Monitoring Distance Education

A brief to support decision-making in Bangladesh and other Low- and Lower-Middle Income Countries
Children take part in an exercise in groups inside a BRAC primary school in Manikganj.
Photo credit: jbdodane and DFAT

In July 2020, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) requested support from the EdTech Hub Helpdesk to help the Government of Bangladesh begin exploring options to monitor distance education. The scope of the support was to also provide guidance on putting in place systems that would be able to support better monitoring of national distance education programmes. This brief has been developed in response to that request.

Key Findings

  1. Determine what data is required to make strategic decisions: The first step in any monitoring strategy is to consider what decisions you need to take, and what data you need to collect to inform those decisions. A number of resources included in the recommendations section can support this process. 

  2. Use all relevant data, but be aware of limitations: The rapidly changing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic means that obtaining data is difficult. Decision-makers need to accept they will never obtain a full set of complete data that will provide perfect insights. To mitigate this, they should seek access to and be presented with as much relevant information as possible. However, those generating data must clearly highlight the limitations of the data.

  3. Think beyond traditional data collection approaches: Do not be constrained by traditions in the monitoring and research space. It is important to think beyond traditional metrics or traditional research approaches. Novel approaches to data collection should be considered. Several innovative approaches are presented in this report.

  4. Collaboratively define and execute a monitoring plan: Engaging with diverse actors who collect data and undertake studies will complement the government’s efforts. Additionally, clearly defining which data points or research activities are a priority can guide stakeholders’ efforts and help to build partnerships. A collaborative effort can help ensure the different priorities of each group are achieved in an effective manner. 

  5. Leverage cross-sectoral synergies for monitoring: Education actors are not the only ones looking to quickly gain access to data. Actors across a wide range of sectors are in need of insights to inform decision-making. There is the potential for education actors to create economies of scale by collaborating with personnel from other sectors with similar aims. 

  6. Put in place platform(s) for storage, analysis, and reporting: It is essential to put in place a platform(s) for data storage, analysis, and reporting. A well-designed platform(s) and tools can help facilitate these processes, leading to quicker, more high-quality insights. 

  7. Make participant privacy and safety central to all efforts: The rush to deliver programmes and gather data and information should not be an excuse to place programme recipients — particularly children and vulnerable families — at risk. In the context of monitoring distance education, these breaches in safety and trust are most likely to be linked to information and online security. This should be considered by those designing data collection.

  8. Don’t neglect the hardest to reach: Children with more resources are able to more easily access distance education modalities. Those with more resources are also more likely to be visible in a monitoring exercise. Monitoring efforts must go beyond ‘easy’ ones to ensure marginalised groups are reached.

  9. Align planning and investment with the long term: When considering all the previous recommendations, it is important to balance short-term needs with long-term investments. This means considering both the short- and long-term implications of all of the above recommendations.

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