Opportunity EduFinance’s Pathways to Excellence (P2E) guide is a school improvement concept new to Opportunity supported schools, and now very much in demand. The guide, with its 31 ‘domains’ – focus areas of improvement, is designed to last over many years enabling schools to utilise it way beyond Opportunity’s support. Through 'Pathways', Opportunity’s Education Quality programme is supporting schools in learning how to self-assess and self-improve the quality of their schools and of the education they provide. Opportunity’s Education Specialist team helps schools conduct their self-assessments and choose their focus areas for improvement, resulting in a School Development Plan.
School development planning is also new to most schools Opportunity works with. In Uganda, Opportunity’s Head Education Specialist, Robinah Zawedde, has played an inspiring role ensuring the success of these development strategies within the school clusters she supports. Encapsulating this component of Opportunity’s Education Quality services, Robinah says:
“I was excited when we introduced the P2E school development planning process to our schools; it is an ongoing process that helps schools and complex communities to meet the dual challenges of enhancing quality and managing change. School Development Plans are the result of a self-assessment and analysis of the school's needs, and with guidance, the schools come up with their own plans”.
One Primary School, a member of the ‘Prestige’ Cluster, which is supported by Robinah, chose ‘Environment and Physical Setting’ as their main P2E focus category. During the self-assessment stage, the school reported challenges such as an “absence of a perimeter wall, exposing our children to insecurity” and “congested classrooms disrupting lesson delivery”. The school established a Management Committee and designed a School Development Plan to move up a level in this focus area. As a result they took out a School Improvement Loan from Opportunity Bank Uganda, then the whole community helped the school to construct three new classroom blocks, a perimeter fence, 14-stance water toilets – supported by two new cleaners - and a grass playing area with new equipment. Robinah reports that there has been really positive change in the school environment, safety of students, quality of teaching and community engagement.
Another Primary school from Robinah’s ‘Golden Opportunity’ Cluster, has whole-heartedly embraced the school development planning concept and their School Development Plan Committee meet twice a week. A great example of the Education Quality programme giving schools the tools and resources to sustainably support themselves. This school is committed to progressing up a level in the P2E domain ‘Broad and Balanced Curriculum’ making a concerted effort to change teaching methodologies. They aim to move away from teaching as standardised testing, and move towards child-centred learning. Robinah explains.
“Previously, the school faced challenges delivering curriculum that captured all elements of learning. This school has now established a culture of collaboration whereby teachers (new and old) collectively decide upon the delivery of curriculum, sharing knowledge and best practice. They have also rearranged the timetable and developed a new integrated curriculum following continual syllabus review by the committee.”
Opportunity’s Education Quality team have produced a guide for schools to further assist in their development planning. This alongside links to open source learning materials and resources on Opportunity’s OPEN Educator online platform maximises support to schools in each focus area they choose to improve. Jonathan Renaudon-Smith, Opportunity’s Director of Education Quality says:-
“Pathways to Excellence’ provides schools with a way of self-assessing against a challenging international scale and then provides targeted resources to stimulate discussion about what steps to take in their school development plans. Our team’s support aims to help schools take these ideas and put them into practice in a way which will be both effective and lasting.
We hope that it will help schools to develop a better understanding of how to make changes to teaching practice by offering practical and evidence-informed recommendations for effective implementation.
In developing our school development planning guide, we reviewed the best available international research and consulted experts, teachers, and academics. The recommendations cover creating the right conditions for implementation, as well as a structured process for planning, delivering and sustaining change.”