Youth and Alternative Education in the Democratic

Youth and Alternative Education in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Preliminary Research Design
Marc Sommers
Senior Researcher, USAID ECCN Support Team
June 2, 2015
The DRC Research Consultation
On the morning of May 14, 2015, 18 people from 11 organizations joined the USAID ECCN
Research Consultation by phone, via Webex, and in person at the Education Development
Center office in Washington, DC. Everyone who attended informally became a “Research
Advisor” to the upcoming field research effort in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The purpose of the consultation was to review and refine suggestions for field research
contained in the May 6 discussion document, entitled “Youth and Alternative Education in the
Democratic Republic of Congo: Plans for a Field Study” (available at:
What follows is a preliminary research design for the upcoming fieldwork. It is based on initial
suggestions contributed by those interviewed for the discussion document as well as
refinements that the Research Advisors collectively provided on the morning of May 14.
Naturally, not every recommendation can be addressed in the initial trip to the DRC: the
participants of both activities offered far too many promising suggestions that can reasonably be
addressed in one field research endeavor.
As a result, suggestions that were prominent in both the discussion document and the
consultation are featured as priorities for the initial field research trip. In addition, listed at the
end of this document are important issues that were raised in the discussion document or
during the May 14 consultation that are unlikely to be covered in the first field trip. These
issues may be taken up on subsequent field research trips to the DRC undertaken by the
ECCN Support Team and/or other researchers.
Preliminary Research Design Features
The following research design, including its proposed content, duration and organization,
reflects the initial thinking of the USAID ECCN Senior Researcher based on the process
described above and elsewhere. These are subject to review and amendment before field
research takes place.
As currently conceived, the proposed field research faces two significant logistical constraints:
time (approximately 1 month in the field) and the challenges of travel in the DRC. As reviewed
during the May 14 consultation, the field research would begin with a week in Kinshasa for
contextual interviews about youth and education in the DRC with relevant officials from the
national government, USAID and other donor agencies, UN agencies, religious organizations
that are involved in education, and international and national NGOs. The final half week also
would take place in Kinshasa. It is reserved for exit interviews and presentations of preliminary
findings for national government and USAID officials (and, if there is interest, for other actors in
the youth and education field).
Positioned between these parameters would be approximately a 2.5-week block of time
reserved for intensive qualitative field research. The preliminary research design features of this
work, drawing from the discussion document and consultation, are detailed in this section. It
should be emphasized that these early research design features are bound to be adjusted and
adapted to the immediate context once field research begins.
Target Group: Three sets of youth will be interviewed: those who are participants in alternative
education programs (mainly accelerated learning programs (ALPs), which by far are the most
common program offering); those who were program participants but left early; and those
youth with reasonably similar profiles to program participants who never entered a program.
The starting point for the youth target group age range is those who cannot attend primary
school (that is, those over age 15; also called “overage” youth). To ensure a reasonably
comparable framework for analysis, the upper end of the age range will be established by the
ages of youth that are participating in accelerated learning programs. For example, if most
overage, out-of-school youth in programs are ages 16-24, then that will be the general age
range (since precise known ages may be unclear, those slightly older than 24 also can be
interviewed). Some of those in programs who are younger than 16 also will be interviewed.
Among the youth that the research will attempt to include are members of sub-groups of
marginalized youth – such as orphans, miners, those formerly associated with armed forces, and
unmarried mothers – that youth and education officials regard as particularly prominent in their
area. Quantitative profile data will be collected from youth who are interviewed.
Officials of programs for out-of-school youth are a second important target group. Officials
based in Kinshasa and the sites visited in eastern DRC, including government education officers
and national and implementing agency officials, will be interviewed about a wide range of issues
related to their programming and target group. Program teachers, parents of youth in and not
in programs, and community leaders connected to program work are among those who also
will be interviewed. Finally, classroom observation will be undertaken at each of the program
Youth & AEPs in the DRC: Preliminary Research Design – Sommers
June 2, 2015
Site Selection: The site for the first field research trip will be North Kivu, which reportedly is
the focal point for alternative education programming for out-of-school youth (accelerated
learning programs in particular) that is conducted by international organizations in the DRC.
The focus will be programs in three locations: the city of Goma and two rural communities. If
possible, a fourth site (to a mining area, where many out-of-school youth are known to work)
will be included.
Program Selection: In Kinshasa and Goma, one aim of interviews with government, United
Nations, donor, and implementing agency officials will be to identify which internationallysupported programs are particularly established in the North Kivu area. If found to be
significant and relevant in North Kivu, the research will identify and include one program site
from each of the following kinds of accelerated learning programs:
(1) One ALP that is funded by international donor(s) via an international NGO (that is,
the ALP that officials in Kinshasa and Goma identify);
(2) One ALP that is managed by a national NGO (without the support of or connection
to international agencies); and
(3) The ALP that is implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Although the final determination of programs will be made in Goma, it is anticipated that the
2.5-week field research period will divide into visits to one program site in Goma and two rural
communities. To enhance comparative analysis, the programs (one in Goma and two in rural
communities) will hopefully provide a significant relevant contrast that separates the three
program sites. For example, the programs may differ by the kind of education program offered,
the target group of participants, or variations in the wartime experience or composition of the
urban or rural community. The contrasting community sites will be identified during discussions
with education experts in Goma. The rural communities also must be accessible from Goma.
Research Themes and Questions: Interviews and the May 14 consultation shed light on three
broad issues in particular. The following strategies and general questions will directly inform the
initial DRC field research activity.
Understanding Out-of-School Youth
It is not entirely clear why some out-of-school youth in the DRC participate in ALPs (or other
kinds of AEPs) while others do not. Of all issues raised during interviews for the discussion
document and discussions during the May 14 consultation, this issue attracted the most
Drawing from advice provided during interviews and discussion, the strategy for addressing this
broad concern will be to identify factors and rationales that either drive out-of-school youth
into ALPs (or other kinds of AEPs) or keep them from participating. Issues of gender, economic
necessity, membership in particular groups or vocations, and cultural values and constraints are
among the issues that will be explored.
Youth & AEPs in the DRC: Preliminary Research Design – Sommers
June 2, 2015
Part of this investigation will address the purpose of education: how different kinds of education
(formal, ALP or otherwise), or specific skills gained via education, are perceived either as
potentially beneficial to, or lacking relevance for, out-of-school youth with contrasting
backgrounds and experiences. Youth plans for the future, and whether and how education may
play a role in their plans, also will be probed.
The Relevance of Accelerated Learning Programs
While the relevance of accelerated learning programs relates to the investigation detailed
above, the issue will be investigated explicitly by researching two sets of concerns.
The first focuses on gathering detailed contextual information about the programs that will be
studied. One question set concerns program planning and organization:
(1) How each respective program was designed;
(2) What rationales informed program design;
(3) Whether a pre-program assessment was undertaken (and if so, what the results of that
assessment were);
(4) The anticipated target group;
(5) How the program would be funded;
(6) The curriculum that the program would use;
(7) How teachers would be recruited, trained, and compensated;
(8) Expected outcomes for program participants;
(9) How the program was to be monitored and evaluated;
What theory of change was developed; and
Whether results from monitoring and evaluations were to be used
(and if so, in what ways).
Next, what took place after each respective program was implemented – regarding each of the
eleven concerns listed above, and the conditions and constraints that shaped implementation in
general – will be investigated. While time will not allow for an exhaustive investigation, it is
expected that – to the extent that information is available – the broad outlines of each issue can
be gathered.
The second set of issues concerns education and program relevance. Questions will be
designed to invite comparisons from respondents (out-of-school youth, teachers, program
officials, community leaders, education officials, etc.) between the utility and value of different
kinds of educational offerings. While the final selection will be determined after arriving in the
field, it is anticipated that the comparison might include formal primary education, formal
secondary education, different kinds of accelerated learning programs (run by international
NGOs, Congolese NGOs, the Ministry of Social Affairs), and other youth education programs.
A final category will be included in interviews to shed further light on the relevance issue: the
perceived impact of having limited or no primary school education.
Youth & AEPs in the DRC: Preliminary Research Design – Sommers
June 2, 2015
The Education System in the DRC
The final set of questions that proved significant during interviews and the May 14 discussion
will be asked only to government and non-government officials connected to formal education
and accelerated learning in the DRC. They collectively concern connections between
accelerated learning programs and the formal education system.
The questions divide into two categories. First, the officials will be invited to explain how
different kinds of nonformal education programs relate or connect to the formal education
system (in theory and in practice). While the categories will be refined following initial
interviews in the field, the preliminary categories will be the same as those employed as criteria
for program selection (listed above).1
Second, education officials will be invited to comment on the endpoint for accelerated learning
programs in general: that is, whether and what the real or ideal plan is for concluding
accelerated learning in the DRC.
Other Vital Research Issues
A single one-month field research activity, mainly taking place in part of one province, on the
broad topic of alternative education and out-of-school youth in the DRC will shed some useful
light on a host of important concerns. Most fortunately, subsequent research to extend
investigation in the DRC is entirely possible. If such research is undertaken, further
investigation of the three broad sets of issues outlined above is feasible.
In addition, four additional issues were raised during interviews and discussion that are both
important but exist beyond the scope of the initial DRC research endeavor. The following four
issues, then, could be included in upcoming research work:
1. Expanding the range of field research sites. Two ideas were proposed: conducting research
in Kinshasa and in areas of the DRC that have not experienced armed conflict (to
contrast with war-affected locations).
2. Teachers. Highlighting teacher-related concerns – including whether and how they are
paid and trained in accelerated learning and other alternative education programs.
3. Skill acquisition. Whether and to what degree youth program participants achieve literacy
and numeracy skills, and how they perform on completion, assessment and national
4. Post-alternative education pathways. Gauging program impact (positive, negative, negligible)
on youth who have completed accelerated learning and other alternative education
That is: (1) ALPs that are funded by international donors via international NGOs; (2) ALPs that are managed by
national NGOs (without the support of or connection to international agencies); and (3) ALPs that are
implemented by the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Youth & AEPs in the DRC: Preliminary Research Design – Sommers
June 2, 2015