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What is the best way to train teachers before they start teaching?

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A third year student at ENI-NKTT (L'Ecole Normale des Instituteurs de Nouakchott) teaches a fourth grade Arabic class at Ecole Annexe primary school; Nouakchott, Mauritania. Credit GPE/Kelley Lynch
The first blog in this series discussed the importance of good teachers and how such teachers are “made.” It also examined factors underpinning quality teacher training, a critical driver of quality learning that is, in turn, a key outcome for any education system. This time, again drawing on a recent report by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), Selected Drivers of Education Quality: Pre- Show MoreThe first blog in this series discussed the importance of good teachers and how such teachers are “made.” It also examined factors underpinning quality teacher training, a critical driver of quality learning that is, in turn, a key outcome for any education system. This time, again drawing on a recent report by the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG), Selected Drivers of Education Quality: Pre- and In-Service Teacher Training, we focus on the World Bank Group’s support for initial or preservice teacher training, what it has emphasized, and what may require more emphasis to align with the literature and evidence. The scale of support for preservice teacher training Between fiscal year 2013 and FY18, more than half (110 of 207) projects approved under the supervision of the World Bank Group’s Education Global Practice provided some support for the professional development of teachers. The majority supported in-service teacher training (the subject of the third blog in this series) and 40 supported the more complex area of preservice training, that is, from the initial stages of teachers’ career to their entry into the profession. World Bank Group task team leaders (TTLs) interviewed by IEG for this report explained that the greater emphasis on in-service training was principally due to obstacles and constraints that can arise with preservice training. These include sensitive and complex political economy issues related to preservice institutions, as well as the much larger investment of time and resources required to intervene in such training, which government clients are often unwilling to take on. It should be noted that teacher training projects—like World Bank Group–supported education projects more generally—are implemented more often in low- and lower-middle-income countries, where the need is greatest. How projects engage with the factors that support quality preservice training Among the 40 World Bank Group operations that supported preservice training, 70 percent (28 projects) focused on coursework and had a lesser focus on the other three factors—screening mechanisms, practicums or “practice teaching” and quality assurance. All of these consistently have been identified as key elements that support quality delivery of training. One project addressed all four factors, as shown in the figure. Screening mechanisms. The literature is clear that the use of various quality screening mechanisms across all teacher training tends to support quality learning outcomes. For example, in the Dominican Republic Support to the National Education Pact, an assessment of candidates’ capabilities was used at their entry into preservice training to tailor programs and otherwise provide remediation when candidates did not have the competencies to successfully participate in available training. In most of the nine World Bank Group operations that addressed screening, preservice institutions often relied on a single requirement for entry, such as level of completed education. This most likely reflected a desire not to deter candidates in situations where student enrollments were growing. Thirteen of the operations referred to interventions designed to improve the attractiveness of the teaching profession, a positive step toward ensuring a longer-term pipeline of quality candidates into the profession. Coursework. Among the 28 operations that addressed coursework, IEG’s report found a mostly balanced attention to subject matter and pedagogical skills. Attention to both clearly is important, as even the basics of content and teacher preparation cannot be assumed in poor countries. Recent World Bank Group Service Delivery Indicator studies found that few primary teachers demonstrated mastery of primary-level content—a finding also highlighted by IEG’s analysis. Thus, the initial selection mechanisms have far-reaching consequences for teacher coursework, because a more capable trainee cadre is likely to already have completed higher-level coursework in the subject matter. While coursework must be grounded in relevant curricula, it also needs to be delivered by qualified teacher educators who can impart relevant skills over an adequate time period, backed up by suitable materials. About half of the 40 operations provided some capacity development to teacher educators that was focused on pedagogical methods. About 70 percent supported soft infrastructure, including teaching materials such as textbooks, videos, and information and communication technology, and half of the projects financed infrastructure or renovations for preservice training institutions. Practicums. Among the 15 World Bank Group projects that focused on practicums, the intensity of support varied and that variation also was observed in data analysis. For example, among Latin American countries participating in the Third Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study, extremely low percentages of teachers reported a practicum as part of their training in some Central American countries, in comparison with countries in South America. World Bank Group support for practicums was extensive in some instances, such as the Mauritania Basic Education Sector Support Project in Africa. However, in interviews, TTLs described the approach to practicums in many low-income countries as “sink or swim,” in which trainees were given too much autonomy too soon and without a qualified mentor. In these cases, there is a need for clearer national policy that defines practicum features, as well as systematic guidance about responsibilities for both the teacher training centers and the schools where the practice takes place. Quality assurance. The literature and available data showed that countries with weak accreditation systems either had no effective control over training institutions or relied on voluntary participation mechanisms. TTLs concurred and noted that countries may have had no accreditation mechanism, or that those in place often were subjected to political interference. TTLs cautioned against accrediting a flawed system. They espoused instead effective monitoring and accreditation mechanisms that regulate providers of teacher education programs, to ensure their adherence to training standards and to remove political influences. These mechanisms also can regulate entrance and exit examinations to ensure quality. Next: In-service training One consequence of the low quality of preservice training systems is the need to use in-service training to compensate for underprepared or unqualified teachers. In the final blog in this series, we will look at World Bank Group support for in-service training and at the factors relevant to scaling up teacher training programs that, in their pilot phase, showed promise. Read IEG's report: Selected Drivers of Education Quality: Pre- and In-Service Teacher Training Pictured above: A third year student at ENI-NKTT (L'Ecole Normale des Instituteurs de Nouakchott) teaches a fourth grade Arabic class at Ecole Annexe primary school; Nouakchott, Mauritania.Credit GPE/Kelley Lynch

Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s support for electricity supply from renewable energy resources, 2000–2017

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Pictured above: Ain Beni Mathar Integrated Combined Cycle Thermo-Solar Power Plant. Photo credit: Dana Smillie / World Bank
This evaluation assesses the performance of the World Bank Group (WBG) in its support to electricity production from renewable energy resources in client countries over the period 2000 to 2017.This evaluation assesses the performance of the World Bank Group (WBG) in its support to electricity production from renewable energy resources in client countries over the period 2000 to 2017.

Evidence as a guide in uncertain times - IEG in 2020

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Evidence as a guide in uncertain times
As the World Bank Group responded to the emerging pandemic, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) quickly realigned its work program to focus on the new priorities. Our capacity to adapt and provide insights relevant to the unfolding crisis was largely determined by two key factors: A reform process launched earlier in the year to increase our agility and ability to innovate, and a large body of Show MoreAs the World Bank Group responded to the emerging pandemic, the Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) quickly realigned its work program to focus on the new priorities. Our capacity to adapt and provide insights relevant to the unfolding crisis was largely determined by two key factors: A reform process launched earlier in the year to increase our agility and ability to innovate, and a large body of evidence built over years of evaluation.  We immediately set to mining this body of evidence to identify lessons from past global crises to help inform the Bank Group’s pandemic response. What began with a synthesis of lessons drawn from evaluations of Bank Group responses to Ebola, Avian Flu and other public health crises, led to a demand for evidence to inform a variety of other decisions, such as what worked best during past crises to support the private sector or reach the most vulnerable with social protection measures. These lessons are now collected in a library as a resource for the range of development actors and policymakers coping with the multiple consequences of the pandemic. A library that we add to continually as new challenges appear. While evaluation necessarily requires looking backwards to assess what has worked, the evidence gathered plays a vital role in mapping out what needs to be done to stay on track or adjust course. This has been especially challenging in the fast changing environment created by the pandemic, where restrictions on movement has placed severe limitations on the way we conventionally collect evidence and engage with stakeholders. Yet in uncertain times, more data is needed, not less, and maintaining the cycle of feedback, learning and course correction is even more crucial. As the World Bank Group and other development organizations moved quickly to launch bold programs to address the impacts of the pandemic, evaluators have had to act with equal agility to orient what they do and how they do it to the ‘new normal’.  That same agility is needed as we shift our focus to assessing the early results of the response, coupled with innovation to identify new sources of data and forms of engagement. With the pandemic hitting the most vulnerable the hardest, and threatening to drive millions into extreme poverty, it is essential that we provide our counterparts driving the pandemic response with robust evidence on what is working and for whom. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/wPlEjy-ufDE.jpg?itok=IdjjxA09","video_url":"https://youtu.be/wPlEjy-ufDE","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480)."]} At the start of the last financial year, before the pandemic changed everything, IEG had launched an extensive internal process to assess the alignment of our work with World Bank Group priorities. This involved a review of our products and listening carefully to counterparts, to determine whether we were delivering the right evaluative evidence at the right time to maximize learning and contribute to greater development effectiveness. Early feedback revealed a demand for more just-in-time evidence to inform decision-making alongside insights on longer-term development challenges.  We responded with reforms to increase our flexibility, developing a work program mapped to World Bank Group priorities but with enough room to respond to changing circumstances and emerging demands. We also focused on the need for innovation, in the use of new methods and technologies to provide real-time data while retaining a clear line of sight to the Bank Group’s twin goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. Even before the advent of COVID-19, IEG had begun innovating with a diverse set of new technologies to gather data from drones to geo-mapping and machine learning to increase our capacity for mining data across a broader range of data platforms and resources.  Once the pandemic struck, our internal process took on added significance and IEG has drawn on the reforms to increase our agility, diversify our approaches and face up to a new set of unprecedented development challenges.  To address these and many other challenges posed by the pandemic, IEG drew on lessons learned from evaluating in fragile and conflict-affected settings and taking on board the merits of emergent learning in times of increased uncertainty. We prepared guidelines for adapting evaluation methods in current circumstances, from remote missions to tackling ethical and data protection challenges.   Much like its internal reforms, IEG support to partner countries to build up their monitoring and evaluation capacities has also taken on added significance. With a growing number of countries basing their national development strategies on the Sustainable Development Goals, there has been increasing demand for help with developing their ability to gather evidence and use it to chart a path forward and monitor their progress. IEG has been coordinating with a broad range of countries and organizations to establish a partnership capable of meeting the scale of this demand. The pandemic has reinforced the urgency of this initiative, as the lack of robust evaluation systems leaves many countries blind, without the capacity for evidence-informed policies to cope with the health and economic shocks of the coronavirus.   Going forward, IEG will continue to build on the reforms launched earlier this year. We will continue to invest in strong relationships with counterparts even as we cannot meet in person and find ways to dive deeper into data even as collecting new information poses a challenge. We also remain committed to supporting our partner countries build their capacity for monitoring and evaluation. While we still have much to learn about performing the evaluative function in these challenging times, IEG is committed to approaching the problem with agility, flexibility, and innovation. To learn more about IEG’s FY20 programs and evaluations, read this year’s annual report.

Insights for a Rapidly Changing World

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IEG Annual Report 2020 image of a compass

What makes a good teacher? (Hint: commitment and training)

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A teacher trainee helps out in the class two classroom by passing out textbooks. As part of her training she will spend three weeks observing and working with each teacher in the school. Sandogo “B” primary school, District 7, Ouagadougou.Credit: GPE Kelley Lynch
We all instinctively recognize a good teacher when we meet one—someone who brings the subject matter to life, makes it relevant, supports critical engagement, and so much more. Many of us can name at least one teacher who made a big difference in our educational journey. Perhaps that is why writers and movie makers—from the musty days of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Blackboard Jungle, to Sidney Poitier Show MoreWe all instinctively recognize a good teacher when we meet one—someone who brings the subject matter to life, makes it relevant, supports critical engagement, and so much more. Many of us can name at least one teacher who made a big difference in our educational journey. Perhaps that is why writers and movie makers—from the musty days of Goodbye, Mr. Chips and Blackboard Jungle, to Sidney Poitier in To Sir with Love to Meryl Streep in Music of the Heart, to Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society and Richard Dreyfuss in Mr. Holland’s Opus—have found success in relating stories of the profound effect that good teachers can have on learning and on the lives of their students. While the personal and vocational qualities that characterize all good teachers are important, other factors also inform the making and nurturing of good teachers, including quality training. In this three-part blog series drawing on the findings of IEG’s Selected Drivers of Education Quality: Pre- and In-Service Teacher Training we first discuss what underpins effective teacher training then, in subsequent blogs, we look at World Bank support for quality teaching. Of course, we recognize that context—governance, the policy environment, the quality of service delivery, resources, incentives—can also shape and influence how teachers are trained and the expectations under which they operate. Even allowing for this, the importance of training in producing quality teachers who contribute to quality learning outcomes cannot be underestimated. So, what do we know? First, we know that teacher effort and capacity are critical to student learning and educational outcomes. We also know, as highlighted in the World Development Report 2018: Learning to Realize the Promise of Education, that quality learning is, or at least should be, central to any education system. Finally, we know that, in line with the World Bank’s Human Capital Project, education is critical for human development. Put simply, we know that the stakes are high. As such, and as illustrated below, support for professional development to improve teacher capacity—both pre-service and in-service—is a critical input in pursuit of education quality. Click to enlarge & download image Quality pre-service training relies, in the first instance, on screening and filtering mechanisms designed to ensure the selection of quality candidates. But the efficacy of these mechanisms is itself reliant on high demand premised on the attractiveness of teaching compared to other professions. The attractiveness of teaching rests on factors such as initial pay, career opportunities, incentive and support structures, classroom and school working conditions, as well as cultural aspects related to how society views teachers. To ensure the selection of quality of candidates, screening requires transparent and meaningful requirements to enter and exit pre-service institutions, such as examinations, grades, or graduation requirements. Coursework in both content and pedagogical knowledge that is grounded in the curricula of the schools where trainee teachers will eventually teach is clearly essential. This requires the availability of qualified teacher educators who can impart relevant skills. But it also needs to be supported by the necessary learning materials as well as the requisite duration and intensity of teacher training courses –determined with reference to context—to ensure the development  of effective teachers. Teaching involves the mastery and exercise of various skills, which makes practicum—the supervised practical application of a previously or concurrently studied field or theory—a critical component of well-rounded professional development. Effective practicums help teachers gradually assume more tasks and more responsibilities supported by monitoring and mentoring based on productive partnerships between training institutions and schools. This, in turn, should help create a trainee-centered experience that allows for formative assessment based on constructive feedback, accompanied by reflection and dialogue. Effective quality assurance mechanisms can underpin the entire education system through, for example, provision of accreditation for training institutions and support for certification and alternative preparation for teaching. More specifically, quality assurance can underpin quality, objectivity, and transparency for both pre- and in-service training systems. It can help ensure adherence to training standards, removal of political influence, and the exercise of effective control over the number of candidates entering the system. Quality assurance can also ensure regulation of screening mechanisms regarding, for example, the implementation and integrity of assessment and examinations, providing clear signals that such screening mechanisms are free from manipulation. Finally, quality in-service training can be vital in supplementing and improving teachers’ instructional practices and knowledge conducive to student learning. Quality in-service training observes adult learning principles, is implemented over an adequate duration, and offers sustained follow-up support through coaching or feedback that promotes reflection. It may be easier to ensure the presence of these characteristics in smaller pilot efforts, but it is imperative, if enhanced learning outcomes are the focus, that quality is maintained and sustained when in-service training is scaled up. In the second and third blog in this series we elaborate on what the World Bank has done to support pre- and in-service teacher training, where it has placed an emphasis, what it has done well, and where it might need to improve to scale-up training programs. Read IEG's report: Selected Drivers of Education Quality: Pre- and In-Service Teacher Training Pictured above: A teacher trainee helps out in the class two classroom by passing out textbooks. As part of her training she will spend three weeks observing and working with each teacher in the school. Sandogo “B” primary school, District 7, Ouagadougou. Credit: GPE Kelley Lynch

Convening for Peace: Lessons from Evaluating the World Bank Group

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Convening for Peace: Lessons from Evaluating the World Bank Group
More and more, the World Bank Group is contributing to international collective action to realize Sustainable Development Goal 16 for just and peaceful societies. A recent evaluation assesses the Bank Group’s global engagements of this kind. It finds that the Bank Group is a sought-after global player. Aligning global convening efforts with in-country programs, and monitoring them Show MoreMore and more, the World Bank Group is contributing to international collective action to realize Sustainable Development Goal 16 for just and peaceful societies. A recent evaluation assesses the Bank Group’s global engagements of this kind. It finds that the Bank Group is a sought-after global player. Aligning global convening efforts with in-country programs, and monitoring them systematically, could further benefit the World Bank Group’s convening for peace. This week the World Bank will wrap up its Fragility Forum, a biennial event that brings together practitioners and policymakers from around the world to exchange knowledge about engaging in contexts affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV). The World Bank Group’s ability to bring together, or convene, actors on major global issues this way is an example of the convening power it holds. Alongside its capacity to mobilize financing and provide advisory and analytical services to address development challenges, the Bank Group’s role as a global convener is a cornerstone of its value proposition to clients and shareholders. How well does the Bank Group deploy its convening power? IEG recently explored this. We assessed how the World Bank Group convenes international partners to act collectively on global issues critical to its mission. This is a first-of-its-kind evaluation, that explores what global issues the Bank Group convenes on, what factors drive its convening choices, and what factors determine its convening effectiveness. We found that that the World Bank Group is increasingly engaging in efforts that relate to fragile contexts, driven by high demands from shareholders and donors to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 16 (SDG 16) on peace. The Bank Group largely meets these demands, assuming the role of a responsive global convener. Aligning the World Bank Group’s global and country-level work Stakeholders typically request the Bank Group to work in tandem with other specialized international organizations, particularly the UN, when convening around FCV issues.  Our evaluation found that the Bank Group’s convenings on many such themes – including crisis response, forced displacement, and the humanitarian-development-peace nexus – are indeed based on strong collaborations with different development partners, including the UN. {"preview_thumbnail":"/sites/default/files/Data/styles/video_embed_wysiwyg_preview/public/video_thumbnails/us-rtIMc4Ro.jpg?itok=uRrLyqDT","video_url":"https://youtu.be/us-rtIMc4Ro","settings":{"responsive":0,"width":"854","height":"480","autoplay":0},"settings_summary":["Embedded Video (854x480)."]} A recent IEG evaluation finds that the World Bank Group has strong comparative advantages in catalyzing action on global agendas. Some of the Bank Group’s financial mechanisms to address FCV and forced displacement respond to demand from prominent stakeholders to help shape multilateral responses to these issues. Financial mechanisms such as the State and Peacebuilding Fund, the Global Concessional Financing Facility for middle-income countries, and IDA, including IDA’s Sub-Window for Refugees and Host Communities, help make the Bank a stronger convener on FCV issues. At the same time, our interviews and case studies identified weaker translation of these global agendas into country-level engagements. While at times this can be due to political sensitivities of operating in FCV contexts, our findings suggest that internally within the World Bank Group, the global work could benefit from more consistent reflection in country programs. This could help ensure better results on the ground. At times, the Bank Group’s country engagement model can be limiting when addressing challenges that cross national boundaries. World Bank projects predominantly implement country-focused solutions – improving coordination across the Bank’s country teams, and strengthening ownership of regional programs among partner governments, could benefit the global work.   Improving accountability for convening results The share of the World Bank’s operating budget going to global engagements is around 13 percent. Yet there is no clear system to track convening initiatives and results. Successful global convening should lead to outcomes such as shared understanding, or changes in positions and attitudes; shared solutions, or negotiated changes in standards, policies, and financing practices; and shared implementation, or setting up programs and partnerships to finance and coordinate given development challenges. In the absence of tracking systems, managerial attention to the convening portfolio risks being uneven and less systematic. Attention gets paid to some prominent initiatives and many of the formal partnership programs. However, there is less oversight of convening initiatives when they are managed below the corporate level, at the department or vice-presidential unit levels. This occurs because convening initiatives sometimes lack explicitly stated objectives, success cannot be measured easily, and managing units face relatively weak accountability for their performance. To improve the effectiveness of global convening, including on efforts to support Sustainable Development Goal 16, corporate processes and systems could better support managing convening initiatives over their life cycle. Many of the global and regional initiatives that the World Bank Group convenes in the space of fragility, conflict, and violence are relatively recent, and some have already passed their piloting phase. It is critical to have these initiatives periodically assessed to ensure better selectivity of global engagements and a focus on results. Learn more about the effectiveness of the World Bank Group’s global convening in The World’s Bank: An Evaluation of the World Bank Group’s Global Convening. The report seeks to inform discussions about the Bank Group’s role as a major actor on global development policy issues at a time when demand for collective response to crises is increasing but support for multilateralism from major powers is fragile. To read about the Bank Group’s convening on issues related to FCV, please see Appendix E of the evaluation and the World Bank Group’s FCV Strategy.   Image credit: Andrea Schmitz 

When Conflict and COVID Collide: Towards a Risk Analysis Framework

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When Conflict and COVID Collide: Towards a Risk Analysis Framework
As COVID reaches the world’s most fragile states, understanding how it is impacting conflict dynamics is critical. How do we best monitor these effects? As COVID reaches the world’s most fragile states, understanding how it is impacting conflict dynamics is critical. How do we best monitor these effects?

Nicaragua: Fourth Roads Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project and Rural Roads Infrastructure Improvement Project (PPAR)

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The World Bank has supported the road sector in Nicaragua since early 1990. It has helped remove road infrastructure bottlenecks, introduced innovations in road work delivery and maintenance, and strengthened capacity and institutions in the sector. In the course of this three-decade collaboration, cooperative-based road maintenance enterprises, concrete block roads, and concrete block surfacing Show MoreThe World Bank has supported the road sector in Nicaragua since early 1990. It has helped remove road infrastructure bottlenecks, introduced innovations in road work delivery and maintenance, and strengthened capacity and institutions in the sector. In the course of this three-decade collaboration, cooperative-based road maintenance enterprises, concrete block roads, and concrete block surfacing through communitybased surfacing units have become salient features of the World Bank’s engagement in the sector. Both projects in this assessment, the Fourth Roads Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project and the Rural Roads Infrastructure Improvement Project, approved in 2006 and 2011, respectively, were preceded by the original Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project and the Second and Third Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance Projects. These projects were approved by the World Bank between 1996 and 2001. They were followed by the ongoing Urban Access Improvement Project, which was approved in 2017. Ratings for the Fourth Roads Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project are as follows: Outcome was satisfactory, Risk to development outcome was moderate, Bank performance was satisfactory, and Borrower performance was satisfactory. Ratings for the Rural Roads Infrastructure Improvement Project are as follows: Outcome was satisfactory, Risk to development outcome was substantial, Bank performance was satisfactory, and Borrower performance was substantial. This assessment offers the following lessons: (i) Rigor in the selection of roads to be financed and continued support for road planning can help countries use resources effectively and create a planning culture. (ii) Contract features and strict enforcement appear critical to taking full advantage of performance-based routine maintenance contracts. (iii) Upgrading rural roads to all-weather access needs to be comprehensive. (iv) Providing limited technical assistance support in many areas with little upfront preparation might restrict project results. (v) Close stakeholder involvement and post-completion outreach strategies might increase the usefulness of project-financed studies. (vi) A strong results framework is likely to facilitate results measurement.

Investing in Evaluation Capacity Development in India: Why it Matters Now More than Ever

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Investing in Evaluation Capacity Development in India: Why it Matters Now More than Ever
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Investing in evaluation capacity development in India: Why it matters now more than ever

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Investing in evaluation capacity development in India- why it matters now more than ever
Governments around the world face the daunting task of addressing a downward spiral of economic activity coupled with a growing health burden from the spread of the coronavirus disease. India is no exception, and the government has had to be innovative in both designing policies and deploying resources to cope with the twin challenges. We believe that two elements can be game-changers in Show MoreGovernments around the world face the daunting task of addressing a downward spiral of economic activity coupled with a growing health burden from the spread of the coronavirus disease. India is no exception, and the government has had to be innovative in both designing policies and deploying resources to cope with the twin challenges. We believe that two elements can be game-changers in addressing the crisis: the use of data and leveraging partnerships. For almost a decade, CLEAR South Asia has been collaborating with state governments in India to undertake systematic capacity-building efforts on data and evidence use for policy decision-making.  Policymakers at the state and central levels have to lead the charge on developing data capacity and building strategic partnerships. They will need to think innovatively to respond swiftly to emerging challenges. It has been gratifying to see the government’s creative use of real-time data and technology for planning containment strategies and service delivery.  We are also seeing an exciting mix of organizations, such as technology enablers, private companies, non-profits and research institutions complementing government efforts to tackle the most difficult challenges and protect the most vulnerable. For these opportunities to be genuinely advantageous, the government must be able to collate and analyze data from multiple sources to understand fully the nature of problems confronting us and to respond effectively. Strengthened data capabilities of the government, whether independently or by leveraging partnerships, to interpret, absorb, and use data and evidence to make informed decisions are urgently needed. However, system-level changes take time, and data use capabilities cannot be built overnight. The foundation of a systems change that is conducive and incentive-compatible for governments to internalize a data-driven approach needs to be laid in advance.            Enlarge and download infographic Creating sustainable channels Leveraging our host institution J-PAL SA’s institutional partnership (now in its sixth year) with the state government of Tamil Nadu in India, CLEAR SA, in collaboration with the state bureaucracy, has developed and executed a multi-pronged, customized capacity-building strategy.  We engage with multiple levels of government to build capabilities across domains, using customized workshops, hands-on training, and advisory. These efforts have culminated in structural channels that allow for useful feedback loops to inform decisions.  Our capacity-building approach had three key features: First, our long-term, government-wide partnership in Tamil Nadu is founded on a 360 degree, deeply embedded life-cycle approach which forges linkages between research, capacity building, and policy advisory to enable data use for decisions. Second, we now know that knowledge transfer is most effective when combined with live examples. Adoption is greater when demonstrated and allows for learning by doing. Multiple touchpoints and continued engagement have helped build trust and value, and sustain the commitment through elections, transfers of key personnel, and shifts in policy priorities. Third, we recognize that decision-making, especially on the adoption of new ideas or practices can be non-sequential– meaning that what we build and recommend today, could come to use a year or more later. A key strength is in being able to identify and be responsive to an opportunity whenever it emerges. In our experience, this is possible when the groundwork is laid upfront. Thus, when a policy window opens, the only incremental effort needed is to refresh and connect the dots, and not have to start from scratch. A longer-term systems-driven capacity-building approach can lead to increased sensitivity and reception to data-driven decision-making among governments. Tamil Nadu is a good example, which has a substantial aging population, and their well-being is an important priority. The Department of Economics and Statistics, in collaboration with leading researchers, launched the first-ever state-wide elderly panel survey in 2016-17.  For almost four years, CLEAR SA provided technical advisory services and training workshops (mirroring activities on the project timeline) on sampling, questionnaire design, and data quality to enable rigorous and efficient data collection. Our capacity-building efforts led to the adoption of independent backchecks (a standard practice in research) by the department to ensure the quality of data.  Last year, the department completed the baseline survey across five districts. Taking cognizance of a critical finding of a growing proportion of elderly living alone, the government announced in their latest budget, a pilot intervention of elderly daycare centers in the state. In addition to these policy wins, the department also adopted digital data collection for their surveys and plan to conduct a follow-up wave next year. We are now planning an evaluation of this pilot to inform expansion approaches. Further, during the current crisis, via the use of phone surveys, the government and researchers can track whether the elderly covered in the survey are facing any issues during the Covid-19 lockdown.   Such a holistic, long-term, and embedded approach was instrumental in creating systems for new and high-quality data collection, use of data for planning, decisions, and increased appetite for further evaluations. It also means that the goal of adopting a systematic approach to designing innovative policies and deploying resources to protect a vulnerable population such as the elderly, is achievable. Photo credit Shutterstock/ By Myvector