To find out what children know about inclusion: Just ask!

We conducted 1200 Community Based System Dynamics workshops with students, parents, teachers and school committee members respectively to help improve learning and teaching processes in primary schools of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Workshops asked about what was influencing learning? Participants draw maps of all the causal relationships between factors that were influencing learning. They then decide together, through consensus, interventions to change the system. From their decisions, communities with the help of Norwegian Afghanistan CommitteeSwedish Committee for Afghanistan and National Rural Support Program  built entire schools, new classrooms, bathrooms, playgrounds. Schools also established parents/teachers regular meetings, classroom rules and regulations, classroom registrar to follow students progress, monthly project exhibitions for parents, regular cleaning sessions, among many other new activities.

Findings show after three years of intervention that children do better in intervention schools compared to control schools on both academic outcomes (math, reading, writing) and multiple life skills (self-awareness, empathy, critical thinking, creative thinking, decision making, problem solving, effective communication, interpersonal relationship). see the process!


‘I see hope looking at Asif’, said the head teacher of a school in Rahim Yar Khan District…

Pakistan is facing genuine issues to ensure all children are educated particularly in areas with less educational facilities…

Disadvantaged children in Low Income Countries (LICs) particularly children with disabilities are increasingly accessing schools, but not learning effectively due to social exclusion within the classroom and poor teaching methods, that perpetuate inequality.

In order to unpack the equity-quality nexus, education research and policy need to move beyond considerations of service delivery assessed through achieving benchmarks on basic cognitive skills and completing school cycles, traditionally considered valid proxies for quality of education; a view challenged by experts advocating for the importance of non-cognitive or psychosocial skills in assessing quality education. Promoting processes of accountability is recognized as a way of promoting quality and equity in education. We argue that the role that parents and community members can play in improving the quality of education through innovative social accountability mechanisms has not been sufficiently explored in LICs.

Playgroup in Afghanistan
Photograph by Nigel Walker

Building upon previous research, we are developing, implementing and evaluating a social accountability intervention – combined with inclusive education training – engaging parents, teachers and children. We will assess the intervention’s impact on basic cognitive but also psychosocial skills of learners as well as parent’s expectations and engagement, and teachers’ confidence with regards to inclusion of children with disabilities. 

Focusing on the Group Model Building workshop in Afghanistan.
Photograph by Nigel Walker

Three partners, Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), Norwegian Afghanistan Committee (NAC) and the National Rural Support Programme in Pakistan (NRSP) run out support Community Based Schools (CBS) and other primary schools in remote areas. They require knowledge as to the factors that can promote or hinder a meaningful learning experience.

Project at glance 
Drawn by Julia Hayes

We hypothesize that strengthening existing social horizontal accountability mechanisms through a Community Based System Dynamics (CBSD)  – a participatory approach promoting local ownership in the process of deciphering and changing complex systems from the feedback perspective of system dynamics – can enhance inclusion and the learning experience of disadvantaged children.

Developing an effective role for school management committee (SMCs) members requires careful consideration of context and community dynamics, which CBSD upholds. We will carry out Group Model Building (GMB) sessions with SMCs – a specific CBSD method- to identify insights about social accountability reforms. SMCs supported by NAC/SCA/NRSP will implement changes based on these insights in intervention CBSs. A randomized control trial (RCT) will evaluate this intervention. Qualitative methods will validate psychosocial assessment tools and explore stakeholders’ perception of education.

Connection circle script with children as part of Group Model Building workshop on the topic “What are the factors influencing the learning of the child in the classroom” in Afghanistan.
Photograph by Nigel Walker

In stage 1, investigators decipher existing mechanisms of accountability and monitoring being used in CBSs (ii) train teachers, 4 NRSP and SCA teams of 3 facilitators and 2 coordinators each on inclusive education and (iii) train SCA/NRSP teams on GMB to facilitate sessions in 80 randomly selected intervention schools.

In stage 2, SMCs members (principals, staff, teachers and parents) participate in separate GMB sessions to design a relevant school social accountability system and identify leverage points on which to focus the intervention.

In stage 3, each school, with the support from SCA/NRSP teams and the investigators implement the intervention.

In stage 4 the investigators measure the impact of the social accountability intervention on learning outcomes using a cluster RCT with two waves of interviews: baseline survey in all 160 schools from staff, teachers, students in classes 3 to 5 and parents in year 1; end line survey will take place at the beginning of year 4. In depth interviews and FGDs, games and audio-visual activities with children will take place in years 2 and 3.

In stage 5, the investigators develop capacity in countries (universities, education NGOs) and disseminate findings to a broad audience in various formats through academic, policy makers and practitioners’ networks.

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