Programme Brief

Publication Date

"According to the World Education Forum Declaration, equity in education refers to fairness in education policy, provision and outcome."

This brief summarises findings of an evidence review that sought to demonstrate the contribution of communication for development (C4D) to education outcomes in East and Southern Africa, specifically those related to inclusion and equity in education. It puts forward a strong case for the application of C4D principles and processes to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of inclusive, equitable, and quality education for all, identifying policy and programming implications for education and offering recommendations to inform policymakers and programmers in support of the 2030 development agenda targets for education. The brief forms part of a wider Global Evidence Review of Communication for Development (C4D) which seeks to demonstrate the contribution of C4D to education outcomes, specifically in the areas of inclusion, equity, and gender. The purpose of the initiative is to strengthen the evidence base, guidance, partnership, and support for C4D in Education towards improving the aims of inclusive, equitable, and quality education, particularly for marginalised children and adolescents (See Related Summaries below for other briefs from the Evidence Review).

The brief outlines three factors affecting equity that have been identified by the Global Evidence Review: (a) Fixed factors, such as age, gender, disability and first language; (b) Circumstantial factors, such as family income, relative community affluence, geographic location, religion, level of parental education, past academic performance, distance from school and school facilities; and (c) Behavioural and social factors, such as perceived intellectual ability, discrimination, self-esteem, social norms, and perceptions of the relevance of education. The third set of factors, until now, have received little attention in the education sector programming and form the specific focus of this brief.

As background information, the report offers a global and regional snapshot of children’s access to education, making the point that inequality persists, particularly at the secondary level, where glaring socio-economic and gender differences persist. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, in the eastern and southern Africa region, for example, 11.5 million children of primary school age and 8.5 million children of secondary school age were out of school. The following barriers to quality and inclusive education have been identified across the region: On the supply side, barriers include lack of qualified teachers, low education budgets, insufficient textbooks, poor educational policies, and inadequate facilities in school. On the demand side, barriers include negative parental attitudes towards education, poor community understanding of the importance of education, violence against girls in school, early pregnancies, and early marriage.

In order to respond to these barriers, the brief puts forward the Socio-ecological Model (SEM), which provides a conceptual framework for C4D in education. It shows how problems in learning for children are the result of many individual and social factors. Therefore, these factors must be addressed at multiple levels, which are:

  1. Individual/Interpersonal: Knowledge, attitudes, and practices among children, adolescents, and families that affect educational decisions and actions;
  2. Community: Social beliefs and norms, gender norms, social and economic conditions and resources, knowledge and attitudes about education among community members, and sense of empowerment and collective efficacy that affect educational choices, decisions, and practices;
  3. Institutional: Institutional conditions of the education system that affect inclusion and quality, including educational media. These conditions include school policy guidelines for inclusive and quality education, access to education services (such as cost), geographical proximity to school, physical infrastructure of local school districts, resource management, teacher capacity and quality, curricula, and safety;
  4. Policy/system: Policies and governance elements of educational systems that facilitate or discourage inclusive and quality education, as well as positive decisions about education amongst individuals and families.

The brief then goes on to offer examples from the review that highlight how C4D has impacted on the levels and challenges described above. It looks, for example, at how projects involving edutainment television for children, radio programmes, community dialogues, peer education, community scoreboards, and social mobilisation activities have contributed to: influencing children’s attitudes, self-efficacy and learning outcomes; influencing family and community awareness, attitudes, and social norms that impact education; increasing community engagement and social support for education; facilitating the definition of needs, participatory decision-making, and school governance; influencing teacher attitudes and capacities for effective and child-centred approaches; and facilitating participatory monitoring, social accountability, and advocacy in order to engage with education policies.

The brief ends off with the following recommendations for action:

  1. Budgeted C4D strategies, targeting all levels of society, should be incorporated in education sector policies and plans, with emphasis on marginalised groups at each tier of the education system (early childhood development (ECD), primary, and secondary), and in both formal and non-formal settings, as well as in development and humanitarian contexts.
  2. Behavioural and socio-cultural research should be conducted on community beliefs, attitudes, values, and perceptions about education and social norms that contribute to education inequity.
  3. Innovative and practical ways of engaging with communities should be adopted to overcome common problems of elite bias, tokenism, and apathy. Furthermore, more ways to represent the voices of community members and students and advocate on their behalf in policy-making at local and national levels need to be explored.
  4. Real-time data collection, multi-stakeholder dialogue, and mass media platforms should be facilitated to promote local ownership and collective responsibility of schools. The focus should be on holding education personnel and authorities accountable. Monitoring and evaluation is also important to showcase, promote, and reward exceptional teachers, model schools, and exemplary local governments.
  5. Innovative C4D platforms and interventions should be used to provide learners with the opportunity to acquire the knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes necessary to improve education quality and learning outcomes. Examples of C4D platforms and interventions include educational media, mobile technologies, and interactive use of the internet, as well as other non-technological innovations.
  6. A learning package should be rolled out to equip national and sub-national education managers with basic knowledge on social and behaviour change principles and tools.
  7. Partnerships should be made with local and international research institutions to generate evidence on the impact of C4D in education interventions. Also, a set of intermediate indicators for C4D in education should be developed and promoted into administrative data collection by the education system and by those conducting national household surveys in order to feed into education reform.