Posted on 03 May 2019

While teachers lack training and materials, what the DRC system needs most is transparent accountability, from the corridors of power to the school gates.


Political tension in the DRC has put social reform on lockdown. The volatility and uncertainty is also fuelling the systemic corruption that contributes to the deep socio-economic burden faced by nearly all families in this young nation. For parents, the financial challenge of sending their children to school can prove hard to bear – yet most still find a way.

Research shows that school fees have increased year-on-year in DRC over the last decade – despite the fact public education is supposed to be free of charge in the provinces. Many different actors along the chain take their cut, which further drives up the fees. Meanwhile parents have no voice, benchmarks for quality or adequate information with which to hold authorities to account.

As an additional layer of complication, the government has largely devolved authority over education to the national and local churches, which creates two parallel systems of pedagogy and administration.

The net result is that the standard of schooling is universally poor. Teachers do the best they can despite low wages and scant training. There are limited supplies of teaching materials, and many schools also lack basic facilities such as chairs and tables.

"For something so important, governance is often misunderstood or overlooked. As a working definition, we see governance in education as ‘all the necessary rules, procedures and behaviours that allow stakeholders to articulate their interests, manage resources, exercise power and hold those in power to account’. Without these measures, the most vulnerable in society will always lose out, as they will be denied access to basic social services of sufficient quality.

Virginie Briand, ACCELERE! team leader


Jointly funded and managed by UK aid and USAID, the ACCELERE! programme supports the Government of DRC to better deliver universal primary education. Cambridge Education is leading the push to improve governance from the top of the tree down to the grassroots. Improving transparency is one of the key objectives, with a view to achieving more efficient planning and budgeting at all levels of the system, fairer management of payroll, tighter control of school fees and the necessary reduction in non-school based education expenditure.

Helping all the different actors within their siloes to see the bigger picture on school fees – and understand the weight they place on parents and children – is a critical first step for ensuring that a standard amount is charged nationwide. For example, we completed a study on the burden of school fees on the children, who may need to work in the evenings and weekends to help pay their fees. In addition, many face stigma if their parents struggle with the fees, which might result in expulsion or days out of school.

Accountability at school level is also a priority. We are developing plans to help school communities to make better use of the General Assemblies of Parents to jointly set out the budget and school improvement plans for the year ahead, and then report back on how funds were used.

By strengthening leadership and management within schools, we can help promote fair and quality learning environments. This means supporting schools, parents, community members, and the private sector to develop partnerships that strengthen local level engagement, planning, accountability, and oversight of education. Done right, this will improve student and teacher attendance, teacher performance, student learning, and safe learning environments.

To break the culture of parental submissiveness around school fees, the programme is educating parents about their right as ‘the customer’ to question the standard of teaching and to demand value for money. We’re also helping school directors and parents’ committees to improve their leadership and management skills – as well as to recognise their responsibilities to their wider communities. By identifying where performance currently sits – where it could be and how to get there – directors, teachers and parents can start to plot a matrix for improvement.


There is no blueprint for change from another nation’s education system that can be dropped in and adapted for a unique context like DRC. Therefore, a close-working relationship with stakeholders is vital for developing a pragmatic approach that allows our team to identify entry points, and then turn traction into results on the ground.

In Kinshasa the team has focused on those milestones that will lead to sustainable change once the political situation improves. This involves putting in place the right procedures to improve the costing of education, budget planning that will switch from a parent-funded system to a state-funded system, and also revision of legal frameworks.

While decentralising the programme so soon to the provincial levels was not the original plan, the political tension is comparatively diluted away from the bigger cities, and we’ve managed to make more headway. Part of the challenge is to identify these good people who recognise the benefits of a more unifying structure and then work with them to bring others along on the journey.

By training provincial assemblies, we’ve made progress in encouraging all the different actors to come together, including politicians, head teachers and church leaders, and making them aware of the challenges. They are starting to think collectively how education can work for the common good. Encouragingly, three provinces out of six have already increased the provincial budget of education for 2018.

We have launched trainings and put in place new tools, with a view to improving administration and instilling a more results-based management approach.

Across 315 schools, we have supported school communities (directors, parents, parent committees, school management committees) in partnership with sub-provincial school administrations to assess current school performance and to decide how change can happen and who should participate. What will the school improvement plan look like, and who is involved to implement it? The results will be used to create communications that will increase the awareness and mobilisation of parents.

Learning for all, Senegal

Posted on 30 April 2019

The need for good teachers and materials is therefore vital for education systems that value the power of reading. Yet, none of this will prove sustainable without the right governance in place. When central government, regional administrators and local communities have the will and capacity to maintain a flow of support to schools, then the jumble of letters will come together to form a beautiful word: progress.


As one of the leading economies in francophone West Africa, Senegal is investing heavily in the education of its next generation. Although the country’s education system compares favourably against many other African nations, there are still many children out of school and the level of learning ability varies immensely from one state to the next.

The ministry for education is prioritising early grade reading as one of competencies that students need to succeed in learning. The government has bought into the transformative power of reading, attracting support from USAID across three main domains – books and materials development, teacher training and systems strengthening.


Running from 2016 to 2021, USAID’s Lecture pour tous (Learning for all) programme aims to greatly improve early grade reading levels in public primary schools and daaras (traditional Koranic schools). By improving delivery systems for reading instruction, and encouraging parent and community engagement, the programme will fulfil its call to action: “faisons ensemble” (let’s do this together).

Cambridge Education is leading the systems strengthening strand. In these early stages of the programme, we are working closely with government teams to ensure that the right policies are put in place, that norms and standards are established to hold people to account, and that channels of communication are opened and maintained.

We are also helping the ministry to structure its research capacity with a view to growing its output. Our team works primarily with local consultants, who can build relationships with ministry personnel and improve their skills across a series of workshops and trainings.


The goal is to build a national reading programme that is fully implemented by the ministry. Every person at central, regional and school level will know exactly what they have to do, and what is needed, to help children learn to read in the first two years of schooling. Those skills will enable them to continue their learning in later years.

In time, the programme will ultimately render itself redundant. By the 2018-2019 school year, the ministry should be ready to implement the programme essentially on its own in the region of St. Louis. By 2021, the ministry will take over both core costs and full leadership of actions at scale.

Three examples of startups with education solutions for low income communities in Pakistan

Posted on 29 April 2019

The paper is primarily aimed at businesses, entrepreneurs, start-ups and not for profits interested in designing education innovations that reach less wealthy market segments in Pakistan and elsewhere. The case-studies are intended to spark ideas about how to make business-based education solutions accessible to a bigger market and to markets that may reap the biggest benefits from using them.

Each of the start-ups has used different strategies to make their solution more affordable to students from lower/lower-middle income households and/or to low-fee schools.

For the purpose of this paper, low income households are defined as households with a monthly household income of less than Rs. 33,000 ($8 per day). Low fee schools are defined as having school fees less than Rs. 1,200 per month ($8.6).