes. Nationwide, 33% of primary school pupils are literate while 45% are numerate. Over 50% of teachers are either absent or not teaching when at school, while children receive less than three hours’ teaching every day. Nearly all girls and boys aged 11-14 have experienced physical violence from teachers in school, which can lead to negative lasting impacts on physical and mental health, while fuelling absenteeism. Uganda’s economy is reliant on agriculture and industry for its drive towards middle-income status by 2040. However, it currently faces a ‘youth bulge’ that signals increased unemployment due to a rise in the number of young people with limited skills and education. The Ugandan government recognised an opportunity to strengthen the whole education system through better use of data to drive effective management, and by ensuring accountability through clear roles and responsibilities at every level.
In 2018, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) in Uganda launched the Strengthening Education Systems for Improved Learning (SESIL) programme to improve the quality and equity of measurable learning outcomes at lower primary level. Implemented by Cambridge Education, this four and a half-year UK aid-funded programme centres on an approach called M4R (Managing for Results). M4R seeks to strengthen routine data collection around five drivers for improved learning: Increased time spent by teacher in schools, improved pupil attendance, increased time spent by pupils in learning, improved safety of children in and around schools and improved leadership of schools as places of learning.
Through M4R, teachers, headteachers, district officers and ministry officials explore data collection, analysis and visualisation techniques to help them set up monthly routines for monitoring real-time progress against the five priorities. They are then supported to interpret the results, make decisions aimed at accelerating progress, and track actions taken in relation to the identified barriers. By enhancing information flows and communication between the levels, any issues can then be escalated from school to local government to central government, and vice versa. “We are focussing everyone in the system on the interaction between teachers and students in the classroom,” explained Charlie Gordon, Technical Team Leader at SESIL. “By providing the means to capture performance data in real-time, each level can take actions based on what the evidence is telling them. We have the diagnostic tools to give the right people responsibility and then hold system actors to account. They are empowered to own the response.”
So far SESIL has supported over 1,800 schools to improve data monitoring routines. The programme has trained over 6,000 headteachers, teachers, school management committees chairpersons and Senior Assistant Secretaries (Sub-County Chiefs) from the West Nile and Eastern Uganda regions to build a common understanding of the M4R approach.
To date, 90% of schools are submitting data on a monthly basis via SMS and over half of the schools are taking actions to improve the performance that they find in the data. All SESIL-supported districts are having monthly management meetings. Already, there is evidence of intrinsic value from reporting and collecting data: effectively shining a spotlight on what needs to change and identifying solutions. In 2020, SESIL will deepen its support to schools and districts to pilot sustainable solutions to improve learning outcomes for all children.
Click on the following link to read more about the SESIL programme.