ADEA’s Inter-Country Quality Nodes on education and training in Africa

Communities of practice offer peer learning and support

Alice Askie, nursery and ABC class teacher at Billy Town Public, Liberia.<br>CREDIT: GPE/ Kelley Lynch

This is the sixth blog post in a series of collaborations between the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) supports African countries through Working Groups and Inter-Country Quality Nodes also known as ICQNs. The working groups are based on key thematic areas of education and are driven by networks of professionals who work on generating the knowledge and tools that assist countries in addressing the challenges faced by education and training systems.

ICQNs on the other hand put more emphasis on African decision-makers and practitioners’ leadership and ownership of the qualitative transformation process. They are led and hosted by a Member State and their creation is facilitated by ADEA.

The idea behind setting up the ICQNs

Inter-Country Quality Nodes are platforms for exchange of experiences and communities of practice that bring together country members around commonly-shared education and training challenges, expressed in terms of thematic areas.

The rationale for their creation stems from the observation that knowledge and tools can have meaningful impact only if they are mediated and confronted with issues as experienced by the actors on the ground.

Following up on the outcomes of its Biennale in Maputo (May 2008), ADEA identified initiatives taken by groups of countries relating to the lessons drawn from experiences presented at the Biennale.

This gave rise to the concept of ICQNs, which constitute a learning environment for the systematic identification, documentation, analysis, dissemination and sharing of the lessons that African countries are learning from the process of implementing policies, programs and projects geared towards improving the quality and relevance of education and training systems.

ADEA supports African countries through these 6 Working Groups and Inter-Country Quality Nodes also known as ICQNs

The ICQNs bring together representatives of education ministries from different countries to address issues designated as national priorities that are already included in current programs. The countries form a network for discussion and sharing of problems they have encountered and solutions they have tried.

They take a joint problem-solving approach, in which they are supported by one or more specialized national and/or regional institutions allied with a strategic partner (ADEA working group or expert international institution).

Insights into the existing ICQNs and their impact on national policy reforms and programs

ADEA currently has six ICQNs as shown in the diagram below, i.e. Early Childhood Development, Literacy and National Languages, Mathematics and Science Education, Peace Education, Teaching and Learning, and Technical and Vocational Skills Development.

Based on direct hosting requests by Senegal and Egypt, ADEA is in the process of facilitating the establishment of an ICQN on Higher Education and Scientific Research, and one on Education in Agriculture.

These country-led ICQNs have demonstrated positive impact on national policy reforms and programs of their member countries, with the membership spread across the African continent as depicted in the map below.

Legend: ECD – Early Childhood Development; LNL – Literacy and National Languages; MSE – Mathematics and Science Education; PE – Peace Education; TL – Teaching and Learning; TVSD – Technical and Vocational Skills Development.

The confidence in ICQNs as an important sharing and learning community of practice continues to grow. This follows the recognition of the ICQNs by the African Union as a network through which the implementation of CESA 16-25 can be realized.

Indeed, the process of elevating the ICQNs as either clusters or members of the AU CESA Cluster is ongoing. The readiness expressed personally by the President of Senegal, of the country’s readiness to host an ICQN on Higher Education and Scientific Research, and that expressed by Egypt’s Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research for the country’s willingness to host an ICQN on Education and Agriculture, is unique in the sense that Senegal’s request has emanated from the highest political office, an indication of the level of commitment. Similarly, Egypt’s proposal is an example of how education should integrate with, and better address the needs of, other sectors beyond itself.

Their niche as country peer-learning platforms is enriched by the sequence with which the ICQNs conduct their business: expert meetings of government officials, endorsement of decisions by education permanent secretaries, and final approval by ministers in charge of education and training. The work of the ICQNs has impacted positively on national policy reforms and changes in program interventions in African countries.

Kenya developed an education sector policy on peace education in 2015, the very first by an African country, courtesy of the ICQN-PE.

The ICQN-TVSD has sustained its focus on improved policies for vocational training and skills provision for Africa’s youth, including innovative financing, in a bid to reduce the youth proportion falling into the “uneducated, untrained, and unemployed” bracket.

The ICQN-MSE continues to build the capacity of teachers in science and mathematics while the ICQN-TL and the Network of African Learning Assessment (NALA) are pushing for the development of a critical mass of expertise in teaching, learning and assessment and the consistent use of data to improve teaching and learning. Promoting the value of investing in ECD models for African education systems is core to the work of the ICQN-ECD.

The ADEA ICQNs continue to spread, impacting more and more countries across our beloved Africa. They embrace all thematic aspects of education and training, and go beyond the education sector. They are an entity through which ADEA’s value addition is readily demonstrated and are poised to play a crucial role in the achievement of the goals of CESA 16-25 and hence contribute to the realization of the aspirations of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and 2030 SDG Agenda.