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Opportunity EduFinance
Level 18, 100 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 1GT

Telephone: +44 (0) 7768599834

© 2024 Opportunity International Education Finance functions under its US and UK affiliates. Opportunity International United Kingdom is registered as a charity in England and Wales (1107713) and in Scotland (SCO39692). Opportunity International United Statesis a 501(c)3 nonprofit.

Enhancing the EduQuality Program: Advancing Education for Inclusive Excellence

By Maham Khuhro

In anticipation of recently completing the three-year EduQuality program (‘Phase I’) with school partners in Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Colombia, the EduQuality team took the opportunity to review what is working well and what could be improved with program delivery and training content to ensure our partners receive the most relevant and impactful training and support.

Our goal at Opportunity EduFinance is to get more children into better schools. We know that ‘quality’ education has many dimensions, from safe learning environments to strong parent and community involvement, to driving student learning using inclusive best teaching practices. This commitment drives us to continuously refine and innovate our EduQuality program – from implementation design to training content and resources.

We spoke with Rebecca Curley and Lucy Odhiambo of the EduQuality Product Development Team to explore the driving forces behind these recent enhancements and explore their anticipated effects on our next cohorts of school partners across multiple countries.

What prompted the recent changes to the EduQuality training content, and what are the main objectives of these updates? 

Rebecca: 

Several reasons prompted the updates. Firstly, several countries, including Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, and Colombia, have completed the three-year program. This presented a great opportunity to implement updates as we transition to a newer version with new cohorts in these countries. When I first joined Opportunity International over two years ago, I reviewed all our training content and identified areas for improvement. However, implementing these changes mid-program was challenging, so we waited for the right moment to make large-scale updates.

Through observations in the field, discussions with our education specialists, and strategy meetings with the EduQuality team, we identified key focus areas. One major area was mainstreaming inclusive education throughout all our training content, including our Pathways to Excellence guide [P2E], SLPD [School Leadership Professional Development], and TMPD [Teacher Mentor Professional Development].

We had already mainstreamed gender inclusivity in 2022 and wanted to build on that by adopting a more inclusive education approach. Inclusive education ensures our training content includes all children, considering aspects like gender equality, special needs, disabilities, and children from ethnic or religious minorities and poor backgrounds.

Another aspect we integrated was climate education, particularly in the School Leadership Program [SLPD], addressing the pertinent issue of climate change. We developed sessions that focus on the impacts of climate change on the community and school level, using case studies from various countries in Africa and Colombia. These changes aim to create a cohesive approach to inclusive education and integrate climate education within the curriculum.

Lucy: 

In addition to Rebecca's points, we've enhanced language accessibility for users. Our content, including TMPD, SLPD, and the main P2E content, is now available in English, Kiswahili, and Spanish.

Can you elaborate on the new course sequencing and the introduction of new modules in the school leader and teacher mentor training? What are the expected outcomes from these modules? 

Rebecca: 

We are still developing this, but we finished Year 1 and Pathways to Excellence. Our team will continue developing Years 2 and 3 for SLPD and TMPD.

Changes to School Leadership Professional Development

We've slightly changed the sequencing [over the 3-year EduQuality schedule] and added new modules. Inclusive education is a big focus, with a new module preparing school leaders to lead inclusive schools. This module introduces the concept of inclusive education, addresses changing mindsets, and provides guidance on identifying and supporting different types of disabilities within schools. It also covers strategic planning, leading teaching and learning, and creating a school culture.

The Physical School Environment module, previously focused on improving school infrastructure, now includes aspects like accessibility, child protection, and climate resilience. Year three will end with a School Leadership Review and Reflect module, providing a transition to Phase II (a one-year transition period).

The objective is to engage school leaders and influence their mindset about their role, emphasizing strategic leadership, planning for school improvements, and driving school development plans.

Changes to Teacher Mentor Professional Development

We've made significant changes based on consultations and internal data. For instance, lesson planning modules have been moved earlier in the course due to insights [data] showing a gap in consistent lesson planning by teachers. The new lesson planning module is simplified and focuses on the essentials, with examples from different contexts.

In Year 2, we've consolidated phonics modules for a more cohesive learning experience. The modules now take a holistic approach to literacy, applicable to all primary grades and subjects. We've also introduced numeracy modules to address foundational skills critical post-COVID-19. Year 3 includes a new inclusion module, providing strategies for teachers to support all learners, drawing on principles of Universal Design for Learning.

Lucy: 

Feedback from teacher training held in Tanzania highlighted that many teachers create lesson plans as a formality rather than a tool for effective lesson delivery. Some school leaders, lacking educational expertise, use lesson plans to justify their practices to visiting education officials. Emphasizing proper lesson planning ensures quality lessons and includes evaluating lessons' effectiveness.

Climate education has been emphasized within the SLPD Physical School Environment module. What specific topics or practices will this include?  

Rebecca: 

It's still early days, as we are working on Years 2 and 3, but for Year 1 within SLPD, we have two sessions in the Physical School Environment module. The first session focuses on understanding climate change and its impacts on school leaders at both the community and school levels. We bring it back to their context and discuss solutions they have implemented to mitigate climate change impacts. For instance, some schools have altered their schedules due to extreme heat or weather events.

The second session focuses on climate adaptation, distinguishing it from climate mitigation. While mitigation involves standard responses like recycling, adaptation prepares schools for ongoing climate change. We use case studies from countries like Tanzania, Madagascar, Kenya, and Ghana to illustrate how schools have adapted their infrastructure. For example, a school in Ghana planted trees for shade, and another in an unpredictable climate implemented water harvesting systems. These adaptations have immediate local impacts, such as reducing temperatures and creating a more conducive learning environment.

Could you explain the reasoning behind changing "Inclusion and Special Education Needs" to "Inclusive Education"? 

Lucy: 

Pathway to Excellence is our primary reference document for all training content, so we had to mainstream all content, including terminology. The change from "Inclusion and Special Educational Needs" to "Inclusive Education" reflects a broader perspective of inclusion. Inclusive education addresses the needs and capabilities of all learners from diverse backgrounds, incorporating special educational needs and disabilities. It ensures all learners, regardless of their abilities, learn together in the same environment.

Rebecca: 

EduFinance adopts a gender equity and social inclusion approach in all our work. The domain now focuses on all children, incorporating those with special educational needs, disabilities, gender considerations, and those from various backgrounds. Inclusive education is an umbrella term encompassing strategies to ensure all children learn together.

The EduQuality training content will be delivered in multiple languages across different regions. How are you ensuring that the content is effectively adapted to each region's specific needs? 

Rebecca: 

We have regional coordinators for each region to contextualize our content. For Colombia, we already have Spanish versions of the EduQuality content. Contextualizing for different regions involves aligning with national guidelines, curriculums, and policies. For instance, Tanzania's contextualization included specific references to national standards. These adjustments ensure the content is relevant and applicable in each region's unique context.

Lucy: 

Additionally, our contextualization framework guides how we adapt content for different regions. This ensures that the training materials are not only linguistically accessible but also culturally and contextually appropriate for each region.

How do you envision the impact of these updates on the overall quality of education in the regions where the EduQuality program is being implemented? 

Rebecca: 

We are hoping that our education program will be more inclusive. Our content is more inclusive, and we are also training our education specialists on how to embed inclusive education within their facilitation. We're trying to strengthen the capacity of our education specialists and hope that inclusive education will be right at the center.

We have refreshed the design to make it more engaging and accessible, ensuring that our school leaders and teacher mentors can access our training content. We expect this will lead to reduced attrition rates [absences at training] among teacher mentors. Ultimately, with the improved literacy and numeracy modules, we hope to see improved learning outcomes.

Lucy: 

As a result of these updates, we expect to see an increase in enrolment rates [over time] due to inclusive education addressing myths and beliefs, particularly around disability and gender issues. This should lead to improved income for schools.

The quality of teaching and learning should improve due to inclusive instructional mechanisms based on universal design, which benefits all learners, not just those with special education needs and disabilities. We anticipate more diverse classrooms and a diverse teaching staff in terms of gender and disability.

Our content is designed to demystify myths and cultural connotations surrounding disability and to address the lack of trained manpower. By providing strong, evidence-based, and field-tested content, we aim to empower teachers by equipping teacher mentors to offer [their peers] professional development. We expect to see better results in terms of academic outcomes, improved student behavior, and greater engagement of parents and communities with schools.

 

 

Read more about insights from EduQuality school partners in the Dominican Republic & Guatemala here!

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