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Education strategy assessment

Background Save the Children Norway has supported basic education work in five different provinces, Phnom Penh Municipality and at the Ministry of Education Youth and Sports (MoEYS) for five years. Working in formal partnership with MoEYS, the Phnom Penh Municipality education office and five Province Education Offices, SCN has provided financial support and technical advice to the Government education system in order to increase enrollment and improve the quality of education services provided. Save the Children Norway wishes to assess its overall education strategy and measure the value that its technical and financial support adds to its partners. The evaluation will gather information through a spending analysis, interviews with key stakeholders in the Cambodian education sector (SCN staff, government education staff, development education experts). The final product will be to present the findings in a written report. Purpose/objective Make a report that brings the overall relevance of SCNs education strategy to the fore and assess if the strategy has been effectively implemented during the last five years. Methodology The evaluation used two major technical approaches to assess the effectiveness of SCN's technical and financial support and propose recommendations for future strategic development of SCN's education program. At the policy and strategic level, the evaluation was carried out through interviews and desk review from the reports of intervention components, the Ministry's policies, guidelines; and joint agreements between SCN, other donor partners and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports. At the field implementation level, the evaluation was carried out through evaluation report of SCN project Public Education for Disadvantaged Children in Preah Vihear "A new beginning" produced in January 2006 and through extensive visits to schools and districts supported by SCN in order to interview provincial and district education office staff, school directors and teachers. Key findings SCN is well respected and regarded as an effective and committed NGO with staff who are knowledgeable and skilled at their work. Key questions for this evaluation referred to measurable performance of programmes. Detailed plans, targets and mechanisms for reporting on progress exist. However, the SCN holistic approach is in tension with the need to report on specific results. Current plans do not easily convert to relevant performance measurement. And there is a lack of explicit alignment with national targets. Ongoing internal discussion of the mechanisms for setting and monitoring targets is suggested. The evaluation has made mention of reasons why it is hard to document results more fully in both planning and programme assessment. The reasons for this varies: • SCN's programmes are very complex, which makes them hard to measure • Staff are enthusiastic about their work and less inclined to assess and report on what they have done (lack of structure) • Because of its approach to implementation through PEOs, SCN does not have direct control over the outputs and long term impact Recommendations The evaluation has made a list of recommendations. Many of them relate to continuing or strengthening the current activities/interventions that SCN has been working or supporting project partners. Recommendations that should be noted in the evaluation include: • Consider one or more changes of provincial/municipal partner to include areas which have a stronger claim for attention in terms of education performance than some current project partners. This would increase alignment with MoEYS policy priorities and may help to maximize SCN's impact. Identify more explicit rationales for engaging in or continuing partnerships, and identify exit strategies. • Increase support for training on school self-assessment, teacher and learner performance monitoring • Seek documented evidence for improvement in school and student performance attributable to good community relations • Work more collaboratively on policy reform with MoEYS and other development partners on all areas especially, ECE, CFS, abolition of informal fees, incentives for school managers, etc. • Fully support all central departments' institutional roles • Consider expanded support to DEOs on school management • Clearer alignment between MoEYS indicators and targets with activities would be beneficial • Ongoing review of the tension between the holistic approach and the need to monitor realistic performance targets Comments from the organisation, if any Save the Children Norway agrees with the analysis and the recommendations made in the evaluation. We will use the recommendations in order to set up a new Basic Education program design for 2009 and the next strategy period.