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Final Evaluation report for An Integrated Project on ECD and Education

Summary of the evaluation: Title of the evaluation report: Final Evaluation report for An Integrated Project on ECD and Education; Funded by HimalPartner Background: The project goal and overall objective has been to create clean and comfortable classroom environments where children can receive developmentally appropriate care and holistic development.  Educational Horizons Nepal (EHN) has been implementing a four-year project (2018-2021) in its second phase, entitled “An Integrated Program on Early Childhood Development and Education”, in Dhading District, Nepal. This has been in partnership with HimalPartner with funding from Digni. To meet the overall objective, the project has focused on establishing a child-friendly environment inside the Early Childhood Development (ECD) classrooms, training teachers with holistically appropriate teaching-learning methods, sensitizing parents through holistically appropriate parenting, and activating school leaders, as well as members of school management committees and Parent Teacher Associations, to become more effective in their management roles.     Purpose/objective: To find out the quantitative data of the project results. To examine the teachers’ teaching-learning patterns applied in the classroom after the training. To assess the parents’ response to their children after the parent education program. To observe the school leaders’ role to ECD class children and ECD class management. To evaluate the level of classroom environment created by the project. To observe the physical, social, and mental development of the children in the class. To evaluate the system of organizational/EHN financial management and accounting.   Methodology: During the project review, project documents, progress reports, and knowledge products were reviewed. Individual interviews with 4 stakeholders from local government and 10 ECD Teachers were conducted. Focus group discussion (FGD) with available parents of the students of ECD classrooms, and interaction meeting with school leaders (SMC/PTA members and head teachers of 10 selected schools) were conducted.  Altogether 7 FGDs were conducted with 78 participants, small cohesive groups (from 8 to 13 participants) in one group. A total of 15 respondents were interviewed with the help of semi-structured questionnaire, a total of 54 persons were participants in the interactions meeting with the school leaders. In addition, interaction meetings were conducted with the project staff  at Dhadingbesi and also in the EHN Lalitpur office.   Key findings: Relevance: The evaluation found that the project was relevant to key United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The project also directly relates to the Government of Nepal’s National Framework for Education with regards to the development of Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED).   Effectiveness: It was found that most project activities were implemented within the given timeframe. However, due to the pandemic, some activities had to be rescheduled or postponed. Caregiver and awareness training for parents and teachers according to the principles of ICDP was well-received. The project trainings and furnishings of ECD classrooms were greatly appreciated improvements by stakeholders.   Impact: The schools that had improved the environment of their ECD classrooms and child friendly teaching methods, saw an increase of enrollment from parents who had previously sent their children to private boarding schools. Greater parental interest in the academic progress and holistic development of their children was also noted as a direct result of the trainings of the project. During class observations, it was noted that the children were more interactive and happier and parents reported that positive changes had taken place in the village community.   Sustainability: The evaluation team did not find any direct unintended impacts of the project. Moreover, it was observed that there were positive results beyond what the project intended to achieve. The project fostered active involvement of the local government, thereby ensuring local ownership and a platform for continued improvement in the local community. Capacity building of school leadership ensures the improvement of ECD classrooms, as well as the effectiveness school management in the long term.   Financial Management: Project activities could have been planned more effectively in the early planning phase. New accounting software and a lack of proper orientation and training resulted in delays in being able to fully use the accounting software more effectively. The project prepared its financial statement of all project activities on a quarterly basis and statements were presented to the Board by the Executive Director. Internal control systems were found to be satisfactory and financial reporting systems were in line with the financial management guidelines.   Organizational Ability: EHN was found to be an effective organization and generally able to plan and implement its activities. Partnership with HimalPartner has added value to EHN and enhanced the organization’s capacity on various levels, strengthening its ability to maintain relationship with donors, formulating organizational policies, using appropriate accounting software, preparing project documents, and writing proposals with clear results and indicators.   Recommendations: The following recommendations have been made by the Evaluation Team with a view to provide strategic direction for EHN’s development, planning, and implementation in the future.   EHN should provide consultation and technical support to school leaders to help them improve their school development plan by integrating ECD concepts, teaching methods, and infrastructure. EHN should continue to develop and implement an exit strategy to phase out the project including post-project support to schools. It should also continue to develop dialogue and understanding with local government entities, school leaders, and parent in order to sustain project outcomes.  EHN should continue to build capacity with School Management Committees in order to make their roles more effective. This should include orientation of concepts and principles of ICDP, relevant policies to strengthen ECD classrooms and environments outside the classrooms, facilitation for action planning, and monitoring Support to EHN by HimalPartner to explore alternative sources of funding, sustain best practices and learning from the project that can be applied to other regions.   Comments from the organisation and Digni, if any: EHN has demonstrated its capacity to make a meaningful impact in improving ECD education in rural Nepal. With the lessons learned of the importance of involvement and cooperation with local government entities, as well as expertise gained in teacher and caregiver trainings, EHN is positioned to be able to continue its work and adapt its resources to serving other areas of Nepal. In order to accomplish this, EHN’s organizational and financial sustainability depends on finding creative approaches to source funding, develop capacity, implement trainings, and partner with local government entities.   Digni is pleased with the results that the project demonstrates, despite being implemented in a turbulent time with covid-19 restrictions. Digni positively notices that EHN has worked on several of the recommendations, not at least creating clearer and more sustainable exit process since this is the last project period. The experience and learning from using ICDP (International Child Development Program) as an effective tool enhancing early child development education has been important to several actors in the Digni fellowship.   Prepared by: Randal C. Frivold                      HimalPartner Regional Representative East Asia                      April 29, 2021