Postcards from Guatemala

I’m here learning about the educational system in order to assist colleagues in developing new materials, and to contextualize existing training materials for school leaders in low-fee private schools. I’ve also had the chance to experience the wonderful hospitality of this nation.

Guatemala City has about one million inhabitants and is subdivided into 22 zones making it easy to locate schools. Zones are numbered 1-25 and when asking for directions people will tell you that something is in a particular zone. The lovely historic area of town is Zone 1.

The school year is ending right now and I had the pleasure of hearing about what children and youth will be doing over the long vacation (working, hanging out with friends, taking extra classes, etc.).

These secondary students are sanding down their desks which is typically done at the end of the year in many schools.   I think it’s a great idea!

Students have a long vacation with classes not starting again until late January/early February. It begs all kinds of questions—How many days should children attend school and how long should the school day be? Like many other Central American countries most Guatemalan public and private schools have two shifts (7-noonish) and 1:30-2:00 to 5:00ish. So, although we know the research on seat time (it’s about quality not quantity) I just find that children in so many low-income countries are attending school significantly fewer hours than those in many high-income nations.

Here are two timetables (horarios).

Below is an end of the year exam schedule for the second shift students.

The outside of a typical school in Guatemala City.

The education challenges in this country are many: low levels of literacy, attainment and retention, and great disparities between urban and rural populations, among indigenous students, and between male and female students.

Children’s writings and art about the importance of peace.

Since the Peace Accords of 1996 (the Guatemalan Civil War lasted thirty-six-years and took place from 1960 to 1996), all government administrations have supported the expansion of primary schools. Since 2009, primary school enrollment rates have been almost 100% and there is nearly equal enrollment of boys and girls.  According to data from USAid, first grade completion rates have increased dramatically (by 18%) in the last four years as a result of the implementation of several quality education policies and programs.  Still, more than 30% of students did not pass first grade in 2013.  In addition, only about three-fourths of those enrolled in primary school graduate from 6th grade (80% of boys and 73% of girls), and the enrollment rate for middle school (7th-9th grades) is less than 40%. There’s so much work to do!

 

A newspaper article describing how test scores reflect the education reality of the nation.

 

We met with several staff in the Office of Evaluation and Assessment. According to 2010 Ministry of Education data, 50% of third graders reached national standards in mathematics and just over 50% reached national standards in reading.  Among sixth graders, only 45% reached national mathematics standards and only 30% achieved national reading standards.

More than two million youths between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of school and don’t have basic life or vocational skills to enter the workforce.  Youth face increasingly difficult conditions, including high levels of unemployment, social and economic marginalization, rapid urbanization, increasing crime, and lack of basic services.  You can see why so many youth head North for work.

Starting in a few months nine new countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, Zambia, Senegal, Cambodia and Bhutan will be participating for the first time in the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA).

These posters were hanging in the ministry office.

Some travel observations…

Like nearly all major cities in the world there is chronic traffic congestion. Guatemala also has shortages of safe drinkable water in some areas of the city, and crime (there are maras—gangs) are perennial problems.  Folks told me that the gangs started in Los Angeles and when people returned to Guatemala they brought the concept with them.

The city of Antigua is a fabulous place to visit—lovely, colorful, lots of museums, art, gardens and great restaurants. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. I only spent a day there, but I hope to return in a few months!

A main street in Antigua

 

The Convent of the Capuchin Sisters

Finally, I’m not sure how many countries in the world have MacDonald’s deliveries, but Guatemala sure seems to have these motor bikes everywhere!

 

You might want to visit some time…but skip MacDonald’s and try the flor de Jamaica—it’s a special type of hibiscus juice—a bit sweet and sour—deliciosa!

Meet Paula Cordeiro

 

Low-Fee Private Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa: Teacher Retention and Working Conditions

 

This is the second in a series of blogs I’m writing about Low-Fee Private Schools around the world. The first blog, written last May, is here.

The phenomena of Westerners and Western based-organizations building schools in ‘third-world nations’ has been occurring for centuries. Various faith-based groups (e.g., Jesuits, Friends, Anglicans, Methodists) and colonial governments (e.g., France, the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands) founded private schools in non-Western nations beginning in the eighteenth century, with some still in existence today.  Many of those schools targeted locals to be converted to a particular faith, while others were schools serving expatriates and had relatively high tuition that was often not available to locals and, in some cases, host country nationals were not invited to enroll.

Sunrise: A low-fee private school

Today there is great diversity in the types of private schools found in these emerging nations.  In addition to single, independent private schools, there are a growing number of for-profit companies investing in chains of private schools (e.g., Bridge International Academies, Omega, APEC, SPARK) as well as various secular and faith-based international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) partnering with private schools in a variety of ways (e.g., Edify; Opportunity International, Room to Read).  Given that the MDGs were developed in 2000 with the goal of having all children in every nation complete a basic education by 2015, and, given that many government school systems in low and middle-income nations did not have the resources to serve the thousands of children who had not previously attended school, the emergence in the last twenty years of large numbers of private schools is not surprising.  It’s estimated that there are more than one million low-fee private schools (LFPSs) in low and middle-income nations (Economist, 2015).  While many are run by NGOs, the fastest growing group are individual low-fee private schools (Cordeiro & Brion, 2018). And now with the SDGs replacing the MDGs in 2016 the focus has moved from access to school to inclusion and equity.

Educator Preparation in Africa

Because the preparation for new or existing principals is limited in emerging nations, there is a dearth of literature on the topic (Bush, Kiggundu & Moorosi, 2011).  Numerous scholars recognize that principals of schools are not prepared well enough for the tasks they have to accomplish (Donlevy, 2009; see various works by Raj Mestry).  This lack of leadership preparation is even more evident in emerging nations (Swaffield, Jull, & Ampah-Mensah, 2013). Yet many scholars argue that school leaders play a crucial role in school improvement, teacher morale and retention, and student learning (Grissom & Harrington, 2010; Ingersoll, 2001).

Typical school schedule in a low fee private school in Uganda

Bruce Barnett’s April blog on this site, maintains that leadership preparation and professional development requirements can be thought of as a continuum from tightly to loosely regulated.   As an example, the US has a tightly regulated system, while countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden have moderately regulated systems where trainings are offered but not required. Barnett and other scholars (Lumby, Crow, & Pashiardis, 2008) state that countries such as most African and Central and some South American nations have loosely regulated systems in which preparation programs for aspiring school leaders are rare or non-existent and professional development offerings are infrequent

In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, there are many untrained principals who do not have the necessary skills, knowledge, or attitudes to manage their schools effectively and efficiently (Otunga, Serem, & Kindiki, 2008).  According to Bush and Oduro (2006) schools in Ghana are often ruled by authority, seniority and language and not by who may be competent for the challenging tasks at hand.

In addition to the lack of school leader development, there is great variability in low and middle- income countries with regard to teacher preparation and retention.  In some African nations such as Ethiopia, the majority of teachers in LFPSs hold teaching credentials and/or degrees; while in countries such as Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana it is far more typical to encounter few teachers at the primary level who have any formal education beyond a high school diploma.

An acute teacher shortage exists in at least 74 low and middle-income countries. This results in millions of children being excluded from primary education and beyond.  Ghana is one of the sub-Saharan countries with an acute teacher shortage.  Thus, exploring what Ghanaian schools can do to support current teachers is key to Ghana achieving SDG 4.  Since approximately 25% of the schools across Ghana are private and it is estimated that up to 60% of the primary schools in Ghana’s capital region may be private (Cordeiro & Brion, 2018), understanding how private school leaders can increase teacher retention is a crucial part of developing education policy in Ghana.

Here I will briefly describe the results from four ethnographic case studies conducted in Ghana (Cordeiro & Brion, in process).  The section of the study reported here addresses the following research questions:  1) What are the challenges of Ghanaian teachers in low-fee private schools? 2) In what ways, if at all, do school leaders support teachers at their schools?

During the 2016-17 school year Corrine Brion and I conducted four case studies in the Greater Accra region. These schools serve children from nursery (age 3) until Junior High School (age 14).  We spent a total of 48 days in the four schools. There were six forms of data collection:  1) individual interviews with teachers and with school leaders; 2) focus group interviews with teachers; 3) a teacher survey; 4) classroom observations; 5) photographs and 6) documents. One focus group was held at each school with 5-7 teachers per group for a total of 25 teachers; additionally, three individual teacher interviews were held. We digitally recorded interviews with eight school leaders. A total of 67 teacher surveys were completed from all four schools with the response rates ranging from 80-95%. Using the Stallings Classroom Observation Instrument a total of nineteen classes were observed. We took dozens of photographs and collected documents such as teacher contracts, handbooks, etc.

Many sub-Saharan countries have handbooks for school leaders created by the Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, few school leaders have copies due to a lack of fiscal resources and printing of sufficient copies by the government.

We are in the process of writing the full paper but here are a few key findings. Teachers differed from school leaders in how they viewed the challenges they encountered. For example, teachers discussed three main challenges: 1) inadequacy or late payment of their salaries; 2) poor facilities; and, 3) few teaching resources.  For school leaders, proprietors hesitated to talk about late or inadequate salaries and they maintained that many parents were frequently late in paying tuition.  When probed as to what their financial plan was for the school, three of the four school owners did not have a plan beyond continuing current practices. The paper also discusses education policy implications with regard to Ghanaian private school teachers, as well as teacher preparation and development.

We hope to have our proposal for a conference session approved soon so in 2019 we can share the full paper. Stay tuned.

meet Paula A. Cordeiro

get in touch ……..

As the school year begins in many countries around the world, here are some fascinating and quick reads on education.

¡Saludos desde California!

News in education development

A good read from The Hechinger Report on literacy: This Mississippi district says these four strategies are helping struggling readers. And here’s one more by Matt Bardin on literacy and adolescents.

Meanwhile the World Bank is urging small schools to merge. And on the returns to investing in education here’s a link to a recent article by education economists George Psacharopoulos & Harry Patrinos.

Reading time in an Ethiopian classroom.

Philanthropy in education

So, Jack Ma, former English teacher and Chinese business investor, and philanthropist, is retiring. He is the co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group. Here’s a recent article about how he will focus on education philanthropy. Here’s an article about philanthropy in the USA. Religion is still the largest charitable cause in America with education ranking second.

 

Europe

Here’s a story about the European Union and Georgia. And as the new school year begins in Croatia: The experimental “School for Life” reform program begins. In France, a new law means that students can no longer use mobile phones in school. Here’s a video of students’ opinions. Your thoughts?

Education in Southeast Asia

Here’s an article on what’s happening in education in the Philippines. And here’s what’s new on the topic of literacy in several countries in Southeast Asia . This article on the Dongria Tribe in eastern India is fascinating. Education does indeed open doors to new opportunities for children but it also pulls them away from their traditional ways of life.

Education around Africa and the Middle East

Interested in why some schools are outliers? Read this blog on positive deviance in action. School leaders in Kenya who are willing to try things out!  Meanwhile in Ghana our University of San Diego team is working with Ghanaian colleagues to ensure that caning students is a thing of the past, but look at what’s happening at a charter school in Georgia in the US.

The world of low-fee private schools (a world I’m working in) is controversial. Here’s a recent article from Ghana. The train is out of the station so let’s focus on how we can improve these schools and ensure they offer quality education to all. This is a fascinating topic to follow—the bottom line is the issue of equity. And here is something to watch–The Education Commission (chaired by Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment have established a $1 billion Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) for Africa and the Middle East. According to their website: “The Fund aims to help transform educational attainment in the region and achieve SDG 4, by pooling grant funds from official aid donors, foundations, and private philanthropic funders, to deploy into pay-for-success programs, with impact investors providing working capital at risk through development impact bonds (DIBs).” Social impact bonds, pay for success and similar approaches to financing education are hot in the impact investment world. It’s controversial and the union, Educator’s International (EI), has responded. Related to this is the request for input on the Guiding Principles on private actors in education from The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. You can submit feedback since the consultation is open until September 30, 2018.

Video suggestions

My colleague and I have been writing about learning transfer for school leaders.  We are exploring the barriers and inhibitors to learning transfer for adults. Here’s a short and informative video (3:35) on learning transfer for students by Larry Ferlazzo. And in case you missed this 2017 article and video on an Indiana school’s language of love. Here it is.

Twitter suggestions

For some of the latest blogs on education development, school leadership and related topics you might want to follow:

Harry Patrinos @hpatrinos  He is a manager at the World Bank’s education sector.

Henry F. DeSio @henrydesio   DeSio is the Global Ambassador for Changemakers.

Global Schools Forum: @GSF_talks GSF supports and represents non-state schools and school networks operating in low and middle-income countries.

Global School Leaders: @gschoolleaders  GSL incubates, connects and supports organizations that train school leaders to improve the learning of students from underserved communities around the world.

And if you are interested in school leadership development in South Africa, check out:  @SchoolLeadersSA

Finally, I’ve always been a big fan of the University Council for Education Administration (UCEA) which is a consortium of higher education institutions supporting school leadership development. @UCEA

Movie suggestion

I’ve spent many years in higher education as a professor of leadership studies. So much written about leadership is generic to many different professions. If you missed Apollo 13 – it’s all about communication, creative thinking and collaboration.

Varia

Diverging (quite) a bit from the topic of education, I’m always fascinated by the food in Ghana.

Finally, here’s a great quote that we use in our school leadership workshops from the… oh so talented… Sir Ken Robinson!

The real role of leadership in education…is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control – creating a climate of possibility. If you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.”

meet Paula Cordeiro

@deancordeiro

cordeiro@sandiego.edu

Clean water & toilets: Foundations for learning in low-income countries

 

The other day my husband stated in an exasperated voice: “So, you got an advanced degree and you work in schools in sub-Saharan Africa and South America yet all you talk about are toilets. Isn’t that a waste of your education? Shouldn’t you be spending your time figuring out how to improve student achievement?”

Well, it jolted me for a few seconds and then I responded—but that’s what I am doing! It’s taken me years to understand that, yes—high quality teaching and strong school leadership will lead to improved student learning outcomes—but the school’s physical learning environment—the conditions for learning come first. Sanitation and nutrition are the foundation for learning and that’s why I have taken hundreds of photos of bathrooms and kitchens in schools around the world– so I can focus on student learning. Maybe my understanding of the importance of good sanitation and healthy children –washrooms and kitchens– is a key reason I did get degrees in education.

Over the last few years of working in mostly low-fee private schools in low and middle-income nations, I’ve come to understand that you can’t have a school with students successfully learning, without having a school with clean toilets. Of course, the corollary is not necessarily true, clean toilets do not equal improved learning. But, I am sure that each child and adult in a school having access to toilets that are clean, and in sufficient number for enrollment, is a basic condition for improving student learning. And by clean, at a minimum I mean– they don’t smell, there isn’t exposed dirty paper and there are no flies.

Age appropriate sinks with soap in an Ethiopian school.

According to UNICEF In 60 countries in the developing world, more than half of primary schools have no adequate water facilities and nearly two thirds lack adequate sanitation. Unsafe water, inadequate sanitation and lack of hygiene not only affect the health, safety, and quality of life of children; they also claim the lives of an estimated 1.5 million children under the age of five who die each year from diarrhea.

The research is clear. Schools with better sanitation facilities report higher attendance and overall better health for children. We know that providing better water, sanitation and hygiene services in schools reduces hygiene-related diseases and can help curb absenteeism due to missing school because of diarrhea. We also know that girls are reluctant to continue their schooling when toilets and washing facilities are either unavailable or are not private, safe, and clean.

According to the United Nations and UNICEF, one in five girls of primary-school age are not in school, compared to one in six boys. One factor accounting for this difference is the lack of sanitation facilities for girls reaching puberty. The installation of toilets and latrines may enable school children, especially menstruating girls, to further their education by remaining in school (see our March 2018 blog). If girls at puberty do not feel safe by having access to a private toilet area and if we do not provide access for students with disabilities, then absenteeism increases.

I’ve visited many schools that are oases for children. In far too many cases schools

Ghana: New sink with soap and handwashing instructions added to school after training

are surrounded by extreme poverty, thus all types of services such as good roads, adequate drainage, easily available clean

drinking water, etc. are missing. Schools and the adults working in them are role models for youth and sanitation is key because poor sanitary conditions can lead to disease and minimal learning.

So, what can school leaders do to ensure that children and adults in schools are learning and teaching in sanitary conditions?

Here are some of the strategies we discussed with school leaders and trainers during a recent workshop:

  • Make the School Leadership Team (Head Teachers, Directors, Coordinators, Proprietors, and others) aware of the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools. They have an important role to play through their work with teachers and other staff, schoolchildren, and families. Provide guidance and support so that they can promote the development and maintenance of a healthy school environment.
  • Find out if your country has school facility standards (E.g., Ghana, Peru, and Rwanda have guidelines while Burkina Faso and Liberia do not.). Usually the standards are posted on the Ministry of Education’s website or ask your local district supervisor. If standards do not exist here is a great resource: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Standards for Schools in Low-cost Settings http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/publications/wash_standards_school.pdf
  • Create a School Improvement Plan that includes setting targets for water, sanitation and hygiene. If you can’t make all the changes immediately, prioritize the improvements and phase them in so that the most urgent problems are targeted immediately, and other changes can subsequently be phased in.
  • Provide sanitation and hygiene training and supervision to all adults. Staff training is crucial and the goal is a healthy school environment. Since teachers and other staff are role models for students, be sure to give these topics a central place in in-service teacher training.
  • Develop and enforce school sanitation rules and procedures. Once the washrooms and toilets are ready for use create a maintenance plan and be sure to regularly monitor the facilities. Assign someone (or a group) to be responsible for daily cleaning; include who is responsible when the sink or toilet are not working or if there are problems with the water.
  • Support the provision of consumables, such as soap.
  • Encourage parents to support these efforts. Work with the Parent-Teacher Association and provide parent education programs on hygiene, nutrition and sanitation.
  • Partner with community groups or NGOs to build water and toilet facilities for the students and the surrounding community to use.
Burkina Faso
Separate toilets for boys and girls

Every child—and teacher— has a right to a school with clean water and sanitary toilets!

 

Ghana: Toilets for adults

Once the basic conditions for learning are ensured, then we can focus on why we are at school—to optimize learning.

Meet Dr. Cordeiro

 

 

School Leaders: Beware the Traveling Medicine Doctor …and some website, book and blog suggestions

IMG_0493              ¡Saludos desde Perú!

I’m working with some highly talented colleagues from an NGO who want to make schools better places for children. Work doesn’t get any better than this!

Since we created this website last March with its weekly blog, many colleagues around the world have asked me to share some of my observations and favorite websites, blogs, books, etc. related to school leadership in underserved communities.

Here are a few ideas for you to consider. I will end the blog on a positive note, but first let me begin with something that I find far too common and troubling….

Perhaps you’ve seen movies or heard about the traveling medicine shows of the nineteenth century in the US. These ‘doctors’ (usually a man posing as a doctor) promoted miracle cures for whatever aliments where popular at the time. They told people who attended their ‘shows’ that these medicines could cure baldness or a disease, remove wrinkles, prolong lives or get rid of that nagging cough. They authoritatively said that these medicines were patented (not!) in order to make them sound official.

Well today, as I work in low and middle-income countries I am meeting the 21st century version of the traveling medicine doctor! They claim that if you follow what they are selling (their consulting services), learning in your school will improve. In most cases they are hired to do one workshop, but more and more frequently these slick, well-dressed consultants are selling the notion that you need them throughout the school year. When you remind them you are a school struggling financially, they say they will give you a ‘special rate’ for their services since schools and children are so important to them.

First, they may tell you they have an advanced university degree (it seems to impress people more if it’s from the US, UK or any ‘western’ nation) and many list their names as Drs. So & So. Far too often they either started taking courses in a doctoral program and never finished, or they bought their degree(s) from a ‘university’ selling degrees or they may have an honorary doctorate. Beware the honorary doctorates since they are often given by a ‘Theological University’ or ‘Bible College’ that also is likely to be a college their cousin created after starting his own church. And, the worst part is, many of them want you to call them Doctor. It is not acceptable for a person who has an honorary doctoral degree from an unaccredited university to call themselves ‘doctor’; yet, people uncritically accept these titles.

These traveling medicine doctors tend to have attractive PowerPoint presentations filled with animations, quotes from well-known scholars in education or leadership and they tell you what they are promoting is ‘evidence-based’ (i.e. comparable to ‘patented’ like our 19th century traveling show doctors!).

Sooner or later these Medicine Doctor Consultants will fade away like the US traveling Medicine Doctors, but how much money will be wasted before that happens? How many teachers will be taught to use strategies that have no evidence behind them?

I’m thrilled to see some changes taking place. Some staff in Ministries of Education are asking tough questions and wanting to see the evidence behind an intervention. And, many donors are asking for more evidence on the impact of interventions.

So, friends let’s do our best to uncover the snake oil doctors and destroy the idea of miracle elixirs! Education is hard, messy work—it’s not about calling in an expert “doctor.” There are no magic tricks to improve learning in your school.   It takes instructional leadership…so…follow the evidence!

Now for a few websites, blogs, articles and books for you to consider.

Three especially good education websites:

One of the best websites for evidence about programs is Robert Slavin’s– Best Evidence Encyclopedia   Using rigorous standards they identify ‘proven’ programs and topics at all levels of education.

Edutopia

The Hechinger Report

Here’s a book for you to consider: Urban Myths about Learning and Education (2015) by Dutch authors Pedro De Bruyckyere, Paul Kirschner, & Casper Hulshof.  The book debunks many of the (“Medicine Doctor’s”) claims, misunderstandings and misinterpretations of frequently cited educational research.

If you have a general interest in the African continent you may want to subscribe to Jeffrey Paller’s newsletter: This Week in Africa. It contains dozens of timely links to events and topics on the continent. And, if you are interested in development in general take a look at Duncan Green’s Oxfam blogs: Poverty to Power. Both sometimes have articles/links to topics of importance for those of us with an interest in school leadership.

There’s a newspaper that often has articles on education topics from around the world. It’s the Guardian and it’s free—but, if you find yourself reading more than more or two articles, please make a regular donation!

If you have an interest in Early Childhood education there’s an interesting audio recording (and transcript) from National Public Radio (May 30, 2018). It’s short and definitely worth listening to! Preschools in Ghana’s Capital Challenge Call-And-Response System

If you ever plan to write about Africa then this is the article for you: Binyavanga Wainaina’s How to Write About Africa.

Finally, if you haven’t yet signed up to receive our weekly blogs delivered directly to your mailbox, here’s the link to Global Ed Leadership. Under the heading “Resources” we include lots of books, websites, blogs on different topics in education, learning and leadership about different regions around the world.

Time to stop and get ready for a leadership and learning training I’m doing tomorrow. Saludos!

Paula

 

 

A Model for Leadership Training in Low-Fee Private Schools (LFPSs) in Sub-Saharan Nations

 

Over the last five or so years a team comprised of faculty, graduate students and practitioners from the University of San Diego has been conducting trainings and research as well as coaching school leaders in six sub-Saharan nations and three countries in Central/South America. Our work has been predominantly with two international NGOs that provide capital to local micro-finance institutions for loans to schools. These schools are referred to as Low-Fee Private Schools (LFPSs)[1] and most are small family-run businesses. It’s estimated that there are over 1 million LFPSs in emerging nations (Economist, Kwan).

This will be my first blog about our work and it may be of interest if you are working in the same countries and/or for those of you who are part of the conversation (debate!) about the role of private schooling in low and middle-income nations. It’s a contentious topic and we’ll explore it in a future blog.

But first, I’ll begin with the genesis of our projects and what we have done in Ghana where the work began. It started with a donor who supported two NGOs (Opportunity International and Edify) who asked us to explore whether or not receiving school loans impact student learning. For financial and research-related reasons (e.g., insufficient funding to conduct a Randomized Control Trial) we haven’t quite answered this particular question; however, we have explored whether the training that accompanies a school loan is correlated with school improvement (Brion & Cordeiro, 2017). In this blog, I describe our work with one of the NGOs.

Morning Assembly at a low-cost private school

In 2012, while I was still dean at the University of San Diego, Chris Crane, the founder of Edify, a faith-based NGO, visited my office and asked if I would send a team to Ghana and the Dominican Republic to explore a possible partnership between Edify and the University. He wanted to know what trainings Edify might offer their education clients.   The research on micro-lending discusses the importance of offering lending clients training as well as capital (Lyby 2006). Edify provides capital to local micro-lenders who in turn provide small loans to the LFPSs. Usually the trainings that accompany a loan are about fiscal sustainability; however, Chris beleived that the trainings offered should go beyond budgeting and include education-related topics.

During the initial visits to Ghana, we interviewed numerous school leaders, teachers and parents. Edify told us they assumed we would recommend teacher training; however, it became clear after the interviews that the focus should be on school proprietors and their leadership teams. We discovered that teacher turnover was particularly high (40-50%) and yet many school leaders didn’t realize the extent of the problem nor had given much thought as to how to lessen teacher turnover. Ghana has a nationwide shortage of qualified teachers. Although the school proprietors requested teacher trainings, they also told us they themselves needed to learn more about operating an educational organization since no or few trainings of any kind were offered locally. Thus, we recommended that building the capacity of the school leadership team should be the priority for any trainings, since leadership is key to improving student learning (Leithwood, Louis, Anderson, & Wahlstrom, 2004).

We then considered the issue of what the training should be comprised of, especially since after conducting a thorough literature review, we found little literature about private schooling in these countries and most local universities offered no specialized training or professional development appropriate for a private school context. As Barnett discussed in his April 11, 2018 blog on this website, there are three types of national educational systems and Ghana’s falls into the loosely regulated system category because preparation programs and professional learning experiences for school leaders are sparse or non-existent.

After numerous conversations with officials at the Ghanaian Education Service, school leaders, university faculty and Edify staff, we developed the following model:

Our Model for Building the Capacity of School Leaders

Theory of Action: Strengthen the Capacity of the School Leadership Team in order to Improve Student Learning Outcomes

Based on the data collected while in country, a review of the literature and topics requested by school leaders, three school leadership, evidence-based modules were created: Improving the Conditions for Learning (3 days); Leading for Learning (2 days); and Creating and Developing Early Childhood Programs (2 days). Topics include nutrition, ensuring a safe and adequate school facility, creating an inviting school culture, what it means to be an instructional leader and the key role that early learning plays, among many more.

A train-the-trainer (TOT) model is used and each country has a minimum of 3-5 trainers with numerous additional ones in the pipeline. Since training is only as good as the trainers, we’ve found the TOT approach to be a key part of our strategy.

Another essential ingredient is the pedagogy used in all parts of the model.  The training curriculum uses active learning strategies such as role playing, case studies, and problem-based projects, to name but a few.  The trainers themselves must be comfortable using these teaching strategies and this has been challenging for many trainers since in their own education they were typically not exposed to active pedagogies.

School Leaders participating in the training modules, “Leading for Learning” prioritizing what they believe are important dispositions for teachers.

Once the modules are delivered, a trained Education Specialist visits the school and coaches the leadership team in carrying out the School Development Plan that was created during the trainings.   We’ve also developed an instrument referred to as the School Self-Assessment Instrument (SSAI); there are three different versions depending on the school level. It’s used by the leadership team and explores various aspects of the school, including personnel, facilities and the curriculum. We beta-tested the SSAI in numerous schools over a two-year period and it’s now used by any school wishing to engage in deep reflection about their school’s growth. Another component of the model is using mobile technology (we use the WhatsApp platform) to share questions and post photos that are tied to the content of the modules.

 

Additionally, we have an annual leadership conference. The local team, with assistance from a Planning Committee comprised of school leaders, designs and delivers a one-day conference for all leaders who have participated in the trainings.

The final key aspect of the model is the incubation of networks in order to create Communities of Practice. These networks are for school leaders as well as teachers. Local staff have created numerous special interest groups (e.g., early Childhood educators; IT teachers, leaders interested in construction and facilities, etc.). Sometimes they meet electronically and other times in person. They might decide to visit schools with certain programs or simply create a study group. Edify staff assist school leaders by connecting them with schools that have strong programs in areas that the proprietors and Head Teachers are interested. Some of these professional learning networks are ongoing, while others cease when they have accomplished their goals.

IMG_4056 (1)
Dr. Mike Amakyi, a trainer and Professor from the University of Cape Coast, awards a certificate to a school principal.

One network that we hadn’t planned was the request by the school leaders that we make available the option of taking the trainings for Continuing Education Credit. Since the vast majority of these school leaders have never participated in any formal school leader preparation or professional learning activity, they were eager to earn a certificate. We now have a cadre receiving a USD certificate in “Independent School Leadership.”

Rosemary Ohene-Bredu, proprietor of Ahenemba International School

 

 

We have contextualized the training modules for Ghana and we are launching an implementation in all eleven countries Edify works in.  The contextualization includes using local knowledge, organizations, policies and language. The trainings and modules are in a variety of languages including English, French, Spanish, Amharic (for Ethiopia) and Kinyarwanda (for Rwanda).

One could argue that this is a boutique program and that policy levers are far more important, and I would agree. Policy is key! However, I also believe much can be learned from NGOs working deeply and thoughtfully in this space. Edify is one of those NGOs. If you would like access to the modules or the SSAI, just shoot me an email.

cordeiro@sandiego.edu

[1] The literature uses several terms interchangeably—Affordable Private Schools (APSs), Budget Private Schools (BPS), Low-Cost Private Schools (LCPSs) and Low-Fee Private Schools (LFPSs). The latter term is used here since it is frequently cited in the literature.

Girls’ Education Goes Beyond Getting Girls into School

Since we’re launching this website on International Women’s Day, I’d like to take you on a field trip to two schools for girls in two sub-Saharan nations.  I’m on leave from the University of San Diego and I’ve been assisting a few NGOs that work in low and middle-income nations. Working with these NGOs allows me the opportunity to visit many schools and those schools serving only girls intrigue me.

I’ve selected two different but compelling examples of schools offering far more that only access to an education for girls; one school was founded by a couple from the US working in Kenya (Daraja Academy) and the second (F-SHAM of Faith Girls’ Academy) was founded by five Liberian women.

First, a little background on Girls Education…

In spite of the gains made in education with the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and now with the 2016-2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), millions of girls around the world are still being denied an education. According to the Global Partnership for Education (2015) an estimated 131 million girls worldwide are out of school and face multiple barriers to education. This includes 32.4 million girls of primary school age, 29.8 million girls of lower secondary school age, and 68.7 million girls of upper secondary school age.

Development economist William Easterly’s book The White Man’s Burden comes to mind. Although it was written in 2007, his opening description from a BBC broadcast of a 10-year old girl named Amaretch reminds me of how things have still not changed for many children. Amaretch woke up at 3 am to spend the day collecting eucalyptus branches and leaves to use as firewood; yet she dreamed of going to school instead. Poverty remains the most important factor for determining whether a girl can access an education. Other barriers include cultural norms and practices, distance to school, school-related gender-based violence and early or forced marriage. Yet, we know that keeping girls in school and ensuring they can learn in a safe and supportive environment leads to many benefits for the girls themselves, their families, their communities and their nations.

F-SHAM of Faith Girls Academy, Monrovia Liberia 6° 16′ 60.00″ N 10° 42′ 59.99″ W

School leader Sarah Taylor welcomes families to an F-SHAM school event.

“Women have to be educated…we have to put more of our time in investing our resources in educating young girls.” Sarah Taylor, principal

 F-SHAM is an unusual name for a school. It refers to the first letter of the names of the five women who were the founders: Fannie, Sarah, Helen, Alitha, and Mildred. Towards the end of a particularly brutal fourteen-year civil war in Liberia, these five women founded the school in the Paynesville section of Monrovia. Their goal was to empower girls through skills training. This low-fee private school began with 135 girls in pre-school through fifth grade. By 2008 F-SHAM was educating girls through senior high school grades. Today the school has nearly 450 girls and 54 staff members. F-SHAM offers a high school curriculum that prepares girls for college and also offers skills training that includes information technology (they have a solar-powered lab), baking, sewing, and cosmetology. Information technology is compulsory for all students and after seventh grade the girls can choose to specialize in one of the other three areas. Parents told me they appreciate the school because it is all-girls, offers skills training which will make their daughters more employable, has strong academics and is a safe and supportive environment.

Daraja Academy,   Nanyuki Kenya 0.0074° N, 37.0722° E 

Daraja means bridge in Swahili and was founded by Jenni and Jason Dougherty. I’ll never forget the day in 2008 when this young couple from the Bay Area came into my office and said they were starting a boarding school for high school girls in Kenya. I asked ‘Why girls?’ and they had all the right answers. Daraja, now in its tenth year, is providing an amazing education for approximately 120+ young women.

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This photo shows a group of Daraja girls learning life skills in their Transition Program. This is a short gap-year program between the end of high school and college or work. Students learn life and job skills, sex education, and leadership skills. “Daraja is in the business of educating leaders” www.Darajaacademy.org

Daraja is one of the only tuition-free, and non-religious secondary schools for girls in sub-Saharan Africa. The school has many unique features, including staff traveling all over the country to conduct interviews with prospective students. As I write this post, the school is sending out 340 letters of regret since Daraja has only thirty available seats for the incoming freshman class. The school’s educational model combines a traditional Kenyan curriculum with innovative teaching practices, including project-based learning (PBL), research field trips, community partnerships and service learning. A particularly unique aspect of Daraja is a girl’s empowerment curriculum called: Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope (WISH). I wish all girls in Kenya could have a Daraja education!

A commonality among Daraja and F-SHAM is their founders’ recognition that many girls in sub-Saharan African nations are not graduating from secondary school and many are not even entering. So, these school leaders created a learning environment that has the following components:

• Girls feel safe while in school;

• They provide proper sanitation facilities and private, safe places to study;

• The curriculum encourages them to make decisions about their own lives;

• They are supported throughout their schooling so that they acquire the skills necessary to effectively compete in the labor market;

• The schools provide opportunities to learn the socio-emotional and life skills necessary to navigate and adapt to this changing world; and,

• The curriculum provides opportunities for the girls to contribute to their communities and the world.

Both schools have had amazing success. Their attendance, retention and graduation rates are high, and dozens of girls have already obtained good jobs or entered higher education. And the leadership provided by the founders of these schools and in particular by the principals—the instructional leaders–Sarah Taylor principal of F-SHAM and Victoria Gichuhi, principal at Daraja, has been key!

There has been a lot of progress in low and middle-income countries in ensuring primary education, but secondary education still remains elusive for millions of children, particularly girls. Both F-SHAM and Daraja are providing remarkable opportunities for young women who may never have attended secondary school if these two schools did not exist. There are a growing number of other schools for girls in Africa as well. I could have taken you on a field trip to Gashora Girls Academy of Science and Technology – a boarding school in Rwanda whose motto is: “Educate a Girl. Inspire a Community. Transform a Nation”.  Or, the low-fee private school,  College de Jeunes Filles de Loumbila, a boarding school founded in 1963 for girls in junior and senior high school in Burkina Faso.

If you’d like to learn more about the amazing women who have founded schools in sub-Saharan Africa, my colleague Corinne Brion and I recently published an article entitled  Women School Leaders: Entrepreneurs in Low Fee Private Schools in Three West African Nations 

We know that better educated women tend to marry at a later age, have fewer children, be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, and achieve higher standards of living. All these factors combined can help lift households, communities, and nations out of poverty. As Erna Solberg, the Prime Minister of Norway said:  “When you invest in a girl’s education, she feeds herself, her community and her nation.”

These two outstanding schools would not be so successful without the principals who are committed to the school’s vision and provide the instructional supports necessary so teachers can excel. Daraja and F-SHAM are very special learning environments for girls. I wish Ethiopia had had schools like this for Amaretch.

UntitledYou really should consider taking a field trip and visiting Daraja and F-SHAM sometime!