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#6 from 2017: What is a systems approach, anyway?

David Evans's picture

Our Top Ten blog posts by readership in 2017. This post was originally posted on February 27, 2017.

“It makes me a little crazy when you keep saying systems.” – Jowhor Ile, in And After Many Days

At home, we have a porchlight at the entrance to our house. If I flip the switch for that light, there is about a 50-50 chance it will turn on. The reason? There is another switch in the basement that controls the electricity flow to the porch, and the porchlight will only come on if both switches are on.

This – slightly adapted – analogy came from Justin Sandefur at the Center for Global Development, in an effort to explain what a systems approach is and how it can improve development programming.

If you’re like us, there is so much talk about systems that it can be easy to get lost. At a recent event, we asked a mixed group of operational teams and researchers, “How confident are you that you know what a systems approach is?” Nearly 40 percent had little to no idea.

How confident are you that you know what a systems approach is?

To take education as an example, a systems approach to education recognizes the following:

1. An education system is made up of different actors (students, teachers, administrators, political leaders), accountability relationships (management, politics), and design elements (financing, information) (see Pritchett or Scur).

2. Changes to one part of the system are moderated by other parts of the system. For example, the effectiveness of investments to get children to school will be limited (or enhanced) by the quality of the schooling.

3. A change to one part of the system leads to changes in other parts of the system: increased public provision of school supplies won’t increase learning if parents subsequently reduce their pre-existing investments in school supplies, as indicated by what happened in India and Zambia (Das et al.).

A systems approach seeks to explicitly take these separate components and their interlinking movements into account.

Three models demonstrate how a systems approach can apply at each point in the reform process: One identifies the current performance of each element of the system, one answers questions of what happens as elements of that system change, and one seeks to leverage this information to improve reforms.

Education amidst Fragility, Conflict and Violence

Stephen Commins's picture

 Maria Fleischmann / World BankAccess to schooling and quality learning can be undermined by various manifestations of fragility, conflict and violence (FCV). The effect of different elements of FCV on education has both immediate and long lasting impacts on children’s learning, their well-being and their future prospects.
 
In different forms, FCV manifestations contribute to a denial of the right to education, whether from government failures, a violent ecosystem, and the treatment of displaced children and divisions within schools, attacks on schools or the language of instruction. This can include the ways in which teachers and principals treat lower castes, children with disabilities, or minority groups; the threat or real violence against girls; as well as how textbooks portray history and culture.  These issues exist globally, not just in ‘fragile states’.
 
Over the past two decades, greater attention has focused on the impact that long-term complex humanitarian emergencies, fragile states, and contexts of protracted crises on education. What has received less attention is the aggregate impact of various forms of negative conflict and intra-personal violence.
 
There are three entry points to consider for FCV: protracted crises; conflict as the basis of exclusion; direct and indirect forms of intra-personal violence. 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Want a Better, Safer World? Build a Finance Facility for Education
Stanford Social Innovation Review
The global education crisis can seem overwhelming. Today, there are 263 million children and young people throughout the world who are not in school, and 60 million of them live in dangerous emergencies. Fast forward to 2030, and our world could be one where more than half of all children—800 million out of 1.6 billion—will lack basic secondary-level skills. Almost all of them will live in low- and middle-income countries. What’s more, many of those children will never have the chance for an education at all; others who do attend school will drop out after only a few years. Their job prospects will be poor—their likelihood of becoming the entrepreneurs who will drive the next stage of global growth even more uncertain. This is a prediction of course—not a done deal by any means—and yet many low- and middle-income country leaders fear that this grim possibility will become their reality. They understand that lack of quality education will leave their countries unable to gain economic ground or improve the well-being of their citizens. And they realize that large numbers of young people—who should be a huge asset to their countries—can easily shift to the liability column and become sources of instability if they are deprived of their fundamental right to an education.

Business, Human Rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals
Business and Sustainable Development Commission.
Companies’ single greatest opportunity to contribute to human development lies in advancing respect for the human rights of workers and communities touched by their value chains, according to the new paper, Business, Human Rights, and the Sustainable Development Goals, authored by Shift and commissioned by the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. People around the world are affected by business activities every day, many very positively. Roughly 2 billion people are touched by the value chains of multinational companies. Yet these same people are exposed to the harms that can also result when their human rights are not respected by business, cutting them off from the benefits of development.

Campaign Art: #GirlsCount

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Getting access to quality education is one of the most pressing challenges. Around 61 million primary school-age children remained out of school in 2014, even though globally the enrollment in primary education in developing countries reached 91 percent.
 


Source: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics; WDI (SE.PRE.ENRRSE.PRM.ENRRSE.SEC.ENRRSE.TER.ENRR).

Although a global issue, it affects some groups more disproportionally than others. In many countries around the world girls are more likely to be denied education than boys. In order to raise awareness about the gender inequality and to urge global leaders to prioritize girls’ education, The One Campaign has launched a digital campaign #GirlsCount.

Blog post of the month: Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For April 2017, the featured blog post is "Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries" by Jing Guo.

Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
 
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
 
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
 
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
Chart 1

 

Strengthening governance is top-of-mind for opinion leaders in developing countries

Jing Guo's picture
Capable, efficient, and accountable government institutions are essential for a country’s sustainable development. The most recent polls of opinion leaders in World Bank client countries confirmed that addressing governance is now at the top of countries’ development priorities.  
 
The World Bank Group annually surveys nearly 10,000 influencers in 40+ countries across the globe to assess their views on development issues, including opinions about public sector governance and reform.  In the past five years, the survey reached more than 35,000 opinion leaders working in government, parliament, private sector, civil society, media, and academia in more than 120 developing countries.
 
Data from the most recent 2016 survey indicate that public sector governance/reform (i.e., government effectiveness, public financial management, public expenditure, and fiscal system reform) is regarded as the most important development priority across 45 countries by a plurality of opinion leaders (34%), surpassing education (30%) and job creation (22%). (1)
 
The chart below shows that concerns over governance have grown substantially among opinion leaders since 2012.
 
Chart 1

 

KIAT Guru: Engaging communities to improve education in Indonesia

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture
Indonesia successfully reduced its poverty rate over the last two decades. Yet, this growth was accompanied by one of the fastest increases in inequality in East Asia and the Pacific.  While the poverty rate in urban areas has fallen to 8.2%, in remote and rural areas it remains around 14%.

This inequality is exacerbated by the persistent poor quality of public services, such as education, in rural and remote areas. While various government initiatives have improved access to education, quality and equity remain major challenges for those in rural and remote areas.
 
To address these issues, the World Bank has partnered with the government of Indonesia to launch a pilot project called “KIAT Guru,” which aims to improve teacher presence, teacher service quality, and student learning outcomes, while enhancing community engagement and participation in remote areas.

“We [have] two different mechanisms. One of them is community empowerment… The community develops a service agreement with schools so they can agree upon the five to seven indicators that they think are a priority,” says Dewi Susanti, Senior Social Development Specialist, who leads the project.

In this video, Dewi Susanti and World Bank Senior Director Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez (@Ede_WBG) discuss the KIAT Guru project and the lessons learned from its early stages.  
 
KIAT Guru project

What is a systems approach, anyway?

David Evans's picture
“It makes me a little crazy when you keep saying systems.” – Jowhor Ile, in And After Many Days

At home, we have a porchlight at the entrance to our house. If I flip the switch for that light, there is about a 50-50 chance it will turn on. The reason? There is another switch in the basement that controls the electricity flow to the porch, and the porchlight will only come on if both switches are on.

This – slightly adapted – analogy came from Justin Sandefur at the Center for Global Development, in an effort to explain what a systems approach is and how it can improve development programming.

If you’re like us, there is so much talk about systems that it can be easy to get lost. At a recent event, we asked a mixed group of operational teams and researchers, “How confident are you that you know what a systems approach is?” Nearly 40 percent had little to no idea.

How confident are you that you know what a systems approach is?

To take education as an example, a systems approach to education recognizes the following:

1. An education system is made up of different actors (students, teachers, administrators, political leaders), accountability relationships (management, politics), and design elements (financing, information) (see Pritchett or Scur).

2. Changes to one part of the system are moderated by other parts of the system. For example, the effectiveness of investments to get children to school will be limited (or enhanced) by the quality of the schooling.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Darejani Markozashvili's picture

These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Recurring Storms: Food Insecurity, Political Instability, and Conflict
Center for Strategic and International Studies

Renewed and expanded international collaboration to anticipate and prepare for recurring storms of food insecurity is essential. Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Syria are examples that vividly underscore the explosiveness of situations in which people find themselves unable to get the food they want and need. The experiences of post-conflict countries highlight some critical issues that need to be prioritized in order to regain sustainable food security. Averting future storms will require the recognition that food security challenges will extend long beyond 2030, political leadership must be visibly committed to these issues, and actions to reduce fragmentation of effort will be critical.

World Radio Day
Dawn
RADIO remains the most dynamic and engaging mediums in the 21st century, offering new ways to interact and participate. This powerful communication tool and low-cost medium can reach the widest audience, including remote communities and vulnerable people such as the illiterate, the disabled, women, youth and the poor. Radio offers these communities a platform to intervene in public debate, irrespective of their educational level. It provides an opportunity to participate in policy and decision-making processes, and to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expression. The impact of radio is at different levels: it is an essential tool in times of disaster management as an effective medium to reach affected people when other means of communication are disrupted; it is a way of promoting gender equality by providing rural women access to knowledge and support; finally, it is inclusive, engaging youth in the media as catalysts of change.

Campaign Art: #GirlsNotBrides

Darejani Markozashvili's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Child marriage is a violation of human rights and needs to be addressed worldwide by citizens, community organizations, local, and federal government agencies, as well as international organizations and civil society groups. Child marriage cuts across borders, religions, cultures, and ethnicities and can be found all over the world. Although sometimes boys are subjected to early marriage, girls are far more likely to be married at a young age.

This is where we stand today: in developing countries, 1 in every 3 girls is married before the age of 18. And 1 in nine girls is married before turning 15. Try looking at it this way: the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that if current trends continue, worldwide, 142 million girls will be married by 2020. Another prediction from a global partnership called Girls Not Brides suggests, that if there is no reduction in child marriages, the global number of child brides will reach 1.2 billion by 2050.

Why is this such a critical issue? Child marriage undermines global effort to reduce poverty and boost shared prosperity, as it traps vulnerable individuals in a cycle of poverty. Child marriage deprives girls of educational opportunities. Often times, when girls are married at a young age, they are more likely to drop out of school and are at a higher risk of death due to early childbirth. According to the World Health Organization, complications during pregnancy and childbirth are the second cause of death for 15-19 year-old girls globally.  

In order to raise awareness about child marriage in the Middle East, a Lebanon-based organization, KAFA, produced this video as a social experiment.
Social epxeriment by KAFA

Source: KAFA Lebanon

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