We are honoured that Martin Finnigan is a member of the team appointed to carry out a quasi-experimental Sustainability Assessment of the Education and Child Nutrition Programme in Kyrgyzstan. The project is being carried out on behalf of the United States Department of Agriculture McGovern-Dole International Food Programme and Mercy Corps. Our particular area of interest is the potential to strengthen local value chains and private sector engagement to improve the sustainability of school feeding initiatives.
We’re very happy to be working in Azerbaijan again, providing support to the government as it seeks to identify opportunities for public-private partnerships (PPPs) in the education sector.
Our responsibilities include identifying potential pilot projects and carrying out initial viability assessments. The current focus is on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector.
We are working in Uzbekistan again, this time working as part of a team developing a support package that will significantly strengthen STEM education in the country. The package will cover curriculum development, teacher training, infrastructure improvements and a network of STEM specialist schools in every district.
Our role is to explore the potential for strategic partnerships and PPPs in the STEM education sector, and we have developed several concepts including bilateral partnership arrangements and a multilateral PPP to develop a STEM visitor centre and educational hub.
In this article for Development Asia, Asian Development Bank’s knowledge sharing portal, we draw on experience in Scotland, Latin America and Asia to demonstrate ways in which partnerships between the public, private and third sectors are helping minimise the disruption to education caused by Covid-19. We go on to identify four key lessons.
Education in the age of Covid-19 – A case study in coping with the disruption
Before Covid-19 struck, and despite the need to prepare young people to live and work in an increasingly digital world, some, perhaps too many, education stakeholders were ambivalent and even dubious about the value of remote and digital learning. Some saw it as the thin end of a wedge in which computers replace teachers and educators; young people spending evermore time in front of screens for study as well as play.
However, the pandemic has demonstrated that the ability to educate remotely adds resilience and minimises the social costs of interrupted education. It has provided examples of good practice and positive impacts in general education, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TEVT) and Higher Education, from many countries including Uruguay, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, pupils, even in well developed countries, tell us that the experience has been mixed.
The value of blended learning is demonstrated amply by e-Sgoil, the remote teaching ecosystem which grew from a desire to provide equality of access and participation for pupils in rural communities scattered across Scotland’s wild Western Isles. E-Sgoil uses the national digital education platform GLOW, and commercial education collaboration software Vscene. Partnerships with public and third sector developers of curricular resources as Scotland’s National Centre for Languages (SCILT) the Confucius Institute (CISS) both based at the University of Strathclyde, Keep Scotland Beautiful, and SCHOLAR, have enabled it to launch a wide range of language, environmental, and cultural content to pupils in Scotland and beyond. Uptake by pupils – often without prompting from their own teachers – has been remarkable.
E-Sgoil’s most recent initiative is fully subscribed, so too is a parallel program of professional development for teachers. While parents were being bombarded with websites that could help, these partners in e-Sgoil recognised the need for learner structure, within a timetabled real time teaching experience. From a standing start and at very little additional costs, a new school was created for Scotland; oversubscribed in some classes within a week. By the 6th of May, 15,364 young learners aged 5-18 from all 32 Local Authorities had been involved in this new school, almost 500 were on a waiting list, and just over 300 teachers were enrolled for professional development activities.
Lessons to be learned
What lessons can we draw from such examples of good practice?
The first lesson is that education systems which already had an embedded digital culture made the transition from blended learning to remote learning far more smoothly and effectively than those who found themselves making the transition from traditional learning as an emergency measure. Examples of good practice include Plan Ceibal in Uruguay and e-Sgoil.
A second lesson is that there is no need to spend time and effort developing bespoke content and platforms – high quality educational resources are widely available on digital and broadcast channels such as BBC Bitesize. Excellent virtual learning tools such as Moodle, Padlet and Google Classroom are easy to adapt to local context and curriculum. Connectivity solutions can always be found and need not be digital, as the examples of Pakistan and Uzbekistan show. The appeal with e-Sgoil has been the real time pedagogic interface between the educators and the learners focused on curriculum offers that are appealing and recognisable in their educational systems.
The third lesson is the importance of partnership. The success achieved by e-Sgoil is attributable to its leverage of partnerships to provide educational resources; Scottish Government’s commitment through its Deputy First Minister has been crucial. This allows e-Sgoil’s small staff team focus their energy on developing the teaching methods and equipping teachers and pupils with the skills needed to operate in a remote learning environment. As in every educational setting, the degree of success is a function of the skills of the teacher. Whilst some sources highlight concerns, e-Sgoil has identified some key points of guidance for effective remote teaching.
The fourth lesson concerns coordination and management. Teachers operating in the ‘new normal’ have commented on how the balance of their workload has changed and the highlighted the importance of effective communications with parents and pupils, especially in areas of high deprivation and when supporting the most vulnerable pupils. There are opportunities for efficiency though, such as by ensuring that pupils all use the same online platform. For example use of GLOW (the national digital learning platform) was found to be patchy across Scotland, and this had to be addressed for pupils outside the Western Isles accessing e-Sgoil. Coordinated timetabling is essential for remote teaching across multiple schools as is technical back up in the first few course lessons when human error can impact on the learning experience.
In conclusion, traditional education systems have evolved over decades if not centuries, and they are generally poor at coping with emergencies. The Covid-19 crisis has precipitated innovation and development at an unprecedented pace, and has demonstrated the potential for remote learning within a blended learning environment as a tool to enhance access. It is very likely that in many global educational systems the ‘ new normal ‘ will be around for many months and hopefully one of the positive legacies of Covid-19 will be an acceptance that blended learning, where there is direct interface between educators and learners no matter distances, can be firmly established.
Every education system would do well to ask how it can improve its remote learning capability to improve resilience in emergency situations, and help minimise the social costs of interrupted learning. The best examples focus on developing teachers’ skills, and leverage partnerships with a range of organisations in the public, private and third sectors to meet the learning needs of pupils.
About the Authors
Martin Finnigan is Director of Caledonian Economics. He works with governments and international development agencies, developing better partnerships in the education sector.
Bruce Robertson is a former Director of Education and a Visiting Professor at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.
The Danish election of 2019 was widely seen as an environmental election – it brought to power the Social Democrats with the backing of three other parties that each saw the environment as a key part of their platform. Until the Covid-19 crisis and an effective political truce, this dominated relations between the parties of the “red bloc”. Now, as talk begins to turn to reopening and stimulating the economy, the rhetoric of the environment has returned. Morten Østergaard, leader of Radikale Venstre (literally translated as Radical Left, a social liberal party that is neither radical nor particularly left wing) has pushed the Prime Minister into agreeing that this restart of the economy should be green, and that the Government’s ambitions and promises around the environment must not be victims of Covid-19. She agreed.
Achieving the goals through CO2 taxes
What will that mean in practice? In December 2019 the Danish parliament passed a climate law officially binding the target to reduce CO2 emissions to 70% of their 1990 levels by 2030. How it tackles that target in new political and social conditions is currently under debate.
The Danish Economic Council (ØR) sees CO2 taxes as the most cost-effective way forwards, advising against any state spending on green growth, even given the current crisis.
Their argument is that taxes on CO2 create a positive spiral towards CO2 reduction, making CO2 heavy products more expensive for consumers and CO2 methods of production more expensive for producers.
The ØR does argue for a need to increase consumption in order to stimulate the economy. There has been evidence that individual savings in Denmark have markedly increased during the crisis, undoubtably having an impact on the real economy. In order to stimulate the economy in the short term, the ØR suggests lowering the tax on electricity. This would increase the disposable income for consumers, who will increase their consumption which will help get the economy out of the crisis, after which a CO2 tax can be implemented to begin the “positive spiral”. This, they argue, is the most efficient and cost-effective method of achieving both an economic recovery and the 2030 goals.
Back to Green Growth
ØR thinking emerged after Dansk Industri (Confederation of Danish Industry representing approximately 11,000 companies) published their own outline of a green recovery – “Denmark out of crisis – back to green growth”. This suggested a more interventionist approach from the Government, that would see the Government pump around 90 billion DKK (around £10.5.billion) into the economy, particularly directed towards green investments and infrastructure. The report suggested this would contribute around one-quarter of the 2030 CO2 reduction targets, as well as creating and supporting 30,000 jobs.
If various Covid-19 bailouts are included, the total cost to the government under DI’s plans would be around 150 billion DKK.
A multi-strand approach
These costs are spread across 70 different policy interventions, including 2 billion to kickstart infrastructure to support widespread use of hydrogen fuels where electrification is not viable, as well as carbon capture. The plan further suggests expanding the 2018 energy package that set a goal of constructing three new offshore windfarms, capable of generating 3GW by 2030. This ambition would be stretched to 5GW by 2030, and the original limit of 1850 onshore windmills would be lifted, and construction sped up, creating jobs. Beyond direct investments in environmental projects, there are others that have an indirect green effect.
The plan suggests the Government officially approves all 453 renovation projects currently in the queue from the “Landsbyggefonden”, an institution representing social housing organisation. Other than the obvious economic stimulus in the construction and crafts sector, such renovations could also reduce energy use by 30-40% for these residents. It’s also completely free for the Government, as the social housing organisations themselves cover renovations.
Enabling the regions
DI suggests a pool of 100 million DKK be created for the regions and municipalities to carry out their own projects to improve energy efficiency. A further pool of 200 million DKK should be set aside for the renovation and expansion of the cycle lane network. These are just a few select projects from a deep plan that includes others focused on digitalisation, but also on protecting Denmark’s status as an exporting nation.
DI promotes a vision of developing a proper stimulus package with a green tinge, if not a total green focus. There are other provisions to see funds stimulating public consumption, as the ØR did and infrastructure investments. For comparison, this stimulus would be slightly larger than the one following the 2008/9 economic crisis. The Social Democrats, being a minority Government, will undoubtably work towards pushing their stimulus package in an environmentally friendly direction. Concrete proposals from the red bloc parties are forthcoming and from there a consensus will likely start to emerge.
Governance in Denmark is fairly technocratic, with teams of economists likely hard at work in the various ministries forecasting the cost per tonne of CO2 and the outcome of that will likely define the limits within which the Government is willing to act. Covid-19 has shown the lengths that Danish politics is willing to go to tackle a crisis, how they balance Covid-19, economic recovery and CO2 targets will be watched with interest.
Author – Christopher Edgar has been working with Caledonian Economics since 2019. Christopher is currently completing an MSc in Economics at the University of Copenhagen and graduated with an MA in Economics and Politics at the University of Edinburgh. Within the field of Economics, he has particular interest in Economic Development, Growth Economics, Public Finance/Tax policy, and also Game Theory. Other interests lie in Politics and Public policy, the Charitable Sector, and Languages.
Yesterday, 11 December 2019, the third of the facilities in the latest NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde healthcare PPP reached financial close.
Unusually, the new facility (new Clydebank Health and Care Centre) is being added to an existing DBFM contract under a pre-agreed change procedure.
The first component of this healthcare project reached financial in December 2018 and procured two new facilities (the new Greenock Health Centre and Mental Health In-patient facilities at Stobhill Hospital). The private partner is hub West Scotland and the contract follows Scotland’s hub/DBFM “PPP-lite” template contract.
We supported the NHS in-house team and were responsible for a range a financial transaction support activities including assessing financial submissions from the private sector partner, confirming that returns, margins and fees are consistent with benchmarks and validating financial model optimisation throughout the procurement and at financial close.
On 6 September, the Government of Uruguay signed the country’s first Education PPP contract which will create 59 new kindergartens and support centres for infants and families throughout the country.
Our team at Caledonian Economics helped develop the business case and technical specifications for this wonderful project.
Compared to other infrastructure sectors, education needs a different approach to identifying projects for public–private partnerships.
In this blog for Development Asia, an initiative of Asian Development Bank, we draw on experience from around the world to demonstrate that the education sector needs a different approach to PPP project identification and selection compared to the classic infrastructure sectors (such as transport, energy, municipal services), and propose a viable methodology.
In anticipation of a forthcoming assignment, I recently attended “What’s Next for Education Reforms in Punjab”. This event was hosted by the Centre for Global Development in London.
Speakers from the #Punjab #School #Education #Department, #DFID, and The Citizens Foundation (#TCF) shared experiences and views on Punjab’s fast-paced and ambitious education reforms.
I have published a full report on my Linkedin page, and present a summary of the key points below:
- Pace of Change: Last year the Economist described Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous state, as “home to the most frenetic education reforms in the world, trying to make up for generations of neglect”.
- The infrastructure gap: it is estimated that 80,000 new schools are needed in Pakistan. Many existing buildings are crumbling and overflowing.
- Data is king: Pakistan has diligently gathered data on education for many years. There is scope to use data more effectively as the evidence base for policy-making.
- Quantity and Quality: there was much discussion about initiatives to improve teaching, the curriculum and assessment. Whilst Pakistan is making good progress at reducing poverty, improvements in human capital are falling behind some of its neighbours.
- Public and private alignment: the concept of the mission-aligned cooperation between the public and private sectors was discussed extensively.
I would like to thank event organisers at Centre for Global Development, and the speakers for such an interesting discussion.