Assessing for Success: Education in Crisis and Conflict Environments


The number of displaced persons in the world has reached historic highs, with one out of every four school-aged children living in countries affected by conflict and crisis, where access to education is frequently a challenge. The International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) states that “funding for education response should be given equal priority with water, food, shelter, and health responses to ensure education provision for affected populations.” Consequently, international organizations are beginning to see education as a basic necessity and universal right, as demonstrated by Sustainable Development Goal 4, which calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. It also includes target 4.5, which focuses on eliminating gender disparities and ensuring equal access to education. In times of crisis, the value placed on education tends to increase, as schools are frequently viewed as the heart of the community and a symbol of a more hopeful future. In fact, research shows that children in emergency settings, when asked what is most important to them, often respond with “our education.” However, the reach of education extends far beyond fulfilling the basic needs of the individual. Access to education is critical to stability, reconciliation, peacebuilding, and resilience. Timely and inclusive assessments are essential to the success of educational programming implemented in crisis and conflict environments in order to inform effective and context-sensitive decision-making. Chemonics continues to support industry-wide improvements in educational programming in crisis and conflict environments by sharing such lessons learned with the international development community and through its dedicated participation in collaborative groups, such as the Basic Education Coalition.

What does an assessment look like in a conflict or crisis environment?

The guidebook, Minimum Standards for Education: Preparedness, Response, Recovery, by INEE lays out the foundational standards to be applied across all aspects of effective emergency education response. One of the key standards states that timely education assessments of the emergency situation should be conducted in a holistic, transparent, and participatory manner. While timely and inclusive assessment is immensely important regardless of sector or location, it is particularly vital to implementation in crisis and conflict environments, as both the activity’s success and safety depend upon consistent monitoring of the ever-changing context and the ability to adapt to the needs of people affected by conflict. Community participation increases accountability, capacity, and long-term support of education services. Additionally, participatory assessment in crisis and conflict environments can lead to the mobilization of local resources, more efficient identification of local education issues, and the appropriate identification of effective education responses.

INEE's foundational standards for education. 

What are the types of assessments to consider?

Security assessments: Prior to beginning education programming in crisis and conflict environments, it is important to first assess the security of the environments, as well as the safety of implementers and beneficiaries. Chemonics has put security assessments to good use in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to safely carry out programming. Members of the ACCELERE! team conducted a mission to Goma in 2016 to assess the needs and identify issues related to security and violence affecting students in centres de rattrapage scolaire (CRS) and centres d’apprentissage scolaire (CAP). The team was then able to adjust their implementation strategies based upon these recommendations, including developing risk reduction plans and localized security plans, with community engagement in targeted schools to mitigate risks to child protection.

Needs assessments: Needs assessments are conducted in order to more fully understand a problem and its context. There are two kinds of needs assessments, rapid or in-depth, and the selection between the two depends upon the particular circumstances and timeline. According to USAID’s Rapid Needs Assessment Guide, a rapid needs assessment for education is needed in three scenarios: acute emergency onset, recent escalation of an ongoing crisis or conflict, and before implementation of a new program design. The purpose of such assessments is to identify education capacities and gaps, assist in the program’s prioritization of support activities, determine the dynamic context in which implementation is to occur, and ensure that programming improves the conflict environment.

Joint assessments: Coordination is key when working in a crisis and conflict environment, in order to reduce the duplication of efforts, more efficiently roll out programming, and share important information with other key players involved in alleviating the crisis. In some cases, a multi-sectoral assessment is possible, which requires coordination with other sectors. When conducting joint assessments, the Global Education Cluster’s Joint Education Needs Assessment Toolkit can be used as a guide. If joint assessments are not possible under the circumstances, the individual assessor should disseminate the findings among other actors in order to provide a coordinated response to the findings.

Reading assessments: Many education programs utilize an early grade reading assessment (EGRA) to inform their implementation strategy, which assesses phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, fluency, and comprehension. While complete EGRAs are generally conducted as formative assessments, smaller reading assessments should ideally be conducted on a continuous basis, allowing teachers to adjust their instruction accordingly. Chemonics’ reading projects are an example of both effective assessment, as well as the impact the findings may have on education. The Resources, Skills, and Capacities in Early Grade Reading project conducted an early grade reading assessment and school management effectiveness and safety survey throughout Afghanistan. In total, more than 19,000 students were assessed in 1,265 schools across the country’s 34 provinces. The project is currently disseminating this data through both national and regional workshops for the Ministry of Education’s use in their decision-making and programming. The Sindh Reading Program’s (SRP) assessment activities and analysis in Pakistan led to an official notification by the Sindh Education and Literacy Department to all primary public schools in SRP’s and the Pakistan Reading Program’s 22 target districts to adjust their schedule to include a daily 35-minute reading period.

Paige Morency Notario is a member of the Education and Youth Practice and an associate in Chemonics’ East and Southern Africa Division.

Posted in: Education and Youth
Leave a Comment

3 Imperatives for Gender Programming in Education


Successful and sustainable gender-sensitive policies in education that promote equity require commitment from all stakeholders of the education ecosystem within a country context. Without incorporating commitment, understanding, and partnership into the development of gender-sensitive policies, there is no guarantee that program initiatives will be sustained after the project lifecycle. Often, even though gender policies might exist at the national level, local school personnel, parents,...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

How to Prepare Today’s Youth for Tomorrow’s Job Market


After setting the global development agenda in 2000 with the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations highlighted the need to focus on enhancing economic growth through sustainable and meaningful work in its 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Today, the UN calls for the “promotion of inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment, and decent work for all,” and seeks to address the 470 million jobs that need to be created for youth entering the workforce from 2016 to 2030....

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Making Schools Safe Across the Democratic Republic of the Congo


By Rebecca Malinick and Jennifer Swift-Morgan Overheard at a recent workshop: “Girls who are having sex with their teachers need to be coached to make better choices.” A debate ensued. Do they? Is that really a choice they are making? Or is it the teachers who need to change their behavior, school administration that needs to be part of the solution, education and justice systems that must enforce policies and laws, and families and communities who need to let girls know that this is not normal or...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Questions with Lilian Likicho and Isaiah Oliver: Trends in Youth Development


Lilian Likicho is the monitoring, evaluation, and learning director for USAID’s Uganda Youth Leadership in Agriculture project, which aims to increase economic opportunities for approximately 350,000 Ugandan female and male youth ages 10 to 35 in agriculture related fields to increase their incomes and build entrepreneurship, leadership, and workforce readiness skills. Isaiah Oliver is the deputy chief of party for the USAID Asia and Middle East Economic Growth Best Practices (AMEG) project,...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Every Child Deserves a Favorite Teacher


What do you remember about your favorite teacher? Maybe you remember their passion for the subject they taught, the way they pushed you to accomplish something that you thought was outside of your capabilities, or the way they probably were tough on you at some point, helping you grow when it felt most difficult. What you probably remember most is how they made you feel. I have vivid memories of my favorite teacher. I was a senior in high school, stressed about applying to college, and ready to...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

How Can We Get Youth Interested in Agriculture?


Despite the remarkable progress the world has made in its fight against poverty, it is a challenging time to be young. Youth face high unemployment in many parts of the world today. In Africa, for example, young people account for 60 percent of all unemployed. The youth unemployment rates in countries like Botswana, Republic of the Congo, Senegal, and South Africa exceed 30 percent.  Making agriculture a more viable and attractive source of tomorrow's jobs is critical to young people’s...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

How We Get to 100 Million Improved Readers


Reading is essential for learning across all academic subject areas. As children progress through school, schools, teachers, and communities must help them to become critical and independent readers and learners. Their future depends on it. This is why USAID and its partners, like Chemonics, aim to improve literacy for 100 million children. Research suggests that we have a good understanding of what children need to become proficient readers. USAID’s approach to reading instruction is based on...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

3 Lessons in Empowering Youth Around the World


August 12 is International Youth Day, an exciting occasion meant for governments and intuitions to draw attention to youth issues worldwide. More than half the world’s population is now under the age of 30 years old, and it is critical to review successes in working with youth populations to empower young people as tomorrow’s leaders. Below are three strands of success I found in Chemonics work with youth in workforce development, livelihood, and agripreneurship initiatives in 70 countries...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Business Is for Kids Too: What Business Leaders Are Teaching Young Students in Georgia


By Indira Amiranashvili and Nikoloz Chachkhiani Is business just for adults? In many countries, the business community’s involvement in education is limited to the secondary or post-secondary levels. Under USAID’s Georgia Primary Education (G-PriEd) program, however, we are trying another approach: engaging local businesses in primary education (Grades 1-6) with the goal of equipping children with basic business skills that will help them realize their full potential as adults. There are many...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Teacher Learning Circles: A Locally Owned Complement to Coaching


By Emet Mohr and Paige Morency Notario Coaching is a welcomed response to the need for active and continuous teacher professional development, which is linked to student achievement gains. Coaching provides significant short-term impact on instruction, but comes with potential long-term sustainability issues due to its high price tag and possible lack of local ownership. Teacher learning circles (TLCs) can serve as a promising addition to the existing coaching model by addressing these two...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Radical Transparency: 3 Benefits of Formative Assessment in Promoting Student Learning


By Sarah Grausz and Nikita Soman Education is a fundamental building block for human development and a vital precursor for a country’s overall growth and advancement. When countries prioritize the provision of high-quality primary education, they experience long-term positive correlations in workforce development, economic growth, life expectancy, and democracy and governance processes. USAID’s Education Strategy reflects this fact through a strong commitment to improving early grade reading...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Reading Is Thinking: Using Read-Alouds for Comprehensive Literacy Instruction


By Kathryn Camp and Laura Conrad Phonics teaches kids the most basic building blocks of literacy: how to read and pronounce the letters, letter groups, and syllables that come together to create meaning. But phonics-based education for children can and should be more than learning to recognize words. When coupled with interactive exercises, learning to read can unlock children’s imaginations and intellects, and spur critical thinking skills that bring lifelong benefits. Read-alouds can be...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Breaking Glass Ceilings in Higher Education


By Linda Flynn and Rebecca Jeudin Statistics for many regions around the world show that although women make up a significant percentage of undergraduate student enrollment, they hold only 10 percent of leadership positions in higher education. Globally, men outnumber women in higher education management, at about 5 to 1 in middle management and 20 to 1 at senior management levels. Why is this an issue? While women have excelled in post-secondary settings, the opportunities for women to be...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Universal Children’s Day: The Right to Learn in a Safe School


Universal Children’s Day, established by the United Nations in 1954, is a day to devote to the welfare of the children. While we formally recognize the importance of child welfare on November 20, this is a concept that should be reinforced every day and is an essential element to all education work around the world. The global development community, including USAID, has made progress in children’s access to education. However, it’s not enough to simply have access to education, especially in...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

In Focus: Lifting Early Grade Reading to New Heights


To celebrate World Literacy Day back in September, the USAID-funded Pakistan Sindh Reading Program (SRP) team visited one of its 734 targeted schools in Karachi, Pakistan, to read stories aloud to primary school children. Pictured above is Chief of Party Christopher Ashford with a student from the school. In the student's hands is SRP's message on World Literacy Day: "Read to Lead."  Reading is vitally important in Pakistan, according to Christopher, particularly in Sindh, where large...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Making Job Matching Technology Work for Unemployed Youth


With global youth unemployment on the rise in nearly every region of the world, we as development practitioners are scrambling to find and scale solutions that quickly improve the employment outlook for youth. From a growing list of potential workforce development and placement tools, online job matching platforms have emerged as relatively simple and cost-effective solutions. The concept behind them is straightforward: provide job seekers and employers with platforms to find each other, and we...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Know Your SDGs: Your Guide to What the U.N. Is Doing This Weekend


Today, the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit opens in New York. More than 150 world leaders are expected to gather there to adopt the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious document meant to define the world’s development agenda for the next 15 years. With 17 goals and 169 individual targets, the SDGs are more numerous and complex than their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), adopted in 2000. But they are hugely important, both individually and...

Read More »

In Focus: Youth Get in the Game


Our world has 1.8 billion young people — nearly one-quarter of the world’s population, and the largest generation of youth in history. Today, International Youth Day, recognizes the prominent role that youth have to play in achieving sustainable development. Yet, too often, they are left on the sidelines. The theme of this year’s International Youth Day is “youth civic engagement” — highlighting and encouraging young people to participate politically, economically, and socially in their...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »

Know Your SDGs: The Reality of Education for All


By Kaitlyn Coogan and Jill Meeks With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to expire at the end of this year, the United Nations General Assembly will be meeting in September to discuss the next phase of the MDGs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a compilation of 17 goals and 169 targets, are set to replace the MDGs. This presents an opportunity for the international community and brings us to a critical juncture in the development world: Will the SDGs be too much too soon, or...

Posted in: Education and Youth
Read More »