Making a Case for Accelerated Education
How It Can Be Done
The Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG) has completed a series of studies on the application of Accelerated Education Principles for Effective Practice. These ten evidence-based principles clarify the essential components of an effective Accelerated Education Program (AEP). The review of the application of the AEP Principles included four case studies conducted in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan, and in Dadaab in Northeast Kenya (2 programs) that highlight how contextual differences are managed in assessing adherence to the principles and in ensuring effectiveness of AEP programs.
The Case for Accelerated Education
Globally, recent estimates suggest that approximately 262 million children and youth are out of school. Accelerated Education (AE) programming is a complementary or non-formal mechanism for reaching populations poorly served by the formal education system. AE programs are flexible, age-appropriate programs that promote access to education in an accelerated timeframe for disadvantaged groups, over-age out-of-school children, and youth who have missed out or had their education interrupted due to poverty, marginalization, conflict, and crisis. The goal of AE is to provide learners with equivalent certified competencies for primary education using learning approaches that match their level of cognitive maturity.
Accelerated Education Programs (AEP) are employed with more and more frequency to address the overwhelming numbers of out of school children and youth. However, while there is widespread agreement on the need for such programming, there is insufficient validated documentation that provides guidance, standards, and indicators for efficient program planning, implementation, and monitoring. Moreover, there is little significant documentation on the impact of such programming, including how far they contribute to learning achievement and how successful they are facilitating pathways into formal education.
Collaboration for Accelerated Education
In 2014, to address some of these specific challenges related to AE, UNHCR invited a small number of education partners to participate in the formation of a working group known as the Accelerated Education Working Group (AEWG). The AEWG comes together bi-annually to share experiences and expertise in AE and provides an opportunity for dialogue around a more harmonized, standardized approach to AE programming.
Since its inception, the AEWG has focused on developing guidance materials on evidence-based practice for AE. In 2016, the AEWG published a set of 10 principles for effective practice, as well as an accompanying guide. The principles and guide are based on a review of good practice and learning from AEPs worldwide, particularly in conflict-affected and emergency settings. These tools clarify the essential components of effective AEPs and offer key actions and indicators for the design, implementation, and evaluation of accelerated education. The AEWG hypothesizes that when the principles are applied diligently, a functional AEP will facilitate significant and consistent educational gains for children and youth who attend regularly, learn consistently, gain recognized qualifications, and progress into formal or other education.
Field Testing the 10 Accelerated Education Principles
Testing of these tools commenced in mid 2016. A checklist based on the 10 AE principles was developed, piloted with seven programs, and refined. It was then disseminated more widely to AEWG members programs globally to: 1) explore users’ understanding of and agreement with the principles and the utility of a scoring rubric to assess performance of AEPs; and 2) provide a baseline assessment of how various AEPs perform at present against the principles. Concurrently, the guide was sent out to a panel of eight global AE experts, six of whom responded and provided substantive feedback.
The final stage of testing the AEP Principles involved conducting field visits to four AEPs in order to more deeply analyze how the principles and guide can be used to strengthen AE programming—in various contexts, with different target populations, and at various stages of the program cycle. The field studies aimed to capture deeper knowledge of how well each program was aligned to the AE principles and reasons for this. Furthermore, the case studies sought to understand whether there was a link between the application of the principles and key AE program outcomes, including: 1) increased access to education by overage out-of-school children and youth; 2) improved completion rate of pupils in the programs; and 3) increased rates of learners’ end-of-grade or primary certification.
Next Steps for the AEWG
The survey checklist, expert review, and the field visits all confirm the value of having AE principles and guidance. One expert felt the guide was a "useful and timely document that organisations working in this field can utilise to improve planning and evaluation of their programmes.” The guidance in particular is seen as relevant in that it elucidates the 10 principles in some depth, and "provides definitions, key points, essential information, examples of experience, and challenges,” as another reviewer noted.
This study, which the research team highlighted at the March 2017 Comparative and International Education Conference, illuminated several potential next steps for the AEWG. These include clarifying the purpose and messaging regarding the principles and guide, socializing and disseminating these tools to enhance use, and supporting utilization and evaluation of the principles. ECCN community of practice members can look forward to the enhancement of existing tools based on the field testing and the development of new resources that can further support AE practitioners in better reaching the needs of overage out-of-school children and youth affected by crisis and conflict.
 UNESCO-UIS (2016). Leaving no one behind: How far on the way to universal primary and secondary education? (Policy Paper 27/Fact Sheet 37).
 The AEWG is currently led by UNHCR with representation from UNICEF, UNESCO, USAID, NRC, Plan, IRC, Save the Children, ECCN, and War Child Holland.