[color=#222222]We are honored to feature our Grand Prize winning essay, penned by Khanh Nguyen of Colgate University, on our site! We were all very impressed by Khanh's insightful take on the metrics considered to be accurate indicators of the impact of educational programs in the developing world, and his cogent analysis of the reliability and limitations of these metrics. For his excellent analysis, Khanh receives $300 Givology wallet cash credit to give to a student or project of his choice! Read Khanh's Grand Prize winning essay below.[/color]
[b]What are the most relevant metrics to evaluate the impact of educational programs in the developing world? -- By Khanh Nguyen[/b]
The Millenium Development Goals have targeted universal education by 2015, and action and measures from governments and stakeholders have helped to raise enrollment in primary education in the developing world to 90%. While this is undoubtedly a welcoming statistics and a positive indicator of progress made in providing access to education to the most underprivileged people, other metrics are still necessary in order to deliver a thorough evaluation and a truthful picture of the impact and effectiveness of educational programs in the developing world. This essay seeks to present a host of metrics which could be considered more accurate indicators of the impact of educational programs in the developing world and address the reliability as well as the possible limitations of these standards.
Although statistics and figures may not necessarily provide a complete picture of education programs in the developing world, they nevertheless bring about a preliminary overview of the value of these programs. The figures of primary school enrollment should be viewed within the context of a larger set of quantitative metrics. For example, the drop out rates of students, especially at primary and secondary level, introduces an important reference point from which we could assess the sustainability level of the program. According to a research on early school dropouts in Uruguay, in underperforming education sectors, the early dropouts may be perfectly rational and well-informed.  Therefore, a thorough review of the dropout statistics and their causes may present a more comprehensive picture of the effectiveness of the educational program in attracting students and maintaining their access to education. However, it should also be noted that high dropout rates may not entirely be the fault of an education system, as the student and their parents – primary decision makers – may have low aspirations and only become interested in immediate rewards.
In addition to the statistics of drop out rates, a qualitative assessment of the opportunities for students to continue their education should be included in these metrics. The ability to progress from primary to secondary and even tertiary education represents the continuity and progress of educational programs, and the achievement of this continuity represents the empowering nature of education. A UNESCO representative has mentioned that ‘there can be no escape from poverty without a vast expansion of secondary education’ In the famous book ‘The Diary of Ma Yan’, which details the struggles and hopes of a Chinese schoolgirl in search of a better education, we could witness the effect of educational disruption on Ma Yan and how continuity in education is a necessity in nurturing the passion for further education in underprivileged children. Therefore, the continuity and progress in an education program should be considered an important indicator of its success in empowering children.
After a macroscopic evaluation of an educational program we also need to look at the details in order to better gauge the genuine values that the program has to offer to its students. The demands of the modern world bring about an urgent need to redefine literacy in an entirely new context. Traditional primary and secondary education has often identified the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic) as the fundamental building blocks of literacy, and the minimum standard of any basic education program. However, in our society where technology is becoming an increasingly powerful engine of change, a so-called ‘literate’ individual should be equipped with even more sophisticated skills, especially basic literacy in technology. Therefore, better education programs should definitely come with an attempt to expose underprivileged children with the application of technology, which could be a valuable asset in their future life. For example, projects such as ‘One Laptop per Child’, which aim to provide each child with a low-cost, low-power and connected laptop, could be extremely effective in giving the most underprivileged members of our society an easy access to the fruit of our advancement of knowledge. At the same time, educational programs should also be carefully designed to meet the unique circumstances of each country and region. For instance, in order to provide better assistance to children from ethnic minorities in the pursuit of their education in Myanmar, the Ministry of Education has constructed a program to train teachers so that they can offer classes in ethnic minorities languages outside school hours. Therefore, a careful overview of both the local and global context will provide a better point of view from which we could assess the final impact of an educational program on its beneficiaries.
Another point of assessment for an educational program would have to look at the program’s ability to provide gender-inclusvity in primary and secondary education. This metric would also be important in the achievement of the third Millenium Development Goals: promote gender equality and empower women. An educational program could not be considered effective if it could not empower traditionally neglected group, especially women. In regions where people are bounded by customs and where women assume an inferior position, a well-designed program which provides opportunities to female children could have even larger empowering effect. From this point we can expand these criteria towards the inclusion of other disadvantaged groups, such as children with HIV/AIDS or special disabilities. UNESCO has emphasized that ‘We have to work on an 'access to success' continuum by promoting policies to ensure that excluded children get into school coupled with programmes and practices that ensure they succeed there.’ Therefore, better provision of education to traditionally neglected groups is also an important metric in assessing the quality of a program.
In conclusion, several metrics have been identified as possible criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of an education program in the complex context of the developing world. Although each of this metric has its own pros and cons, they should be viewed as the fundamental requirements for the success of an education program. In addition, they should not be viewed as individual criterion, but rather element of a combined assessment so that they could complement each other in a better evaluation of this issue.
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