26/04/2016


Students from poorer backgrounds are closing the education gap with children from wealthier homes in Uganda, according to the latest research into student progress.

Independent research, carried out by the Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC), found that students in PEAS schools, which offer low-cost, private secondary education in rural communities through the government’s Universal Secondary Education (USE) programme, recorded greater gains in their attainment from school entry to their attainment in national English and Maths tests than students in more expensive government and private schools.

The research team, hosting a ‘Learning Summit’ launch event today (Wednesday 27th April), in Kampala, will announce the findings made into national school performance and student progress data. PEAS and their partners, Ark, will reveal the key statistics from the study, which has explored whether PEAS USE schools are meeting their goals of increasing access to secondary education, delivering quality schooling and ensuring affordability and cost-effectiveness.

PEAS schools provide a quality education to some of the most disadvantaged children in Sub-Saharan Africa.” John Rendel, Founder and CEO, PEAS

Three in every five students (60%) attending PEAS schools are from the lowest two asset quintiles in Ugandan society – that proportion is compared to less than 40% in government schools and only 19% in private schools. The research demonstrates the organisation’s commitment to improving access for children from the most disadvantaged districts of Uganda, as PEAS schools are often located in the most remote areas of the country.

EPRC are conducting a three-year evaluation (2015-17) of PEAS schools working under the Ugandan USE programme, which intends to draw out learnings for the PEAS model and policy insights to scale up education provision in Uganda and other developing countries. The researchers are also working with the National Assessment of Progress in Education (NAPE) section of the Uganda National Examinations Board to deliver standardised English and Maths tests comparing the progress of students in PEAS schools with students in government and other private schools.

“It’s important to realise that PEAS students have worse prior attainment than students in other schools but PEAS offers them a chance they wouldn’t get anywhere else. The average Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) score for PEAS students is statistically worse than that of government and private school students. Many PEAS students come from larger, less-educated families and, without PEAS, would not be admitted to other schools due to enforced attainment cut-offs”, said Francis Shanty, Country Director for PEAS Uganda.

“The results of this study are important because they show that despite low prior attainment on starting a PEAS school, students score equal to, and in some cases better than, their counterparts in English and Maths tests only a few years later. Our standard of education makes a bigger difference to a child’s overall learning than if they would have attended a non-PEAS school.”

The EPRC report evaluated the progress of over 2,000 students through lesson observations, student and teacher surveys, facility inspections, and NAPE testing.

Many PEAS students come from larger, less-educated families and, without PEAS, would not be admitted to other schools due to enforced attainment cut-offs.” Francis Shanty, Country Director for PEAS Uganda

Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) researcher, Dr Francis Mwesigye, said, “What we can see from the findings of this initial study are signs that public-private partnerships can achieve their aims of expanding access to quality secondary schooling.’
PEAS students are making greater gains in their learning than students in comparative government or private schools. We've found that strong child protection practices, good community engagement - indicated by well-functioning parents-teachers associations - and more participatory classroom teaching are behind the differences observed.”

Today’s Learning Summit event will be attended by key stakeholders, including Ministry of Education officials and education funders, who will hear the latest findings from the research project, understand where learnings can be made for government and school operators, and discuss opportunities to further improve impact.

PEAS Founder and CEO, John Rendel, insists that, while the baseline report shows positive impact, there is a lot more improvement to be made. “We’re pleased this external research has confirmed what we already believed: that PEAS schools provide a quality education to some of the most disadvantaged children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Even if students join our schools with a lower prior attainment, we are confident that our education approach will elevate them to the same level as their peers at government or private schools, or beyond, by the time they graduate.”