Building effective COVID-19 education response plans: Insights from Africa and Asia

As countries around the world rapidly respond to the educational challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic many countries have begun to leverage technology to provide educational continuity. We at the EdTech Hub are working with many countries to help them design interventions to support learning during this crisis. The first question we are asked by our counterparts in these countries is: How can we design an effective COVID-19 education sector response plan?

When designed effectively, COVID-19 education sector response plans have the power to align efforts among key stakeholders within a national education system to ensure continuity of learning, especially for the most vulnerable. They also have the power to re-orient an education system to address gaps and ensure more resilient education services post-COVID. Conversely, a poorly designed plan can lead to confusion amongst stakeholders, create additional stress for teachers and parents, and can place lives at risk.

We evaluated 13 COVID-19 response plans from low and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia (the full plans are available at the end of this blog). We selected plans from countries with both geographic and income diversity. 

What makes a response plan effective?

We identified three areas that should be considered by response plan designers as they strive to develop and implement effective COVID-19 response plans:

  1. The approach to building the response plan
  2. The components of the response plan
  3. Strategies for reaching learners, teachers, and parents through the response plan

These areas, which are highlighted below, are explored in more depth in our report: Building Effective COVID-19 Education Response Plans: Insights from Africa and Asia. The report also provides many specific examples from the plans analysed which demonstrate how these critical elements can be put in to practice when writing a COVID-19 response plan.

#1: The approach to building the response plan

  • An approach that balances short-term response with long-term strategic impact is critical for effective response plans. Governments face the prospect of insufficient resources when emergency funding dries up post-COVID.  Combined with a possible influx of students entering the public school system from private schools due to families’ financial constraints, education system funding will be even more stretched.
  • Plans should leverage existing resources whenever possible (rather than promoting the immediate development of new ones) and should outline short, medium and long term initiatives. 
  • To get the necessary support in place, the information within the response plan must be based on data and be accessible to all stakeholders including teachers, learners, parents and other relevant education actors.  

#2: The components of the response plan

Effective, evidence-based response plans include information that helps provide essential context, define expected outcomes, and highlight what resources are needed. Effective COVID-19 education response plans include: 

  • Status of COVID-19 pandemic: impact of the pandemic on the country to date.
  • Data: all COVID-19 response plans should be based on a foundation of robust data. There are multiple types of data that should inform a response plan. First, key education data (e.g., number of enrolments, number of teachers, number of schools, etc.) will help to give an idea of the scope of the services that need to be delivered. Second, plans should incorporate data on how different segments of teachers and learners have been affected by COVID-19. Third, plans should highlight include data on access to alternative education methodologies that might be used (e.g,. internet connectivity, TV access, etc. Where possible data should include core education data broken down by gender or marginalized groups (internally displaced people, girls, ethnic minorities and students with disabilities).
  • Objectives and implementable framework: description of the goals and objectives during the COVID-19 crisis broken down into different activities for a short, medium, and long-term response. 
  • Budget and human resource needs: well-defined and budgeted activities, outlining required monetary and human resources. The human resources required need to be identified to ensure that plans are not contingent on talent that cannot be mobilised.
  • Monitoring and reporting plan and risk-mitigation framework: plan for collecting data during implementation to understand the quality of execution and the impact of different interventions. During implementation, circumstances will change and activities may be delayed or need to be redesigned. A risk mitigation framework should be designed to ensure that countries can flexibly adapt to these changing circumstances.
  • Learning gaps assessment: assessment to determine learning gaps of learners after school closures. This assessment will serve as a baseline and ultimately enable countries to measure the effectiveness of the learning options put in place during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly among marginalised groups, and teachers’ readiness to deliver pedagogical content.

#3: Strategies for reaching learners, teachers, and parents through the response plan

  • Effective response plans address the needs of learners, teachers, and parents in a holistic way that will ensure continuity of learning and a safe return to school. Plans should consider the needs of children and families with schemes like school meals and the provision of psychosocial support.
  • Plans should identify interventions that address the needs of marginalised learners.
  • Plans should particularly ensure those learners and families who are at risk of not returning to school after closures end are actively engaged. 
  • Plans should include training for teachers and school leaders on the use of ICT in education to ensure that they are ready to support all segments of learners. Expecting that there may be learners who are unlikely to return after a prolonged absence, plans should include ways of collaborating with the media on campaigns designed to get all students, especially the most vulnerable, back to school.

Moving ahead

As new data from education systems across the globe emerge, we will be working to understand what additional innovative approaches have been tested and have helped countries to build back better. Follow the EdTech Hub via its blog page, and on Twitter and LinkedIn to keep informed of up-to-date developments in COVID-19 responses.

Country NameContinentCountry Income LevelCountry Plan
BhutanAsiaLower-middle incomeLink
The GambiaAfricaLow incomeLink
GhanaAfricaLower-middle incomeLink
MalawiAfricaLow incomeLink
NigeriaAfricaLower-middle incomeLink
PakistanAsiaLower-middle incomeLink
RwandaAfricaLow incomeLink
SomaliaAfricaLow incomeLink
South SudanAfricaLow incomeLink
UgandaAfricaLow incomeLink
ZambiaAfricaLower-middle incomeLink
ZimbabweAfricaLower-middle incomeLink

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