Addressing key systemic barriers is vital to ensuring that educational opportunities are more available, accessible, adaptable and acceptable to all learners

Opportunities and challenges to systemic change: Findings from Phase 1 Research

May 15, 2022


In the year since the ACCESS team began examining education access for out-of-school children and youth (OOSCY), education systems started re-opening following initial Covid-19 shutdowns. Still the long-term effects of disrupted education remain. As it stands, Covid-19 not only exacerbated but shed a light on pre-existing educational inequalities for millions of OOSCY who have no viable pathway to return to school.

In Phase 1 of ACCESS, researchers responded to the demand—both pre- and post-COVID–for flexible, accelerated, and responsive education by undergoing a political economy analysis in their respective countries. Our team now has a better understanding of the barriers facing learners, teachers, and communities. This will allow our National Researchers and Coordinators to proactively address the systemic barriers impacting the quality of education in countries where our research is focused in Phase 2.    


Image of 4 foxes putting together puzzle pieces of a house

In particular we learned the following in each country of research:  


Both the Venezuelan crisis and Covid-19 have highlighted the need for alternative education modalities to meet the needs of OOSCY. There is a strong legislative framework and a range of flexible education models already embedded in the education system to protect the right of all education, particularly those not well served through formal education. However, these programmes lack coordination and visibility to ensure they are effective in reaching and supporting OOSCY across Colombia.  


Two institutionalised non-formal education pathways have been established to meet the needs of vulnerable Jordanians and refugees alike: the drop-out and catch-up programmes. While well integrated into education sector and refugee response plans and certified by the Ministry of Education, the uptake and learner outcomes within target communities have been low. It is likely the MOE will take over the implementation and financing, along with regulation of these programme, from existing implementing partners. This approach has potential to increase the scope of coverage and their relevance to learners if the capacity and expertise of key stakeholders is strengthened.  


There is an increased interest at the national/federal level to expand AEPs to meet the needs of marginalised young people in Nigeria through the role out of a set of new national guidelines, teacher training, and curriculum. This work needs to be supported financially to be viable and effective long term as the number of school leavers has increased. Sustainable government funding may also help expanding beyond the reach of international donors and organisations, who often prioritise OOSCY in the North/Northeast alone, despite the scope of the issue extending beyond these regions. 


In the past decade Pakistan has undergone a process of decentralising education provisions and strengthening legislative frameworks protecting education rights for all children and youth which has increased alternative and accelerated education programmes. Currently the challenge lies in understanding the effectiveness of non-formal education programmes. Supporting the recent development of NFEMIS (non-formal education management information systems) may help overcome this challenge if appropriately utilised.  


In response to two years without schooling for many OOSCY, there is significant interest in effectively condensing the curriculum to accelerate learning. More recently, priority focus on AEPs have been in humanitarian response sectors but other marginalised populations in the country also have a high need for non-formal education programmes. While an active AE Task Team has spearheaded development of AE guidelines and curricula and have made substantial strides towards greater integration of AE as a response to the needs of refugees, Uganda faces the challenge of catalysing existing interest from humanitarian settings to a broader context.  

During this past year of work, the Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG) has continued efforts working to develop, strengthen, and support AEPs internationally. They have facilitated conversations and work with Ministries of Education, disseminated principles and action points for accelerated education and catch-up programmes, focused on strengthening the quality of alternative provision through guidance on condensing a curriculum, and much more.  

As ACCESS’ work continues, there is opportunity to learn whether and how systemic change can be realised in starkly different political, economic, and social landscapes. Addressing key systemic barriers is vital to ensuring that AEPs and other non-formal education opportunities are available, accessible, adaptable and acceptable to all learners who require such opportunities. With these results and understanding, our work continues with a focus on Colombia, Jordan, and Nigeria.  In the interim, stay tuned for the forthcoming release of the reports we produced for each of the countries above from Phase 1, along with high-level think piece which summarises some of the key learnings from this first phase of the research.