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How accelerated education strengthens public schooling: Experiences from Mali and Liberia

Thu, March 26, 8:15 to 9:45am, Hyatt Regency Miami, Floor: Terrace (Level 0), Gardenia A

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session (English)


According to UNESCO, over 263 million children and adolescents are out of school. This includes children who never started school or who dropped out after enrolment.
One of the responses to dealing with this unsatisfied demand of education is to offer alternative education programs to those who could not access formal learning programs. Key amongst these alternative approaches is the Accelerated Education Program (AEP). According to the Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG), an Accelerated Education Program is: “A flexible, age-appropriate programme, run in an accelerated timeframe, which aims to provide access to education for disadvantaged, over-age, out-of-school children and youth. This may include those who missed out on or had their education interrupted due to poverty, marginalisation, conflict and crisis. The goal of Accelerated Education Programmes is to provide learners with equivalent, certified competencies for basic education using effective teaching and learning approaches that match their level of cognitive maturity. … AEPs emphasise acceleration of a curriculum such that students get an equivalent level of education in a shortened time frame. This requires increased and more effective time on task, emphasis on literacy and numeracy with a socio-emotional learning component and, oftentimes, removal of non-core subjects. Programmes are flexible to meet the unique needs of the learners they aim to serve.”
Due to the huge needs, the number of AEPs is increasing as well as the effort to design and implement quality AEPs. To achieve AEP quality and to provide equitable access to education, linking AEPs and formal education systems is a recurrent issue at both field and policy levels, that needs to be dealt with. At the field or community level, one of the most frequent challenges is that AEP centers and formal schools can be seen as de facto competitors, with parents tending to choose the AEP centers, especially when AEP centers are benefitting from better support than schools. The gap between resources invested in AEP centers and formal schools can also lead to tension between teachers and facilitators. Some research has also pointed out a negative spill-over effect of AEP graduates’ transfer into the formal system on the school itself and on the school quality. When an AEP succeeds in transitioning students in formal schools, it can considerably increase the number of students in low-resourced and over-crowded schools.
At the policy level, the challenge resides in the articulation between AEP policy and the global policy of school access. According to the context, AEP can be a short-term, transitional response to an emergency situation or it can be a longer-term, foundational program designed to work in tandem with the formal education system in order to provide vulnerable children with a second chance. In the first case of a transitional AEP, the challenge is to articulate AEP with policies supporting formal system recovery to allow timely enrollment of AEP graduates. In the second case of longer-term AEPs, the challenge is to articulate AEPs with policies aiming at improving direct/regular enrollment in formal school.
Through two of its projects in West Africa and its strong involvement in communities of practice (i.e. the Education in Crisis & Conflict Network that is also an active member of the Accelerated Education Working Group), EDC has capitalized on lessons learned, particularly on how AEPs can interact positively with the formal schooling system at both local and policy levels.
This panel will highlight approaches and experiences that are strengthening formal systems at the school, community, county and national levels through the implementation of AEPs. The Education Recovery Support Activity (ERSA) implemented in two conflict regions in northern Mali, and the Accelerated Quality Education for Liberian Children (AQE) project implemented in 6 counties of Liberia are both contributing to the improvement of their national education systems. Both of these projects undertook Rapid Education Risk Assessments (RERA) at the outset of the program and used the results to develop strategies for targeting specific zones, working with communities, integrating regional and district-level governmental actors, and developing educational materials suited to the psychosocial as well as basic education needs of the learners.
Examining the relationship between AE programming and formal schooling will generate an open discussion based on remaining challenges faced by both projects and on the 30-year experience of Mali regarding AEP. Since the 1990s, Mali has progressively developed a long-term AEP designed to work in non-conflict contexts, providing a second chance to the most vulnerable children. Due to the conflict started in 2012, several international organizations in Mali have also developed AEPs designed to support children returning to school after their schooling was interrupted or prevented by the conflict. This experience, and the current work-in-progress in Mali to design a National Strategy for Accelerated Education, give the MoE a strong background to share, centered on the design and the implementation of AEPs that are integrated into the national educational system in a coherent and forward-looking manner.

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