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Accelerated Education Working Group

October 3, 2017 @ 9:00 am - 10:00 am

OverviewOctober 3 Launch Event2016 Webcast

What is the Accelerated Education Working Group?


Overview of AEWG’s Accelerated Education Guidance Materials

The Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG) is made up of education partners working in Accelerated Education (AE). The AEWG is currently led by UNHCR, with representatives from UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, ECCN, NRC, Plan, IRC, Save the Children, and War Child Holland.

What is the AEWG’s Goal?

To strengthen the quality of AE programming through a more harmonized, standardized approach.

What is the purpose of the AEWG?

Globally, Accelerated Education programs are being employed with more frequency to address the overwhelming numbers of out-of-school children and youth. However, while there is widespread agreement on the need for such programming among agencies and governments, there is insufficient validated documentation that provides guidance, standards, and indicators for efficient program planning, implementation, and monitoring. In practice, AE takes different forms in different countries, and even within countries. Moreover, there is little significant documentation on the impact of such programming, including how far we are contributing to learning achievement and how successful we are at facilitating pathways between accelerated programming and formal and non-formal education.

To address some of these specific challenges related to AE, starting with the lack of guidance and standards, UNHCR invited a small number of education partners working in the area to participate in the formation of this working group in 2014.

What does the AEWG do?

AEWGThe AEWG comes together biannually to share experiences and expertise in AE and provides an opportunity for dialogue around a more harmonized, standardized approach. Based on the aim for a more standardized approach to AE, the AEWG has begun to develop guidance materials based on international standards and sound practice.

AEWG’s Objectives and Activities for 2017

  1. Improve AE (international and national) policy and systems through advocacy;
  2. Strengthen the evidence base for AE through research and knowledge management;
  3. Improve AE programming through the development, promotion, and dissemination of AE guidance and tools.

All objectives are linked through learning.

Activities for Objective 1: Improve AE (international and national) policy and systems through advocacy

The AEWG will advocate to improve AE policy and systems at both a national and international level through the development of key messages, a policy brief, and engagement plans for donors and Ministries of Education. The AEWG will communicate and promote key messages through blogs, websites, webinars, and at international education conferences and events.

Activities for Objective 2:  Strengthen the evidence base for AE through research and knowledge management

The AEWG has finalized its Learning Agenda and will now establish partnerships and conduct research to strengthen the evidence base for AE.

If you are interested in doing work linked to these research themes and questions please register here. This will enable the AEWG to track research and also enable you to see who else is working on similar themes. 

This year, the AEWG has completed a series of studies on the application of the Accelerated Education 10 Principles for Effective Practice. The review of the application of the AE Principles include four case studies (see resources below), conducted in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and two programs in Dadaab refugee camp in North East Kenya, an overall synthesis report, and an executive summary of the findings. These case studies highlight how contextual differences are managed in assessing adherence to the principles and in ensuring effectiveness of AE programs generally.

Activities for Objective 3:  Improve AE programming through the development, promotion, and dissemination of AE guidance and tools

The AWEG will promote and disseminate the AEWG guidance and tools, including the translation into additional languages of the AE 10 Principles for Effective Practice, AE Guide and AE definitions, as well as the development of an AE “tool box,” containing a “how-to guide,” AE indicators, log frame, and monitoring tools. We will build on the understanding of AE, especially within AEWG member organizations, through the dissemination and use of the tools. All these resources are currently available in English and French and can be found below. Later this year, translations into Arabic will become available.

AEWG Resources

Please note that the Guide to the Principles is a beta version and is being field tested. Please contact Martha Hewison for further information, or if you are interested in taking part in the field test.

Case Studies

Additional Resources

You might also be interested in the slides of AEWG’s CIES presentations in Atlanta and a blog post on the findings of the field studies.


Keynotes and Presentations of Launch Event

October 3 Launch Event

ECCN is happy to support the Accelerated Education Working Group in launching its revised and updated guidance materials for accelerated education in crisis and conflict-affected countries. The updated materials include the 10 Principles for Effective Practice, the Guide to the Accelerated Education Principles, the Accelerated Education definitions, and its new Accelerated Education Learning Agenda.

How to Attend


Overview of AEWG’s Accelerated Education Guidance

  1. The event was hosted at EDC in Washington, D.C., on October 3, 2017
    See directions or this Google Map for information on how to get to EDC. Due to limited space, in-person attendance had to be limited to AEWG members and distinguished guests.
  2. The event was streamed live and the recording is available here.


Time Session Speakers
11:30 a.m. – 11:40 a.m. Welcome Education in Crisis and Conflict Network / Accelerated Education Working Group Cornelia Janke,  Director, ECCN and Martha Hewison, Chair, AEWG / UNHCR

11:40 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. Introduction to the Accelerated Education Working Group Ita Sheehy, Senior Education Advisor, UNHCR

11:50 a.m. – 12:05 p.m. Global Overview of Accelerated Education Nina Papadopoulos, USAID

12:05 p.m. – 12:20 p.m. Accelerated Education Working Group materials and tools Kate Radford, War Child Holland

12:20 p.m. – 12:40 p.m.  Panel Moderator: Ash Hartwell, ECCN

Brenda Bell, EDC

Dr. Mary Mendenhall, Teachers College Columbia

Dr. James H. Williams, George Washington University
12:40 p.m. – 1:00 p.m. Q&A Moderator: Ash Hartwell, ECCN
1:00 pm Lunch

WebEx Chat Q&A

The following are questions posed during the AEWG launch event on October 3, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Joshua: I do have a question. First, hearty congratulations for getting to this point. We look forward to studying the materials and to see how they might help us improve our work with Speed School, an AEP we implement in Ethiopia, Uganda, and Liberia. It seems that a good next step would be to gather and make available a database on what different AEPs operate, where, how, etc. Is there any thought of doing something along these lines?

Yes the AEWG has a data base of the AEPs operating globally amongst all the AEWG members. It has where, how, beneficiaries, donor included. We will expand this to include other organizations outside of the AEWG and make this public at a later date but for now we are finalizing the AEPs within the AEWG members.

Fe Nogra-Abog: Great presentations and discussions! Can panelists share their thoughts on how last 2 principles on alignment with MoE and policy frameworks can be addressed in a situation where you provide education to refugee population in host countries -- whose policies, standards are you supposed to be aligning? will this be meaningful to learners considering many things are unknown.

In line with the UNHCR policy of inclusion of refugees in national education systems the AEWG advocates for AEPs to be aligned with the MoE and policy frameworks of the host country. As the last two principles state, to ensure that AEPs are sustainable, legitimate and ultimately that students end up with a recognized certificate AEPs should be aligned with the policies and standards of the host country. Please see the UNHCR Education Brief on inclusion for more background about this here.

Harry: I have a question to the panelists regarding M&E of AEP. With regard to the efficiency of AEP, What do you think what kinds of tracer studies are needed from now on?

Tracer studies are key to understanding the effectiveness of AEPs and are an illustrative learning activity within our learning agenda under the theme of effectiveness and resource efficiency. We need to show what happens to these students when they complete AEPs so I think tracer studies to show the integration of students into formal education, vocation education or livelihoods are key to understand better ultimately how effective AEPs are.

Joshua: Any chance of our getting our program into this database?

Yes! We have plans to expand the data base in early 2018 and will be reaching out to organizations that we know implementing AEPs to include them on the data base.

Aung Zaw Moe: Hello, my name is Aung Zaw from the Global Sleepover, a non-profit US based organization. We are looking for partnership opportunities to work for children in conflicts in Myanmar (Burma) in Rakhine State. Is there any specific projects that related to AE in Myanmar currently? Do you have any AE projects in Myanmar previously?

Our data base doesn’t show that any of the AEWG organizations currently have an AEPs operating there. I know Save the Children does a lot of education work there so it might be worth contacting Save as they also have a lot of experience in AE.

Claire Stiglmeier: Hello! My name is Claire Stiglmeier and I am an International Education Development Masters student at Columbia Teachers College. Mary Mendenhall mentioned that this may be a unique opportunity to shape scholarly research work to plan global standards. How can we conceptualize a universal set of standards or 'Global GED' program in order to address the potential for repatriation, integration, and resettlement of children in crisis contexts, particularly those in refugee situations?

Linking to the question above and in line with the UNHCR policy of inclusion of refugees in national education systems I think that the focus should be on recognition and equation of qualifications. Please see the UNHCR Education Brief on inclusion for more background about this here.

Helena Sandberg: Thank you for the efficient work enabling us to be part of this seminar! I wouldn't be surprised if you even had a way of serving us lunch :-).


Miranda Cleland: Do the panelists have a favorite best practice example of teacher training in conflict zones, or resources for improving training programs? Oftentimes, the teachers in conflict zones might have missed out on their own educations growing up, which has been a big challenge where we work in Afghanistan. -Miranda, Aid Afghanistan for Education

The one that I know of and that is widely used and available is the Training Pack for Primary School Teachers in Crisis Contexts. This inter-agency, open source training pack is available for anyone to use. The pack builds basic teaching competencies for unqualified or under-qualified teachers often recruited to teach in emergency settings (e.g. refugee/IDP camps, conflict-affected areas, post-natural disasters, and/or with highly vulnerable populations). The materials can be used with qualified teachers who require refresher training or who would benefit from additional support in critical areas like child protection. The materials can also be used by teachers who either find themselves teaching in crisis-affected environments or in host community schools that are integrating children/youth from displaced populations. Please see here.

AEWG Launch Resources

Please note that the Guide to the Principles is a beta version and is being field tested. Please contact Martha Hewison for further information, or if you are interested in taking part in the field test.

Case Studies

Additional Resources

AEWG Launch invitation

Invitation to the Launch Event

For the current version of these and other resources, please refer to the Overview tab. You might also be interested in the slides of AEWG’s CIES presentations in Atlanta and a blog post on the findings of the field studies.

Please contact us at usaideccn@edc.org with any questions.

(Last updated October 16, 2017)


ECCN, in partnership with the Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG), hosted a webcast on June 9, 2016, offering a first preview of the AEWG’s Accelerated Education pocket guide, which features 10 key principles of Accelerated Education. Presenters covered the development, importance, and potential application of the Accelerated Education pocket guide and an overview of the 10 principles to guide development and implementation of Accelerated Education programming.

Please note that since the webcast, the title has changed from The Accelerated Education Pocket Guide to Guide to the Principles. The Guide to the Principles is still in draft and is being revised based on the findings from the field testing. The final guide will be launched in October 2017.

Webcast Presenters

Martha Hewison has over 20 years of education experience working for INGOs, donors, and governments in East, West, and Southern Africa, with a particular focus on education in post-conflict contexts and fragile states. Currently she is part of the UNHCR Education team, with a specific focus on supporting accelerated education programs, and is chair of the AEWG. Prior to this, she has worked largely in East Africa (Uganda, South Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya) with a specific focus on education and fragility.

Kate Radford, with War Child, has over 20 years’ experience working internationally in rights-based development cooperation, change management, program management, and evaluation and business development in the development, humanitarian, and private sectors

James Lawrie, senior education adviser with Save the Children, has 15 years’ experience as a teacher, researcher, policy adviser, and program manager working in numerous conflict, post-conflict, and low-income locations. He has been involved in Accelerated Education Programming in South Sudan, DRC, Bangladesh, and Uganda, and joined the AEWG in 2015.

Webcast Facilitator

Ash Hartwell has 40 years of field experience working at community, national, and international levels on educational policy analysis, planning, evaluation, and research. He has conducted program and project evaluations in numerous crisis and post-conflict countries, including Uganda, Egypt, and South Sudan. Over the past five years, he completed numerous consultancies, including serving on the core Leader Team for EQUIP 2, focusing on an analysis of alternative education models for underserved populations. Hartwell is M&E Specialist for ECCN and an adjunct professor at the Center for International Education at the University of Massachusetts. He joined the AEWG in 2015.

AEWG Webcast Questions and Answers

Brenda Bell: What definition of “accelerated” are you using? And where will you give that definition? Often “accelerated” is understood to be merely “fast-paced” rather than using accelerated learning principles that lead to deeper, more meaningful learning.

Martha Hewison: One of the things we have been working on since the very beginning is the definition of Accelerated Education. We’ve agreed on this definition, and it should be up on the INEE site very soon. Our agreed-upon definition is “a flexible, age-appropriate program that promotes access to education in an accelerated time frame for disadvantaged groups; overage, out-of-school children; and youth who have missed out or had their education interrupted due to poverty, marginalization, conflict, and crisis. The goal of AEP is to provide learners with equivalent, certified competencies or basic education and learning approaches that match their level of cognitive maturity.” This definition is available on the ECCN website. We also have definitions for catch-up, bridging, and remedial programs.

Jim Rogan: What research supports the good practices of the 10 principles?

James Lawrie: The original principles were put together in partnership with Sue Nicholson and Save the Children in South Sudan. The development of these principles was informed by a review largely of grey literature, of evaluations and assessments of Accelerated Education Programs. That’s how we formed the original 20 principles. That work was then tested in South Sudan—we reviewed it, looked at how it worked, looked at the elegance of it. It wasn’t research that helped develop it further; it was a series of individuals who knew about this topic and cared deeply about education, who then refined them to get to the state of 10 principles.

On one level, no, the principles are not based on peer-reviewed academic research; the field is too slim at this stage. There isn’t enough data—enough research—out there for us to base it on that. There is some good research that’s being done at the moment on Accelerated Education, which will inform the second iteration of this guide and these principles, but these are based on evaluations of programs and the work of experts in this sector who helped form them.

Over the course of the next two years or so, there is very much the intention that we do some research, that we do understand the effectiveness of these 10 principles. This might mean some re-framing, it might mean some radical changes; we don’t know. But this is part of the journey, rather than an end destination.

Ash Hartwell: The consultant group and the working group have been diligent in surveying the field for quality research and literature that informs this work, but we realize that it’s very difficult to find really high-quality research. It’s one of the agenda items in moving forward for us to use the principles as a basis for generating additional research and assessments.

Sarah Press: When selecting 'relevant' language and standards for the education of refugees outside their home country, do we always assume that home-country language and standards are the most 'relevant'? How do we ensure that refugee education aligns with home-country standards?

Martha Hewison: When refugees are outside of their country of origin, they should ideally be following the host-country curriculum if that’s possible. In many refugee contexts, where they’re able to follow the host curriculum, often there is already some form of content curriculum which can be adapted for an Accelerated Education program. If that doesn’t exist, then you would have to bring in some people to develop an Accelerated Education program from the national curriculum.

In those contexts, where the host curriculum is being used, it is not really problematic to align it with the international education systems. However, as we know, in many refugee contexts, they are following the country of origin’s curriculum. The same applies: we need to look at the country of origin’s curriculum and see if there are any Accelerated Education materials. If not, we need to develop them. Then, the really difficult thing, which actually we are experiencing in several contexts currently, is to try and work with the ministry of education or the national exam body, and, in country, ensure that there is a certified equation of the country of origin Accelerated Education Program with the national system, so that once students complete that, they can then transition into secondary education or another form of education or employment.

One of the real challenges we often find is this accreditation equation of host country and country of origin curriculums. It’s very tricky, but it’s something we need to work on with the ministry of education or the relevant education authority.

Stephen Richardson: How does the AEWG plan to advocate with ministries of education to accept/adopt said principles in the near future? If so, how can the larger AE community be aware of the progress with said ministries?

James Lawrie: It’s on our agenda. We have not talked through a dissemination strategy in depth at this stage. This is part of the dissemination, the beginning of a two-year process to help the intended users of the guide adopt it. The intended users, of course, include ministries of education, district office staff in education, and non-state actors/staff working in this sector as well. It includes many people.

The question about ministries of education—through partnerships between a relevant leading non-state actor in that location and the ministry of education itself. Just knowing the South Sudan context, we involved the work of Sue Nicholson; we (Save the Children) partnered with the Ministry of Education in the Alternative Educations Department in South Sudan. We worked together over the period of two years or so. We know that we can influence practice in a positive way, in line with the national priorities, and we can influence the alternative education systems and the accelerated learning programs of South Sudan. By that sort of partnership approach, I think that is how we will embed these principles into the practices of the implementers of Accelerated Education at a national level.

I also think we can share the documents, we can do presentations, we can communicate. If we rally the international community, if we can influence people and let people know that this is a useful tool to help improve the quality of Accelerated Education, then we’re hoping those people will be talking with ministries of education.

Ash Hartwell: I think Stephen and others who asked this question recognize that there are an increasing number of governments that do recognize Accelerated Education within their sector strategy, and hopefully by establishing guidelines and standards, having INEE behind this, more and more governments and agencies will begin to figure out how to embed this within sector policy and practice.

Tracy: How should AEP be financed and sustained?
Ash Hartwell: Our expectation is that over the next five years we will see more and more governments, even in fragile states, and agencies begin to see Accelerated Education as a critical component within an overall sector strategy. Therefore, it should be financed through that sector strategy, using funds that could become available, if they could be raised for the Education Can’t Wait initiative, as well as GPE and other sources of sector financing. We also caution that agencies and organizations should not start programs that they cannot see through two or three years. The fragmentation of existing programs, where programs start and stop, has been a real disservice.
Carl Triplehorn: Is there a Do No Harm philosophy in the principles? Often there is a tension between Accelerated Education and formal schooling, as trained teachers are attracted to Accelerated Education Programs due to regular pay and resources, or they take both jobs and are overworked.

Martha Hewison: I don’t think that overtly it’s in the principles, and I think that’s a very good point. We think of these as not finalized and ongoing. I think that’s a very good point, and we probably need to put that in. Under each principle there are several bullets. For example, under principle 5 and principle 6, which are all about educators, we talk about recruiting educators from target geographic areas; ensuring gender balance; building on learners’ culture, language, and experience; etc. In that sense there is a little bit of Do No Harm, but I think we could be more explicit with it.

Ash Hartwell: Yolande Miller-Grandvaux made a comment on her experience in Liberia, where she points out that in many cases, regular teachers also do double duty as Accelerated Education teachers and get burnt out. This is a really important principle in looking at the teachers and other staff connected with Accelerated Education. The whole teacher support system and recruiting and use is a vital issue. We may, in the next versions of the guide, put a little more focus on that, though it does get reflected in two of the principles we have.

Andreas: How are the 10 principles aligned with the INEE Minimum Standards?

James Lawrie: At this stage, I’m now realizing that we haven’t done a decent analysis of the alignment between the Minimum Standards and the guide. From what I know about both documents, there is a great deal of alignment. The Minimum Standards of course are more comprehensive, and they cover more elements. The Accelerated Education guide is more specific to one particular form of education. I would be surprised if there is any real difference or divergence in what they’re saying, but I can’t offer you a decent answer and say, “Yes, we’ve done an analysis, and the alignment is here, here, and here,” because I don’t know that that’s the case.

Ash Hartwell: That’s a very useful comment, Andreas, and we will take it to heart and be more explicit as we go forward that the principles do align with the INEE Standards. All of us are aware of those standards, but we haven’t explicitly shown how they’re aligned.

Jeanne Moulton: How do you avoid duplicating and/or drawing resources away from the formal system?

Kate Radford: It’s obviously a natural tension that does exist in terms of Accelerated Education and formal systems. I think what we are being very clear about in the Working Group is that one of the aspirations of Accelerated Education is to allow a transition back into the formal system when the formal system is available, and also to ensure that children are in a position to take advantage of the formal when it’s available. So, I don’t necessarily see it as a drain on resources but more a way to ensure that the formal system has a better chance of being successful and being able to provide the type of education that children need, whereby children who are overage get a chance to be able to perhaps transition in at a more appropriate time for themselves. I don’t think there’s any easy answer, because there are limited funds anyway. We’re not awash with funds in the sector, and certainly not in the humanitarian sector for education. But I think being very clear about the fact that Accelerated Education has the aim of getting children back into school eventually, where it can, is one of our principles.

Ash Hartwell: I think the issues have already come up, which are Do No Harm and the fact that sometimes teachers are drawn from the formal system because of the attractiveness of the salaries that are provided in the Accelerated Education Programs, which are usually funded by donors, agencies, and NGOs, so it can definitely be a problem. I think the principle of Do No Harm here, and looking at the relationship between Accelerated Education and the formal system, are really important in designing and managing these programs. One of our fundamental principles though is that these programs are designed for children who are overage in relation to getting back into the formal system, and in research recently carried out in the DRC, we’ve seen many older children and youth who would like to get back into the system, but they are too old to be able to do that, so this is where Accelerated Education really plays an important role.

Carl Triplehorn: Does the AEP research draw upon the alternate diploma programs in developed countries, such as the GED test in the United States? This would help to demystify what AEP is and how it fits into many education systems.

Martha Hewison: No, we haven’t. But again, I think that’s something that along with Andreas’s comment and looking at the INEE Minimum Standards and comparing them to our principles, and also with the Do No Harm approach–I think that’s something we can definitely look at. But the answer is no for the time being.

Ash Hartwell: The answer is no, but not a completely unequivocal no, in the sense that when we were doing the review of literature, some of the literature on Accelerated Education really arose in the United States and in Europe to examine ways in which overage children and youth who wanted to get equivalency would do that. The term “Accelerated Education” was originally born out of that experience. So there’s a strong and long history of the use of the term for that purpose.



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