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The findings > Thematic Studies> Funding Agency ...> Part 3/Section C/ 2
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7. Quality and Access
 
"Basic education should be provided to all children, youth and adults. To this end, basic education services of quality should be expanded, and consistent measures must be taken to reduce disparities. For basic education to be equitable, all children, youth and adults must be given the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning." (Declaration: 4) "The most urgent priority is to ensure access to, and improve the quality of, education for girls and women, and to remove every obstacle that hampers their active participation." (Declaration: 5)
 

The expanded vision advocated at Jomtien encompassed universalising access and promoting equity. This included

expanding quality education services

giving all children, youth and adults the opportunity to achieve and maintain an acceptable level of learning

removing educational disparities for under served groups

This section examines agency policy and practice in relation to the goals of universal access and improved quality. We present a summary and indication of agency operationalisation of these concepts and explore, with the use of examples, how agency outlook impacts upon the type and nature of strategies and interventions employed.

It is difficult to break down agency policy and practice in this area. All agencies are committed to these goals and have developed interventions designed to address general and specific concerns in both areas. Within this, there is a different emphasis placed on access or quality or both within agencies at specific times. This delicate balance is affected by the way agencies' target, for example some such as Ireland, work with priority countries whilst others, such as the World Bank focus on internal capacity / agency expertise; country priorities and so forth. The mixture of all of these factors makes division into neat categories problematic. Despite this many agencies have indicated in their documentation that one or other category takes precedence over the other (see Table 7.1).

 
Table 7.1 Agency Focus on Quality and Access
 
Quality is main focus of interventions: EC, IDB, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UNDP, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank.
Both quality and access, Either / or, Country specific focus, Type / level specific focus: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Portugal, UK, USA, ADB, CDB, UNESCO.
In order to make sense of how this emphasis is translated into interventions we will look at a few examples from both categories.
 
7.1 Quality Focus
 

For Sweden the content and quality of education at the classroom level and subsequent learning outcomes are given a higher priority than before. Work on curriculum development is perceived as an important means of intervening to improve quality. Other interventions include developing materials, within this developing local capacity is the aim, which now includes local commercial capacity. This aim of decentralisation is reflected in a shift in Sida's budget from supporting central production in-country to local purchasing of materials, as well as the separation of textbook writing from curriculum development. Decentralising special needs education, teacher training and strengthening the knowledge base are also considered important.

Support is mainly in Africa (e.g. Mozambique and Tanzania) and concentrated in production and distribution, with the objective of increasing relevance of curriculum and materials. Two important trends are identified particularly in Africa; decreasing role of the state and parastatal organisations in production processes; and decentralisation of basic education from central to regional/local levels.

Besides work on curriculum and materials, Sida supports culture and media programmes. Their strategies include: country specificity; building domestic commercial publishing; supporting working groups and training; curriculum review; and analysing educational materials from a classroom perspective.

Quality is also a main focus in the IDB's strategy for primary and secondary education. Problems plaguing systems throughout the region often have more to do with successful permanence than initial enrolment. To deal with problems of low quality the Strategy highlights five critical areas for reform: (a) changing the ways teachers are trained, how they operate and how they are rewarded within schools; (b) reforming school management to emphasise autonomy, accountability and teamwork at the school level; (c) providing adequate learning materials; using information technology appropriately to improve learning and meet new labour market demands; (e) targeting pre-schooling, especially to under-privileged populations.

 
7.2 Multiple Focus
 

For the Asian Development Bank access takes precedence over quality in rural areas. This is because they consider that quality interventions without the framework of access actually restrict the poor. The Bank intervenes using NFE, providing physical structure and conducting special programmes where the out-of-school population is down to the last 20 percent which is hardest to reach. They also experiment with pre-schooling to build community acceptance of school. Whilst prioritising access they implement some quality interventions including activity based teaching methods; teacher training; teacher supervision; interactive radio instruction; and other supplementary programmes such as libraries.

For Germany (in terms of access) the focus is on underprivileged groups, particularly out-of-school youth. They feel this group has been ignored. Their interventions include a youth forum in Asia, a basic education and skill learning programme in Pakistan which is attached to a brick works. They also work with NGOs in this area and stress the appropriateness of NFE for this group.

The UK seems equally committed to the goals of access and quality. They see increasing availability as the first step to UPE, and acquisition of a meaningful basic education as the real or ultimate goal. Both factors interact with each other as poor quality depresses the demand for education and limits the potential impact of education in society. Curriculum, the environment and teaching and learning materials are all relevant to quality. Within access an important issue is cost. DFID generally supports the reasoning that "general taxation and other forms of government revenue are more efficient and equitable ways of raising revenue for basic services than cost sharing" (DFID 1999: 22).

The USA appears to move between the goals of access and quality. Different interventions seem to have different focuses. In terms of girl's education the most common obstacle is supply of schools in terms of quantity, quality, suitability for girls and their cost. They see themselves in a leadership role in girls' education as they were one of the first agencies to finance this area. They evaluated their own efforts in 1997/8 and found that a decline or stagnation in quality can often accompany expansion, particularly for girls. They have identified specific gender quality efforts to combat this, which include: gender neutral materials; gender sensitivity for teachers; multi-lingual education.

For quality interventions generally, three major components of the delivery system are identified; learning materials, teacher behaviour and testing, within a framework of decentralisation as part of reform. For quality to be raised there has to be agreement on a common purpose. The US have had only modest results in this area and attribute this to the differing visions held by the stakeholders. They noted that it was often difficult to agree on quality interventions such as on the precise nature of school quality and how to achieve it with the recipient government. They feel that sustaining positive trends may depend on the level of political will in host countries and funding agency commitment. Progress in the primary sector is beginning to produce strain in the secondary sector in some countries in which the US is working e.g. Malawi. They therefore aim in this instance to address quality and access at the same time. USAID use the measurement tool 'fundamental quality and equity levels' (FQEL) as a means of planning for both. It is a combination of features, inputs, standards and procedures and provides a school level definition of regional and national targets.

Within Australian development assistance the goals of access and equity seem to be more or less relevant in specific countries. For example, access is a priority in PNG, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, and Kiribati, where the primary project focus is on expanding access. Strategies include building classrooms, book supply and equipment and pre-service teacher training. These projects also address equity and quality issues through focusing on the needs of vulnerable groups of children, for example working and street children. Often this is done through support for NGO activities or community based strategies.

Interventions supported by AusAid include NFE and literacy programmes, providing literacy materials, e.g. a vernacular newspaper, including the disadvantaged in planning, assisting governments with diagnostic studies. In terms of quality interventions they list strengthening the capacity of schools and governments, improving information systems; teacher training; curriculum and materials development.

The Caribbean Development Bank's policy for the education sector is a regional effort. Quality and access are emphasised for ECD, primary and secondary levels. Particular goals are specified which include: to develop children with lively minds, capable of independent thought; to improve the quality as a foundation for further levels; to facilitate the transition from level to level and to work, to improve the learning environment and the quality of the educational offering; access for all by 2000; to broaden certification; to provide adequate numbers for further training.

They consider that expansion must take place in the context of curriculum reform. It is a clear part of the access and quality drive. The two goals are linked through this area. Within this the development process must take cognisance of culture. Teacher education is also an area of priority in which goals have been identified, as well as management, administration and financing.

 
7.3 Some Conclusions
 
It is difficult to separate interventions addressing quality and access issues. This is because they often overlap and the categories are blurred. However, within this some tentative threads emerge. It seems that in locations where formal education is firmly established (such as the settled colonies) attention has to be turned to quality, as this is having an adverse effect on access, and access in areas other than basic education. Agencies note this particularly in relation to girls. The issue is not raised as clearly for women's basic education (see Chapter 6). In areas where formal schooling is not assured then access and quality are inextricably linked. Poor quality and lack of relevance are part of the reason why the community is reluctant to attend school. Language issues are of importance here (see Chapter 9). In addition to this, however high the quality of a school or sector, the community will only benefit if there are sufficient places to provide real access. The conferences of the 1960s and the goal of UPE focussed primarily on creating places for children in school. This was not sufficient to guarantee the wider goals of education. The goals of EFA are an attempt to address both of these concerns simultaneously. The identification of specific targets relating to UPE, literacy, and girls education have meant that there has been a particular focus on access in relation to them. The fact that quality is harder to measure has compounded this. It would seem that all interventions need to be mindful of issues of quality and relevance as this can ultimately undermine outcomes. .
 

7.4 Outstanding Issues

7.4.1 Issues

Quality and access issues are inextricably linked. Agencies are prioritising these areas, but certain groups remain underrepresented. For example, women's access to quality basic education is still a problem. It is not as readily addressed by agencies as that of girls. Access and quality should continue to be considered together and the needs of all people should be addressed. The dynamic nature of education needs to be adequately conceptualised, with more consideration of the role students and teachers play in the process of their own learning.

Whilst quality is emphasised as the basis for interventions, the targets are focused around access, for example UPE. Concern for enrolment rates, drop out and repetition should encompass both access and quality concerns. However, it is easier to look at numerical indicators rather than those that examine the process, for example student achievement. Work needs to continue on developing good quality indicators based on the local context, which can inform the analysis of the process of education.

Quality is a context specific issue, for example considerations of language, the needs of particular groups and relevance to the community. Decentralisation is one way in which agencies are trying to address this. Interventions should strengthen local administrations at the school and next level in terms of design, implementation and evaluation

 
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