CEI Shares Possibilities for Innovation at CIES 2015

March 19, 2015Jordan Worthington

Every year, the Comparative and International Education Society holds a global conference that brings together implementers, researchers, policymakers, and funders from all over the world to discuss emerging and pressing issues in global education. This year, the conference, which was held in Washington, DC, drew the participation of several implementers of CEI programs and partners in progress for global education.

As we previewed earlier this month, we had the chance to present in several panels on innovation – a topic close to the heart of our work. At CIES, we led a panel on what works in education innovation, and we also participated in two panels on innovative financing for out-of-school children.

Our panel on education innovations, held on Monday, March 9, brought together Donika Dimovska, our CEI program director (pictured above); Nitin Rao, the head of CEI India from Catalyst Management Systems; Kate Radford of eLearning Sudan and War Child Holland, a CEI-profiled program; and Jordan Naidoo, a Senior Education Advisor at UNICEF Education. All presentations were threaded together by the theme of program scalability.

Donika kicked off our panel by sharing our impetus for starting CEI – progress in education doesn’t happen quickly enough and we all need to work together to identify programs, policies, and practices that increase equitable access to quality education for the poor. To build on this mission, Jordan demonstrated the potential of supporting and scaling innovations. He shared how CEI and UNICEF have partnered to devise criteria for identifying and selecting innovations from the CEI database and UNICEF country offices, and provide additional funding and technical assistance for finalists of the process through an innovation fund set up by UNICEF Education. (Pictured below from right are Jordan, Kate, Donika, and Nitin)

Kate Radford of War Child Holland brought the perspective of an education program implementer to the panel. She shared how her organization is implementing tablet-based learning to an area where traditional education is not possible, Sudan. She shared how important it was to design for scale at the onset of the project, remain flexible, and sharing and collaborating with as many people as possible.

Following Kate, Nitin Rao elaborated on the intricacies of connecting education implementers. He shared that organizations often find these potential connections more valuable than money, and that programs prefer to be grouped around common interests, themes, and geographies. He finally shared that we need to shift program thinking on generating evidence from “How can we get more money?” to “How can we improve our program?” since funding along can’t guarantee quality at scale.

In two separate sessions, Results for Development Institute (R4D) Managing Director, Nick Burnett, and Associate Fellow, Milan Thomas, shared their research on innovative financing to decrease the number of out-of-school children (pictured on right). The presentation built off of previous work in estimating the costs of out-of-school children, as well as the costs of not enrolling out-of-school children. Their work was informed by reality that while the number of out-of-school children was decreasing for many years, the number has stagnated recently and more innovative approaches to financing are necessary to have more children in school. Using the Democratic Republic of the Congo as a case study, they shared their model for estimating the economic cost of enrolling or re-enrolling children into school into expansion costs versus targeted intervention costs. Nick stated that the field of education financing must move toward a more explicit equity-based approach, but Milan clarified that financing for out-of-school children can be efficiency-enhancing for education systems, not just equity-enhancing. Ultimately, however, the international community still needs to determine from where the money to get children back into school will come.

Our team left CIES feeling inspired by the programs and policies we learned about as well as the people we met, and we look forward to sharing more insight at CIES in 2016 in Vancouver.


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