Despite the consensus that education is a human right and agreement on the role it plays in human and social development, the issue of out-of-school children and children at risk of dropping out is still a critical one. According to the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS), the number of out-of-school children in Africa grew by 20 million between 2009 and 2021, when numbers reached 98 million with girls making up over 50% of this number. Even greater numbers of children and youth are at risk of failing to complete their education, which has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Accelerated Education Models (AEMs) are one of several innovative programs being used to address the educational outcomes of out-of-school children to support their transition and retention within formal education systems. This is why the Graça Machel Trust partnered with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), a joint endeavour with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), to conduct research to highlight possible collaborative and partnership opportunities in addressing the global and regional programme inefficiencies. The assessments were done in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania and the findings have been used to inform the piloting and testing of scalable intervention approaches for the Back2School project currently being rolled out in these countries.
Some of the key findings of the assessment include:
In most countries, AEMs fall under adult education or other education sub-directorates and not the main ministry of education. This means a lack of oversight and resources from the education ministry, which leads to implementation challenges on the ground. Also, weak monitoring and evaluation methods as well as nationally standardised education performance assessment for accelerated education means it is difficult to assess the long-term impact of the models. A very interesting unintended consequence of AEM programmes though, is that many resource-constrained parents are now intentionally retaining their children from school to opt for a condensed ten-month program as opposed to an extended three-year education program.
The Back2School project pilot examines the existing types of accelerated education models offered in each country to identify empirical evidence of strategies required to improve policy and systemic barriers that impede efforts to increase enrolment, retention and transition of rural Out-Of-School-Girls.
So while the long-term impact of AEM programmes has yet to be seen, it remains clear that there is a lot of work to be done to reduce the high number of out-of-school children, update the current accelerated education models and respond to the needs of learners and communities. It will take partnerships such as the one between the Graça Machel Trust and KIX, together with other key stakeholders, to make a significant dent in the 98 million children out of school. The full assessment report can be found at: https://gracamacheltrust.org/2023/04/26/back2school-assessment-report-accelerated-learning-models-for-out-of-school-girls-in-ethiopia-kenya-and-tanzania/