Accelerated Education Principles - Preliminary findings of field case studies

CIE welcomed Ritesh Shah from the University of Auckland and the research team investigating the implementation of the new Accelerated Education principles developed by the inter-agency Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG), at a Tuesday Dialogue in February 2017. The presentation was facilitated by CIE faculty member Ash Hartwell of the USAID Education in Crisis and Conflict Network (ECCN).


Dr Shah was in Amherst to confer with team members Kayla Boisvert and Jenn Flemming. Kayla and Jenn are CIE graduate students who travelled in January 2017 to Accelerated Education (AE) program sites in Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya and a rural, vulnerable population setting in Sierra Leone, while Dr Shah visited a program serving peri-urban vulnerable and internally displaced people in Kabul, Afghanistan.  


Dr. Shah discussed the role of AE in the world today, particularly in light of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they are focusing on hard-to-reach learners. 121 million children and youth are out of school—both those who have never been to school as well as those who have dropped out. Over half the global population of refugees is under the age of 18, and more than half of these are not in school. AE provides an alternative pathway to gain credentials and re-enter the formal education system.    


Dr Shah noted that although the term “accelerated” implies that education is condensed—perhaps 6 years of schooling into 2-4 years, that it’s “not just about learning things faster, but how you learn.”


He also acknowledged that the 10 AE principles could be interpreted more generally—“Aren’t these just principles for good education?” He emphasized that these are aspirational ideals rather than expected standards of practice. “In my country, New Zealand, I’m not sure [even] we would meet all these principles.”


Jenn and Kayla explained the methodology of the research, which involved review of the principles and guidance documents by 7 experts, a detailed survey of AE programs globally, as well as 5 case studies of selected projects to closely investigate the use of the principles.


The team noted how flexibility was essential in the research process, providing examples of how “We had a lot of plans…[but] it didn’t all work out [the way we expected].” The team shared interesting features of each site and challenges faced in carrying out their research activities, whether through focus groups, interviews, or other participatory activities.


In terms of findings, Dr Shah emphasized that “Context matters”—contextualizing these ideals and principles needs to happen within a program, site, country, region, and programs need to work individually and collectively to do this.


The team posited that the most useful way the principles could be used would be for an AE program to identify a particular weakness or need, then look at the in-depth guidance for that one principle, and try to develop in that particular area.


“It doesn’t make sense to look at all 10 principles and try to give programs a score,” they commented. Rather, certain principles lend themselves to certain outcomes. The team advocated further study to obtain “a more refined look” at the link between principles and outcomes.


Finally, the team noted that how the principles are communicated is also important. They found that running an initial workshop for AE providers in Kenya turned out to be “incredibly valuable”—people were able to sit down and compare the principles with what they were already doing. It was an organic process of looking at their own context first and determining what issues they faced, then looking at the principles that were relevant in that context.


Their preliminary findings will be presented at the Comparative and International Education Society (CIES) conference in March 2017 in Atlanta.