Improving primary education by advising local school authorities

Project description

Title: Capacity development of local school authorities
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Benin
Lead executing agency: Ministère des Enseignements Maternel et Primaire (MEMP)
Overall term: 2014 to 2016

Context

Benin’s national education strategy is based on the global Education for All movement and aims to provide improved primary education for all children and equal opportunities for girls and boys by 2015. Enrolment rates for primary schools and lower secondary schools have risen in recent years as a result of a wide variety of political measures.

Nevertheless, more than half of all 16-year-olds are still illiterate. Too few children, especially girls, attend primary school. Both the quality and quantity of the educational opportunities available need to be improved. School curricula need to be adapted to the reality of children’s lives to make school more attractive to children and parents.

Objective

The performance capacity of school authorities in Benin has improved. They are able to perform their core tasks, such as school supervision and advisory work, in-service training of education advisors and teaching staff, and cooperation with municipalities, more effectively.

Approach

The core tasks of school authorities are set out in administrative guidelines. On this basis, effective school authorities could play a key role in primary education – for example, as multipliers for the development of appropriate teaching and learning strategies. Well-functioning school authorities could also assume an important part in driving forward the efforts to devolve state education services. In the ongoing process of decentralisation, they could be pioneers of cooperation with municipalities.

National advisors live and work locally and help to initiate change processes within school authorities. They support the efforts of directors and staff to improve their performance, particularly regarding the inspection and development of primary schools and the advising of municipalities on planning and building new primary schools.

The individual training needs of staff are identified, and corresponding offers with a high degree of practical relevance are developed and implemented. Staff are supported in applying the lessons learned from the training to their day-to-day work in school authorities, with a fresh understanding of their responsibilities and tasks.

The project strengthens the positive initial steps already taken to foster close cooperation. School authorities and municipalities, parent associations, non-governmental organisations and other actors in the education sector are supported through cross-organisational networks known as education forums. Interested parties in municipalities where there are no education forums are encouraged to follow the example.

The consulting firm ECO Consult Sepp & Busacker Partnerschaft supports the implementation of the project.

Results

In cooperation with the project, the basic outline of the concept for an ‘effective school authority’ has been developed; this is to serve as a guide for school authority directors and their staff. A mechanism for monitoring the attendance of teaching staff has led to a considerable increase in the number of lessons held at schools within the areas administered by participating school authorities.

Basic work has been done and will continue on an integrated training concept for school authority staff active throughout the country. Additional modules designed to improve school inspections are being developed. These will be integrated into the curricula of teacher training institutions in future.

The project has advised four municipalities on setting up and supporting education forums. Drawing on this experience, a guideline for establishing further education forums has been produced and thus far introduced by the ministry in one third of Benin’s municipalities. A short film about a particularly active education forum in the north of the country is being used to encourage interested school authorities and municipalities to follow its lead.