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The School Improvement Project of the Aga Khan Education Services in Mombasa

By ashuda Jan 15, 2014 2827 Words
EDU 509
Whole school improvement approach: How can we make it work?

Case Study Analysis
Paper # 2

The School Improvement Project of the Aga Khan Education Services, Kenya at Mombasa

Submitted by:
Ashraful Huda

Mombasa School Improvement Project (MSIP) is a set example of how a systematic approach can lead to development in a sustainable and continuous manner through honest partnership between different stakeholders. In this text, I have summarized and analyzed the findings from the evaluation report prepared for the Aga Khan Foundation on MSIP. The project was a cumulative effort of Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan Education Services and the Municipality of Mombasa, Kenya. The Necessity

The Public education in Kenya was under the control of the national curriculum where key factors such as, the subjects to be taught, the time allocation for each lesson and even the contents of the specification were decided collectively. Since the system worked at a very ‘macro’ level, the assessment technique had to be based on a strictly quantitative basis and exam driven – The national primary school leaving exam at the end of grade 8 deciphered the performance of a student or a school nationally. Categorizations of the teachers were done on a scale of 3 depending upon their own educational backgrounds. Transition from one level to the next either depended on more educational qualification or on the tenure or job experience. Although the teachers were nationally employed and paid by the national ‘Teacher Service Commission’, they were deployed and managed at local levels. Strikingly, for such a huge assembly of teachers, little or no in-service training program for qualification up-gradation was available across the land. The Municipal councils held the local power of running and monitoring the educational system at the ‘micro’ level. Municipal Education Officer (MEO) held the authority for the implementation the national education policies. Although they were responsible for the deployment of head teachers and teachers and the supervision of curriculum and curriculum implementation – they had little control over the financial injections from the national level and therefore had depleted capability. The port city of Mombasa with over a million populations is the second biggest city in the Republic of Kenya . It is divided into 5 municipalities under which the educational system inclusive of both public and private schools thrive. Due its proximal size and geographical location, the School setting ranged from Urban to Pre-urban to Rural. However one never changing context was the fact that the economic status of the population was determinately at the lower end. Due to the extremely poor economic conditions, the educational context of Mombasa was always at a state of negligence. The educational history of the state was consistently low in the national primary school leaving exam and was subject to widespread criticism from both internal and external stakeholders. One major cause for this low performance was burdened upon the local community who had little or no accountability and participation towards the development of the education scenario. In the 112 primary schools located in the 5 municipalities across Mombasa, deficiency in the higher order classroom practices was a key to low achievements. There was also noticeable lacking in school management and advisory services. Last but not the least, unfavorable infrastructure and facilities played a derogatory role in the improvement of the educational context.

The Birth
Aga khan Foundation (AKS) and Aga khan Educational Services (AKES) had been involved in the Kenyan educational development process for long. They had actively and successfully participated in the reform of the educational system in Kisumu, Kenya – this was noticed by the MEO of Mombasa and was thus approached on an official basis. AKF and AKES were also looking for a suitable opportunity to share their resources and expertise in another suitable project in Kenya. Thus the partnership was born. A ‘Tripartite Agreement’ between the three stakeholders was struck to formalize the relationship. Under this agreement, AKF was responsible for seeking and providing funding for the project. AKES was responsible for the overall implementation, management and supervision of the project. Whereas, the Municipality provided the infrastructural and logistical support along with legislative cooperation from the MEO. In the long run, this partnership was extended to other stakeholders such as the Ministry of education, Kenya and the local Community through PTA & SMC. The Crusade

Improve the quality of teaching in primary schools in Mombasa was the glorified and consistent goal of the Mombasa School Improvement Project (MSIP). The initial needs assessment was carried out by AKF and AKES in collaboration with Municipality Education Officer (MEO). MSIP was targeted towards Grades 1 to 6 of all 112 schools in the 5 municipalities (Govt. & Pvt.) Classroom-based-in-service teacher training was one of the major incentives of the project. The motive, however, was to propagate ‘Child centered teaching’ method development. Not only development, but sustainable improvements teaching-learning methods were targeted. As a whole, increased provision for training, management capacity, involvement of local communities and capacity building of the local education authority was the mission of the project. One brick at a timeAs the rubric suggests, the original project design planned to implement the project in three technical steps: Introductory Workshops were arranged for Head teachers, Teaching assistant center tutors, education officers and parent-teacher-association executives from different schools. These workshops were followed by the master teachers training was carried out to implement and support the implementation of child-centered teaching methods through intensive workshops during the school holidays. Lastly in-school assistance was provided to ensure sustainability of the previous steps through classroom observation and coaching along with school based workshops. Concurrently, a supplementary factor for the development project was the introduction of Community Development Officers (CDOs) who were responsible for the mobilization of the community. The three phases of development

The implementation of the project was done in three distinct phases as such: Phase 1 focused on the development of the mission and project Mobilization. It also included initiation of training to teachers and officials in Four project schoolsThese targets were met by initially attaining the tripartite agreement. It was followed by the setting up a Project Implementation Committee along with the appointment of Project Officers (POs) and relevant officials. Training sessions and workshops in four project schools were started. In service training and classroom-based assistance was provided. Management training sessions for head teachers, TAC tutors and education officers was practiced. Phase 2 focused on Expand the project activity to 16 new schools and also to set up a system of financing and improving on phase 1. These were to be achieved by strategic appointment of Community Development Officer, TAC management committees who were responsible for generating and sustain local level support from community and teachers. 6 Project Officers (PO) were hired to work with 20 schools in 5 zones. Community based contributions through PTA/SMC were standardized. Lastly professional development for POs were undertaken to provide incentives. Phase 3 focused on the Expansion of the project activity to 30 new schools. Emphasis was given to improve the qualities of Reading, Science, math and oral communication skills. The number of POs appointed to 10 to distribute the work load. Workshop activity was increased along with regular visitation of phase 1 and 2 schools by POs. Practices of Collection of Data to identify improvements were introduced. Interestingly, an additional 40 schools were included by the end of the project. The Factors and the Frameworks – leading to the outcomes

The implementation of the project, although done is three different phasees targeted towards the attainment of the following improvement Factors: In-service training for teachers
School Management by the Head-teachers
Parents and community participation
Teacher Advisory Centers
Teaching methods
Student Outcomes
Each of the factors has been discussed in details and relationships with the proposed frameworks have been made. In-Service Training for teachers was implemented by organizing and ensuring the participation of master teachers in workshops held externally. This activity was followed up by the in-school-based service trainings. The workshops were conducted so as to focus on academic improvements – in accordance to the agenda of the program – to improve the quality of reading, mathematics, science and oral communication. During the first two phases of development, in order to reach out to teachers who were not a part of the project schools, 45 percent of participants of the workshops were from non-project schools. The outreach was extended by providing follow-up through support programs to the teachers. These workshops were held during the three months of school holidays. During the in-service training, focus was given on the development of pedagogical improvements, resource allocation and management, curriculum development, school management and lastly professionalism. Staff development and technical assistance is a pronounced factor in school level strategies under the frameworks of ‘Change processes and strategies at local levels’ by Michael Fullan. It is followed up by the stress provided on ongoing staff development and assistance that is visible in the project. In another study of the same writer – Linking classroom and school improvement, he has linked this factor of improvement to cogs and gears required for comprehensive development and has ascertained as the main factor under the name of ‘Teacher as Learner’. Here the importance of growth of the teacher’s technical repertoire, researching and reflecting capabilities along with collaborative mentality has been truly focused. Lastly the whole system implies the importance of a professional learning community in building up capacity of the teachers. Head teachers from both project and non-project schools underwent training program through the Primary school management (PRISM) program where the basic rubrics of leading was incorporated to ensure factors such as sensible planning and prioritizing was grown. The head teaches were encouraged to undergo reflective practices in order to increase their accountability. Training was given to enhance financial management skills along with inter-personal skills to deal with the other stake-holders. It was emphasized on how the head-teacher was responsible to ensure a congenial working environment and how to lead through observation and feedback. Training on supervision and follow-up techniques were given to ensure the sustainability of a development process. In accordance to the frameworks of ‘Change processes and strategies at local levels’ by Michael Fullan, this factor falls under the heading of ‘Concentrate on the developing of principal’s leadership capability’. Here he has emphasized on the necessity of the correct kind of leadership for improvement process. In the comprehensive framework, this factor has brought upon under the heading of ‘Leadership and Mobilization’. It also falls under the category of Improvement cultures in the comprehensive framework for school improvement and the process of reflective practices fall under Improvement process. Lastly, In ‘linking classroom and school improvement’ framework, effective leadership can lead to the school improvement factor by ensuring a shared purpose, collegiality and by ensuring continuity. Finally, a good leader might even be competent enough to play the role of a mentor for the subordinates which will undoubtedly lead to a sense of belonging and ownership which can be translated into future success. Initiatives were taken in the program to ensure widespread parents and community awareness and acceptance of MSIP. Workshops were held and Community development officers were deployed to expand roles and responsibilities of parents and community and to increase the support to children’s learning needs in school. In Reezigt’s Comprehensive framework for effective school improvement, the involvement of the community and parents have been accredited under the context factor and has been issued as one of the most important keys to ensure the sustainability of the development project. As an outcome of the process, non-project parents exhibit interest in SIP. Parents involved in school affairs increased more than 50%. 75% of teachers believed communication between parents and teachers have improved. 71% teachers reported of getting support on different levels from the local community and parents. Teachers advisory centers improved physical facilities and material capacity of the schools through e.g. Books, materials and ideas for teaching, learning aids, exam-preparation and marking techniques and professional books. TACs ensured increased availability of professional resources for head-teachers and teachers. TACs tendered in greater community involvement in the management and also ensured TAC tutors have increased capacity and confidence to perform their role. TACs shared expanded duties and contacts with school thus providing sustainability in the development of the teachers, head-teachers and schools. The continuity of an effective TAC, however, is dependent on the commitment of the local government since there are responsible for providing a suitable location and infrastructure to house the facility. TACs can be held as an autonomous center for the resources an support for improvement along with the external agent factor under context factor in the Comprehensive framework for effective school improvement. Since TACs are dependent on the Local government, it brings along the roles of districts and proper governance into the context. Development of teaching methods which enhance activity-based child-centered pedagogy and curriculum was ensured through the project. Instructional approach for teachers was determined to be more of facilitators. Questioning Practices amongst students were encouraged and the teachers were trained to give proper responses. Introduction of group-works and decision-making activities were made. Usage of teaching-learning aids was made available along with proper assessment and intervention techniques. Teachers were asked to be focused on children’s Centre's of interest and thus improved communication and coordination was visible in the in class-rooms. Classroom improvement in the cogs and gears for ‘Classroom and school improvement’ by M. Fullan describes the categories of teaching improvement under the development of content, enhanced instructional strategies and skills of the teachers and better classroom management. Moreover this factor falls directly under Reezigt’s comprehensive framework of school factors under the heading of improvement outcome with changes in the quality of teachers, students and the school. In M. Fullan’s ‘linking classroom and school improvement’ framework, he drops this under the ‘Student engagement and learning’ factor. In according to the primitive context, Student outcomes were measured in the terms of their results and grades in the primary school leaving exam. This attitude towards written assessment changed for a positive sense. Enhanced active participation was visible in class rooms along with improved reading, Oral language, and Science and Mathematics skills. Students attendance in school became regular and there was a greater sense of responsibility amongst student’s mindset. This led to greater participation of the students in community building. Students also participated in school development activities. Last but not the least; improved academic results in school exams as well as national exams were visible. Student outcome is a major category in the framework of effective school improvement by Reezigt under improvement outcomes. In M. Fullan’s ‘linking classroom and school improvement’ framework, he drops this under the ‘Student engagement and learning’ factor. The Realization

Improvement techniques in the education sector are a sensitive issue. Depending on the context, different theoretical plans have been chalked out in order to address the necessary problems. More often than not, the plans have just remained on paper – since practicality is a different ball game altogether. Multitudes of development frameworks can be addressed, but it will lead to nothing until and unless situational decisions are made taking into consideration both the macro and micro factors. In order for a successful development project, the most important trait however, is to identify the needs with perfect precision. Needs analysis is required to be done keeping in mind all possible outcomes and with a contingency plan at each level. Only than shall a development project as the one in this paper see the glorious sunlight. The fact that this project was disrupted by natural calamities and political disruption - and it still stood the test of time to emerge as a relatively successful project – points towards the well-designed structure of the program and effective and collaboration between the stake holders. Credits must go to the AKES for implementing the project, AKF for heartily financing with good faith and lastly the Municipality for ensuring the sustainability and continuity of the project. A small issue to ponder about

Interestingly, the context of Mombasa reflects quite a lot of similarities with the different districts in Bangladesh. High population density, with low income and economic stability and a very poor history of education – hundreds of districts in Bangladesh provide perfect canvas for the MSIP to be replicated, keeping in mind the proximal adjustments. Also the fact that MSIP was implemented in phases – slow and steady, to ensure sustainability and not risk any resistance to change, perfectly suites the Bangladeshi scenario. Such school improvement process can be introduced as pilot-project in different districts to ascertain the validity and then translate the test run into a full fletched program for holistic development of Bangladesh’s education system. Another encouraging fact is that, major stakeholders in MSIP - AKF along with AKES are already involved in the capital city of Dhaka, in one of their well-known school projects – The Aga Khan School. It is imperative for the local government to identify the capability of this organization or any other such NGOs and form a true partnership keeping in mind a set of goal for improving the educational sector for a better future.

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