Improving Learning Environments Together (ILET) in emergencies
Submitted by: Hollie Warren - Senior Education Policy and Advocacy Adviser, Save the Children
Introduction to the project
July 2017 - February 2018
The development of Improving Learning Environments Together in Emergencies (ILET) was completed in 2018. Now it is being implemented in a number of countries across the globe.
Community and child participation lies at the heart of Improving Learning Environments Together in Emergencies (ILET). The process empowers the community, encouraging ownership of assessment, analysis, planning and implementation processes. The success of ILET rests upon meaningful community participation at the school level throughout the entire process. Sharing the visualized findings and discussing them with the school community increases accountability, as different actors become aware of strengths and gaps and take a shared responsibility to enact improvements in the school community. ILET adopts an innovative focus by incorporating School improvement planning, “SIPs” in humanitarian contexts applying the new digital platform. ILET also adheres to Core Humanitarian Standard 7.3, which commits to ‘Share learning and innovation internally, with communities and people affected by crisis, and with other stakeholders.’
Adjumani in North-West Uganda was selected as one of the pilot countries for ILET as it represents a humanitarian response to an influx of refugees with a reasonable governmental level of involvement and support – albeit with stretched resources in the wake of hosting over 1.2 million South Sudanese refugees, 400,000 of whom are school-age children.
Additionally the ILET pilot built on the Ugandan country office’s long experience in applying QLE (Quality Learning Environment) in a development context as part of the “I’m Learning” approach, which has been running in Uganda since 2013. The Ugandan country office also expressed strong interest in taking part in this pilot, mainly because ILET is consistent with their priority of strengthening programming in EIE in basic education for South Sudanese refugees.
Initial data collection indicated weak physical protection of each school, due to the lack of drinking water, an unsafe route to and from school, and unsafe school facilities. Based on this data, children, caregivers and teachers created a school improvement plan to improve the physical environment. Parents and community members contributed by cleaning the school compound and setting up a playground for children.
To hold humanitarian actors accountable to the views and needs of children and beneficiaries we support, the SC Uganda response team shared the data on the children’s and school’s needs with the Ugandan District Education Office and UNHCR. Sharing this data led to their provision of additional classrooms, WASH facilities and school furniture, complementing parents and community members efforts. After the second round of data collection, the School Findings Cards (the visual representation of children’s, caregivers and teachers’ perceptions) showed a 46% to 68% increase in the physical protection of the school.
This project supports the improvement of education in emergency settings, benefiting both refugees and displaced populations, as well as the host community.
- Conducive national policy environment supporting education for both refugee and host community children.
- Existence of parents’ engagement and school management structures in schools such as the parent-teacher associations and school management committees.
- Funds for community school improvement planning are mobilised by parents, development workers and from other existing sources of funds in schools. By showing the gaps and strengths within the school with real time data, the school can quickly and easy take decisions on what they want to prioritize and what to improve within the school environment. They will then take an active role in the implementation and follow up of the SIPs. ILET supports this process with the cards showing the strengths and gaps in a traffic light system and the SIP plans.
- Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Challenges and how they were overcome
- Internal team consultation: Including other depts beyond programme and MEAL teams was not properly planned for, which made the process more time-consuming when they were informed about ILET later on.
- Timeline: The timing could have been more convenient had it not been restricted by the project’s implementation dates.
- Multi-lingual nature of the refugee community in Uganda
Coordination and training
- Coordination: Since no robust stakeholder analysis was conducted at the beginning, coordination and collaboration with external actors could have been more efficient.
- Training: Participants identified a number of terms or concepts being used in the training as unclear.
Data collection and analysis
Sampling of participants: Random sampling of participants was used. However, the downside to this was when parents were randomly selected, some groups ended up with inactive parents who were not engaged in their children’s school process, which set some challenges for data collection.
School improvement planning
- Setting up SIP teams: Not enough attention paid to diversity in the School improvement Planning teams.
- Mobilising resources: Too many activities were listed in the SIPs.
These challenges were overcome:
- Developed step-by-step guide through a learning process where the experiences and questions asked in the pilots directly fed into the resulting guidance and tools.
- The Consortium staff, including Program and MEAL staff, district education authorities and Centre Coordinating Tutors from the 4 districts implementing the humanitarian response trained in the ILET package.
- ECHO Education consortium partners were trained to support the scale up of the ILET pilot across more schools.
Results of the Good Practice
When we went back with the results, people were surprised: ‘We didn’t believe you would come back, many ask us for our opinions and never show up again’, they said. – Jacqueline, Education Manager – Uganda Office
- Parents and community members have been mobilised to support learning improvements for refugee and host community children
- 5 ILET data collection tools contextualised tested and adapted for the Assessment within the humanitarian context in Uganda
- Children benefit from improved school learning space environment resulting from school improvement plans jointly developed and implemented by the education stakeholders
- The consensus is that ILET complements existing tools by looking at the micro level of interactions and needs in the classroom and school, while keeping the overall macro focus on quality in the school and its position and interaction within the community. Including child participation as an integral element of the ILET process was commended by EiE professionals, acknowledging the important contributions brought to the School Improvement Planning process by having children taking part of all steps. Finally, the open access web-based Data Management Platform was welcomed as a helpful tool that supports efficient use of data and provides easy and quick ways to use data in programming.
- Globally, feedback by global actors emphasized ILET is a complementary tool to the GEC rapid education needs assessment tools, as it leverages the voices of teachers, parents and students – while framed within quality education. Teachers in Uganda appreciated the QLF as a very valuable theoretical explanation, framing their understanding of quality education. One teacher said that “We did not think about other aspects, like safety of students, as important for their education.” For children, ILET has one remarkable potential is that in enhancing the children’s positions in the school’s discussions, as communicated by some children who were active in the ILET process.
Based on positive experiences and learnings from the pilots, response teams in Uganda and Syria have incorporated ILET into institutional funding requests – moving from ILET being a pilot to a core component of EIE programming. In North West Syria, the MFA continues to support implementation. While ILET was piloted in only five schools, it is now being used to increase participation in school improvement planning in 20 schools in North West Syria supporting IDPs and host community children. In Uganda, SC leads a consortium with NRC and Finnish Church Aid, funded by ECHO, to expand the use of ILET from five pilot schools to 25.
In addition, ILET is being applied in a number of other countries such as Colombia, Niger, DRC, South Sudan, Myanmar to name some countries.