Background: UNICEF’s Let Us Learn Programme seeks to improve access to education and learning outcomes for the most marginalized children in five countries. In Nepal, where 770,000 children between the ages of 5 and 18 are out of school, factors such as gender, ethnicity/caste, poverty, disability status, and geographical location continue to be associated with lower levels of educational access and learning achievements. As a result, Let Us Learn is investing in a Girls Access to Education (GATE) programme to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills to this population and support them to mainstream into formal school. Partnering with the local government and a local partner in the country’s most disadvantaged province, and GATE operates a nine month accelerated learning programme to bring the most disadvantaged girls up to an appropriate level to mainstream into the formal school system. In 2017-18, the programme reached over 12,000 girls, of which 88 percent were mainstreamed into formal school.
Aim: The present paper assesses the short-and intermediate-term outcomes of GATE graduates, specifically looking at: 1) the academic trajectory of graduates from the three most recent GATE cohorts; 2) the challenges that GATE graduates have experienced in terms of enrollment in formal schools and advancing to subsequent levels; and 3) the performance of GATE graduates in mainstream schools.
Methodology: The study was conducted in collaboration with World Education and relied on a mixed methods approach, using secondary analysis based on monitoring data from the programme to identify enrollment trends for graduates and primary research to track a sample of GATE graduates. In addition, the study relied on focus group discussions and key informant interviews with a multiplicity of actors including headmasters and teachers, parents and students from mainstream schools. Follow up interviews were also conducted with GATE graduates through home visits and phone calls. Results: Initial analysis of monitoring data found that 95 percent of girls enrolled in GATE completed the 9-month program in 2017-2018, and that 92 percent of these graduates then mainstreamed into formal schools. On average, girls’ learning improved dramatically over the 9-month time period, with scores on a standard pre- and post-test improving from an average score of 12% prior to the programme to 65% upon completion of the programme. The paper will share additional findings related to the grade level girls were mainstreamed into and differences in trends between the most recent three cohorts. Preliminary results from focus group discussions with GATE graduates find that while the majority of girls report positive experiences with GATE and have enrolled in formal schools, they face important challenges in their incorporation to mainstream schools. This includes the payment of examination fees and other costs for supplies and materials, as well as discrimination from teachers in formal schools due to the girls’ ethnicity and religion. Furthermore, their performance in school declines upon enrollment in the formal system due to a lack of understanding of Nepalese content delivered by teachers and the high ratio of students to teachers that can be seen in mainstream schools.
Cirenia Chavez is a research associate at UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti. She is a mixed-methods researcher, and has carried out extensive work on youth at risk across regions, but especially in Latin America and the Caribbean. She has a PhD in Development Studies (University of Cambridge) and a background in International Relations (BA and MA).
Annika Rigole is a Research and M&E Specialist with UNICEF Education. She has MALD from the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, a BA from Kalamazoo College, and extensive experience working in education in Africa and South Asia.