Education Programme for Results

Posted on 17 October 2018

A new model of financing, which provides the balance of payments once progress is achieved, is making headway in Tanzania, providing a benchmark for other programmes to follow.


For Tanzania’s young and fast-growing population, spread across a vast land mass, the challenge of meeting the practical demands of educating the next generations will prove critical in helping the country to meet its aim of becoming a middle-income country by 2025. More money for teacher training, school equipment and infrastructure is only part of the solution. In common with many developing education systems, the need to strengthen ministries’ capacity and incentivise targeted action will provide the foundations for any long-term change and improvement.


Education PforR (Programme for Results) is an innovative, results-based financing programme supported by the World Bank, the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Government of Sweden (SIDA), which is making US$437 million available to the Government of Tanzania to improve quality, equity and access in the public education system.

The programme is one of the first of its kind and is designed to incentivise improvement, rather than guarantee money up front. The government may claim funds on a six-monthly and annual basis from the World Bank, DFID and SIDA, depending upon the progress they have made against a set of clearly defined results and deliverables related to the education sector. This approach is intended to strengthen ownership of the system by providing flexibility in the use of funds, so they can be directed at areas within the education sector that are identified by the government as being of greatest need. This ownership and focus aims to secure more sustainable change.

Building on the momentum from the Big Results Now! programme, EP4R encourages the government to directly flow money from the ministry of finance directly to schools. Previously, without any predictability around funding, head teachers had no control around budget or preparation. These direct payments have opened up clearer levels of communication that didn’t exist before. Now, over 20,000 schools are able to make plans for the future with a degree of certainty.


The country’s rapid acceleration in reading speed provides a solid example of how the EPforR system works. The government needed to improve reading skills of all children by an average of one word per minute, to receive all of the allocated funds. From a baseline of 18.3, schools nationwide were able to record rates of 23 words per minute, in just a couple of years, representing a big improvement.

We also helped to reform the school quality assurance department, so that all schools create a summary report card that provides community with information on how their school is faring. This included a self-evaluation form for every school that acted as a diagnostic tool.

Another result was the backlog clearing of $18m worth of teacher claims, such as travel expenses, overtime and payments for taking on new duties. This proved important for strengthening morale among teachers.

More recently, funds have been directed into classroom construction, to meet the growing population. Tanzania faces a growing school-age population in coming years, so more infrastructure needs built where those children live.

A series of workshops throughout the country gives the ministry the opportunity to see and brief every district and regional education officer over a two-week period, which they wouldn’t achieve otherwise.

Sierra Leone Secondary Education Improve

Posted on 17 October 2018

After the country was officially declared Ebola-free by the World Health Organization in 2016, the government of Sierra Leone launched a nationwide recovery plan. Fixing the fragmented secondary education system was placed as high priority. The recovery efforts were largely successful and, with the emergence of a new government in 2018, the nation’s reform focus has shifted to providing Free Quality School Education from pre-school to senior secondary.


Today’s teenagers in Sierra Leone can expect to play a critical role in the development of their country over the next 50 years. However, they faced considerable barriers to an effective secondary school education – even without the interruption of Ebola. Most secondary students struggled to learn in over-crowded and ill-equipped schools. Teachers lacked basic training, as well as motivation, due to a backlog in payment.

For girls, challenges around adolescence and puberty, such as early marriage and sexual violence, were leading to high drop-out rates. Indeed, in half of the country’s districts, two in five teenage girls failed to bridge the divide between junior high and secondary school. Children with disabilities also faced obstacles in finding an education, due to lack of support from schools or their communities.


As a call to action within the Presidential Recovery Plan, the ministry of education launched the Leh Wi Lan (Let’s Learn) programme, which is focused on improving learning outcomes in secondary schools, especially for girls and students with disabilities. The programme expects to impact learning conditions for 1.4 million boys and girls, leading to improved secondary exam passes, by making the learning environment safer and more productive. This focus is expected to continue within the new Free Quality Education Programme.

Funded by UK aid, as part of wider support to the country’s transition from crisis to development, Cambridge Education provides expertise in a number of different workstreams:

  • Improving the learning conditions in schools
  • Systems strengthening within the government
  • Encouraging the enrolment and retention of girls
  • Improving the learning prospects for children with a disability
  • Improving capacity for research, evidence and learning

We are overseeing new measures in child protection and introducing reporting mechanisms in schools. If a child experiences violence in school, the school will now know what to do about it. Children will also understand that it’s ok to speak out about it. Regarding disability inclusion, which is a relatively new concept in Sierra Leone, we aim to change attitudes with a view to reducing stigma and prejudice in schools.

The recruitment of school support officers (SSOs), to ensure teachers have the right materials and lesson plans to follow, is a pillar of our work. This coaching model offers a positive shift from the traditional three-day training workshop, which can prove hard to implement when the teacher returns to school.

Another successful innovation, piloted on other international programmes, is the use of tablets to provide lesson observations and a rich source of real-time data. Teacher scores, strengths and weaknesses, are now key indicators on our fingertips.

In regard to governance, we are working closely with the ministry to help them better plan, manage and monitor priority programmes, as well as grow the capacity of districts to hold schools and teachers to account.


To date, we have helped to introduce 45,000 easy-to-follow lesson plans in English and Mathematics and helped train over 6,500 secondary school teachers in how to use them. Coupled with the accelerated syllabus which was supported by the UK in the early recovery to help children to catch up for school time lost because of Ebola, this is expected to improve learning achievement in these two core subjects.

The continuous, peer-to-peer support is helping to improve motivation and teaching skills among secondary school teachers. The SSOs bring huge amounts of enthusiasm, guided by qualified consultants. Education isn’t currently viewed as an attractive sector to work in by young people in Sierra Leone, so this incentivised programme aims to draw in talent who will lead the sector in years to come.

A reality check for Indian education

Posted on 12 October 2018

The Ministry was already developing its National Achievement Survey under SSA, including with support from Cambridge Education, but this sample-based assessment faced problems around turnaround lag, quality of data and communication. Under RMSA, we built on the work already done and provided technical and capacity building support to strengthen the technical sophistication of NAS and the speed and accuracy of its reporting.

This involved a large number of training workshops, including study trips abroad, and continual technical backstopping and ‘hand-holding’. We entirely redesigned the technical way that the responsible institution, the National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT), set about doing these assessment surveys, taking NCERT personnel through all the relevant stages, from initiation to reporting.

With technical input provided through our partner, the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), we brought in modern best practices for large scale assessment surveys using approaches based on Item Response Theory (IRT) similar to those used on international studies such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). These methods allow a system of scaling to compare performance across school students in different parts of the country, different language groups, different socioeconomic backgrounds, urban, rural and so on, and to measure changes in performance levels over time from one assessment cycle to the next. For the rich diversity of India, such a process promises to be particularly effective and revealing.

Our team helped to write and publish a handbook on how to run a large-scale assessment, and a set of thematic assessment survey modules, including the technical standards, assessment frameworks, preparing test questions, booklets and questionnaires, field administration of assessment surveys, and so on, as well as advice on analysing and scaling results.

Without accessible communication, even the most significant and revealing results can be invisible and thus the effort to produce them rendered useless, so we developed templates and exemplars of clear and informative reports and summary sheets designed for different audiences. How do you analyse the data and report it, so the reader can make sense of the figures? In other words, how do you tell a compelling story? How do you communicate the findings, and the value and purpose of the survey, most effectively to different stakeholders, from school parents, teachers and education managers to state and national government?

When a report is both technically sound and digestible, policymakers can use it to guide their judgements.

Without it, they are flying blind.