Accelerated education programs in crisis and conflict: building evidence and learning (literature review)

Author: Pamela Baxter, Aparna Ramesh, Alicia Menendez, and Lindsay North
Year: 2016
Agency: USAID
Full Citation: Baxter, P., Ramesh, A., Menendez, A., & North, L. (2016). Accelerated education programs in crisis and conflict: building evidence and learning. (Literature review). Washington, D.C: USAID
Research Category:
  • Secondary Research
    • Systematic reviews / literature reviews
  • Understand and Strive for Equity
    • Accelerated/Alternative Education Programming
Target Population(s): Children, Youth
Overview: Accelerated Education Programs (AEPs) are flexible, age-appropriate programs that promote access to education in an accelerated time frame for such disadvantaged groups — specifically, for out-of-school, over-age children and youth excluded from education or who had their education interrupted due to crisis and conflict. [T]his review focused on the following critical questions: 1. In operation, what are the profiles of AEPs? How do the elements of these profiles differ from the theoretical elements of accelerated learning? 2. What outcomes, if any, are reported on AEPs, and what can they tell us about how AEPs increase access and improve learning outcomes for out-of-school youth? 3. What are the critical questions related to the structure and outcomes of AEPs, and where are the gaps in the literature? 4. Based on what we know about AEPs, and the difficulties associated with evaluating AEPs and other education interventions in crisis and conflict-affected environments, what recommendations can we make about how to evaluate AEPs and operationalize the research agenda around AEPs? (pp. ii-iii)
Methodology: The review identified documentation on programs reflecting the key principles of accelerated education, mainly: the program ultimately aimed to increase access for out-of-school, over-age children and youth, contained a compressed/modified curriculum, and had a stated interactive methodology. We also reviewed programs self-labeled “accelerated learning” or “accelerated education.” We narrowed our list of “relevant” literature to 44 documents, ten of which were either mid-term or final performance evaluation reports. References in reports to other evaluations were also included in the review. We identified documentation through: 1) key informant interviews, 2) a systematic database search executed by a University of Chicago librarian; 3) references from previous reviews or evaluation reports of AEPs and; 4) internet searches. This study is primarily focused on AEPs implemented in crisis and conflict-affected environments. Proper documentation, understandably, was harder to locate in AEPs implemented in less stable contexts. To help enrich the conversation, documentation from more stable contexts, including from AEPs not implemented in crisis and conflict-affected environments, was included in this study. (p. iii)
Findings: There is great variety in what constitutes an AEP; Some programs included more content but not necessarily more instruction time; In a few cases, funding cycles did not allow cohorts to complete the AEP cycle; The smaller the program, the more flexible the timetabling; In some programs, school-aged or younger children or youth enrolled in AEPs instead of attending formal schools—a disadvantage to both target beneficiaries and school-age or younger students; Where information on teacher selection was available, teachers were typically recruited from the community, with completion of at least secondary school required; Documentation on teacher training is very thin; M&E systems are not strong enough to collect systemized data; AEPs may be outperforming formal schools, but more rigorous research is needed; Very few programs tracked longer-term outcomes, with those that do indicating mixed results. (pp. iii-vi)

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