Ministry of Education, Guyana

Risks to achieving Education Sector Plan targets and their mitigation

Any five year plan in any sector and in any country is potentially vulnerable to events beyond the sector’s control.

These include:

1. Political instability in the country.
2. Changes in the Government priorities on which the plan depends. Changes in priorities can occur when the party in power changes or under the same party.
3. Economic disruptions that undermine the Government’s funding base for the plan.
4. Changes in donor priorities that undermine the funding of the plan.

Any of these events could happen in Guyana over the next five years, but their probabilities are judged to be moderately low or low. The education sector has always been regarded as a major priority across the political divide and civil society, with this Administration evidencing stable support for the sector. To support the political and civic consensus, the formulation of this plan was based on an extensive consultative process with senior and technical officers within the sector and civil society. Initiatives of the ESP, such as school-level and national report cards and arrangements for monitoring and evaluating the ESP, ensure that the nation and communities are kept informed of progress and problems with achieving the ESP’s objectives. Communities will also be kept informed of the plan through their participatory roles in devising the Regional Action Plans.

Regional and international/donor agencies supported the 2008-2013 ESP extensively, helping to bridge gaps that could have negatively impacted implementation. It is hoped and expected that this level of support will continue. In an effort to ensure sustainability, the Ministry of Education continues to strengthen its collaboration with, and coordination of, supportive organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF and the Global Partnership for Education through the conceptualization of on-going and future programmes/project initiatives.

Human and organizational capacity constraints in some units and departments of the Ministry of Education pose a much greater risk to the implementation of the ESP and to the achievement of its objectives. This risk is rated moderately high to substantial. This risk is exacerbated by problems with retaining good performers within the MoE.

The Ministry of Education recognizes these risk factors and is undertaking several mitigation measures. The organizational audit, a first activity to be conducted under the new ESP, will assess whether units responsible for implementing aspects of the ESP have the individual and organizational resources and incentives to deliver on those responsibilities effectively. The audit will focus on the MoE’s central and regional departments, but might also include a sample of PTAs and schools. The framework for the audit will be organized around the three factors that seem to determine whether organizational performance is good or weak: human capacity, organizational characteristics, and the formal and informal incentives that shape individuals’ choices. The audit for each unit will identify the unit's capacity building needs. These can include human capital shortfalls, relative to responsibilities; organizational problems that need to be resolved; or perverse incentives that need to be addressed. For example, the auditors may find that improving the incentives, such as remuneration packages, is the only way to reduce the loss of good performers from key units.

Given the audit results and ESP priorities, the auditors will recommend to the MoE where to focus its capacity building. The auditors will also recommend to the MoE whether to delay the implementation of an intervention pending better capacities of the implementing units. If an intervention cannot be well-designed and capably implemented, it is better either to delay its implementation, pending the development of the key unit’s capacities, or to include it in the next ESP.

Another risk, which is rated substantial, is the complexity of this ESP. The 2014-2018 ESP takes a systems perspective in terms of improving students’ learning outcomes. It addresses the conditions that international experience and research find to be necessary and sufficient for increasing student learning. However, these conditions cumulate to a complex agenda, no matter how capable the implementing units of the Ministry are. The initiatives intended to realize these conditions may combine to overwhelm a unit within the MoE, regardless of that unit’s capacities relative to normal loads.

To mitigate this very real risk, the MoE will not pursue the ESP mechanically. It will sequence tasks on the basis of the recommendations of the organizational auditors and so as to even out the loads on individual units as much as possible. It may add consultants to provide temporary help for regular staff of a unit. Whenever appropriate, it will start initiatives as pilots to let MoE departments “ease into” implementation. It may even defer the implementation of initiatives until the next plan period.

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