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In Event: Conflict Sensitive Education Series - Measuring Progress Appropriately: Indicators for Safe Learning Environments, Conflict Sensitivity, Access and Retention, and Program Adaptation
One of USAID ECCN’s thematic priority areas for enhancing conflict sensitivity through building and sharing knowledge is Making Learning Safer. Indeed, safety is a key component of USAID’s Education Strategy:
“Education in conflict and crisis environments is a function of providing security, services, infrastructure, and stability where the absence of such fundamental requirements will prevent effective learning. It is, first and foremost, a question of assuring access to safe spaces, to physical infrastructure, and to basic education services, primarily to children and youth.”
More specifically, safety-related objectives in the strategy are:
• Provision of safe learning opportunities for all children and youth, girls and boys, including formal and non-formal programs that focus on literacy, numeracy, and basic skills, as well as teacher training where there are shortages
• Community-based efforts to restore access and to provide safety from violence, especially for marginalized groups
• Rehabilitation and construction of temporary, semi-permanent, permanent infrastructure (such as classrooms and toilets) that are accessible to all
In early 2016, the USAID Education Office recommended four new standard indicators for USAID EiCC programming; one of those indicators relates specifically to SLE: “Number of primary or secondary school learners in schools/learning environments that were brought into compliance with locally-defined criteria for safe learning environments with USG assistance” and specifically:
“A safe learning environment is typically defined as a place where structured learning happens that is free from environmental, internal and external threats to learners’ and education personnel safety and wellbeing (these threats are related to the, and where infrastructure of a learning environment and also to the people within a learning environment) is deemed safe”.
This indicator is powerful, not least because of its focus on ‘locally-defined criteria’ for SLE, which is critical for ensuring conflict sensitivity in education programs. Failure to closely monitor threats to SLE could put children and teachers at further risk of harm as a result of learning, could exacerbate existing conflicts, or could be a missed opportunity to design programs that appreciate and take advantage of local strategies for overcoming risks to safety.
Early work conducted by ECCN (2014) was to conceptualize risks to safer learning environments (SLEs) through an EiCC and conflict sensitivity lens. ECCN also conducted a review of USAID EiCC performance monitoring and evaluation plans (PMEPs) and found that:
• Many Goal 3 programs are currently using indicators that measure outputs, and often times lack indicators that measure outcomes.
• Indicators related to SLEs were lacking: of the 25 PMEP analyzed, 36% measured progress towards safe learning environments in some capacity.
• There was a lack of consistent measures for similar concepts; no single measurement of safety in any of the PMPs was also used elsewhere.
Therefore, to help IPs better measure safety within their own programs and to enhance conflict sensitive education more broadly, ECCN has developed a list of recommended indicators and performance indicator reference sheets (PIRS) related to safer learning environments.
The list/PIRS that ECCN has developed is unique and particularly useful because is aligned with USAID ECCN’s conceptualization of safety and the three types of threats that occur in conflict and/or crisis environments: internal, external, and environmental threats. This will help IPs to better measure specific types of threats to safety, rather than safety generally speaking – which will of course enable more selective program plans and adaptations depending on the threat. The intended audience of the indicators are program designers and planners who are putting together their PMEPs (or for non-USAID organizations, similar M&E plans), and also for evaluators. The list/PIRS can be used in any context where safety needs to be measured – either to provide a snapshot at a certain time and place, or to provide a measurement of change over time. Though the list/PIRS will not help programmers decide how to respond to observed threats to safety, as it is purely a research/M&E tool, it may help programmers consider various aspects of safety / threats to safety in their programming that would otherwise not be considered.
This presentation will briefly outline the crowd-sourced process that was utilized for developing the list, linking the importance of measuring SLE to the broader objective of conflict sensitive education, and then will present the recommended indicators and measurement specifications.