Improving early grade learning outcomes in Uganda

DFID Uganda is re-engaging in the education sector after several years. This is the final report on a process of identifying and appraising options for supporting improvements in early grade learning outcomes, conducted by a team of consultants under the direction of the DFID Uganda Education Adviser.

The strategic case for intervening to improve learning outcomes in the early grades of primary education is based on the need to improve foundational skills so that children can acquire higher-level skills that will make them more productive and allow them to gain personal and social benefits. Learning outcomes, as measured by basic literacy and numeracy, are low.

The context of this investment is analysed. Overall, the system is short of funds and dependent on external project funding for any developmental activity. DFID is keen to align its programme with existing quality improvement activities.

From a long list of options for DFID involvement, three options have been selected for appraisal together. The options have been assigned scores against a set of criteria. The option that emerged as the preferred option is: strengthening the effectiveness of education management systems. This would work at both central and district levels to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of education management, especially the management of teachers.

For the preferred option a Theory of Change has been developed. Then an economic appraisal sets out the assumptions about the effectiveness and efficiency of the preferred option in terms of costs and benefits. It shows the total benefit from the DFID intervention costing £34 million, using conservative assumptions, as being a net present value (NPV) of £279 million, or a NPV benefit/cost ratio of 12.2 (using an economic discount rate of 10%). The cost–benefit ratio for the intervention indicates that the programme is very clearly value for money. In efficiency terms, a reduction of repetition by 20% as a result of the programme would generate efficiency benefits of £52 million, a figure well over the undiscounted programme cost.

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