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Analysis of the impact of SBEP on student achievement

Posted on 30 October 2017

The UK aid-funded Southwest Basic Education Project (SBEP) operated during 2006 – 2010 in 27 of the poorest and most remote counties in Southwestern China. The project was designed to improve the Provincial and County governments’ own systems of education support and development and included:

  • stipends for poor students (especially girls and minorities)
  • introduction of School Development Planning (SDP)
  • teacher training on effective support, improved quality and greater relevance of schooling for disadvantaged children
  • involvement of those children in their own learning
  • head teacher training
  • equity training focusing on the most disadvantaged children.

Kang Lanlan - the orphan girl who became a teacher

Posted on 30 October 2017

When GBEP began, Kang Lanlan was a thirteen year-old orphan from rural Gansu who could not afford to go to school. She received a scholarship that was guaranteed to her for the duration of her schooling.

It was a bright, sunny afternoon when we returned to meet Kang Lanlan in Suhe Primary School in Kangle, one of the four counties the project supported. It was an emotional meeting for us all – the young teenager had transformed into a woman, with two children of her own and a career as a teacher.

In 2011, she began her studies with Lanzhou University, graduating in 2014 with a bachelor degree in Chinese language. Her students’ performance in her English class is the best in her school district and she has twice received a county Excellent Teacher Award. She attributes her success to the chance GBEP gave her 17 years ago to continue with her schooling – “without that, I would have had no opportunity”.

One of the most touching things about meeting Kang Lanlan again was seeing what a role model she has become to others. When we asked her to teach a demonstration class for us, she threw herself into the task with enthusiasm – engaging confidently with the children, doing activities with them, pushing and testing their learning as she went along. These were all the approaches GBEP had introduced during the project period: to make children the centre of the learning experience. Here was a girl who had benefited in the classroom from such approaches now becoming the type of teacher she had admired.

The ripple effect

Posted on 30 October 2017

Very few reviews of projects take place more than one year after they end – most projects have a final review while they are still running or at best a year after they complete. Yet judgements are frequently made in final project reviews about the sustainability of interventions: judgements often based on limited evidence and heroic assumptions.

In May 2017, we returned to western China to review the Gansu Basic Education Project (GBEP) a UK aid-funded pilot project that ran from 1999-2006.

The ripple effect tells the story of this visit and assesses which of the changes in the education system initiated by the project are still in evidence today. It offers some unique perspectives – a real test of the meaning of “sustainability” – and some thoughts on how projects could be better designed to achieve long-term impact.