The Springfield Centre is a mission-driven private research, training, and consultancy organisation involved for over 20 years in designing, advising, and implementing development projects, including in education.
Our experience and the statistics demonstrate that while significant nominal gains have been made in access to education as a result of substantial additional support in recent years, gains in the quality of education have been far less impressive.
The scale of the problem in education is far too large to be overcome by direct delivery of aid, accounting as it does for only 4% of the 4% that developing country governments spend on education.
There is a more useful framework to structure the inquiry’s questions to look at the achievements and prioritisation of objectives for DFID’s aid to education. In terms of the type of impact sought, each of these categories needs to be explicitly recognised and the trade-offs between them assessed.
- Profile of beneficiaries – who the targets of intervention are.
- Depth of impact – how much we expect each of these people to benefit by.
- Longevity of impact – how long the impact will last after intervention has ended.
- Scale of impact – how many people will be impacted by intervention.
- Expediency of impact – how quickly impact will be achieved.
The trade-offs between these types of impact are realised by the means through which these ends are achieved.
These means should not be the prescriptive means posed by the inquiry: public or private, large or small, technology driven approach or changing perceptions in communities. What is needed is a pragmatic and analytical approach cognisant of local social, economic and political realities, seeking locally appropriate, sustainable solutions to achieve impact at scale.
These general principles of aid are wholly relevant to education, and DFID has already attempted to pilot this alternative approach. However, it is difficult to do so in the context of a push of ever larger amounts of distortionary and temporary aid. If the true potential of a systemic approach is to be realised, then it has to be supported and given the space to overcome some of the failures seen in conventional aid delivery.
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