July 10, 2012
Monitoring & Evaluation – How PoP Measures Its Impact
PoP's projects are based on a simple premise—that basic interventions in primary education in underserved communities can have deep and long-term impacts on the educational attainment of the world's poorest children. These projects, from construction of classrooms to SHINE lessons, are developed out of a solid base of development theory and on-the-ground experience. But how do we know that we are having the impact we hope for? Read below to find out...
Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) is the process of measuring the impact we have over the long term, compared with the goals we set in advance (e.g. increased enrollment and attendance, higher community wide commitment to education, improved test scores, etc.). Over a period of 3, 5, or 10 years, what changes will we have affected in the children who use our classrooms and receive our programming? We can use the results we find to change or fine-tune our processes to be more effective.
PoP M&E Manager, Anastasia, introducing herself to a classroom of 6th-grade students in Los Planes, Guatemala
Maria Anastasia Xon is the PoP employee in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation for all current projects in Guatemala. She spends her time traveling around to schools that have completed projects and giving surveys to students randomly selected by a computer program. These questions deal primarily with their attitudes towards education, for example if they think school is important, how long they will continue to study, if they think girls or boys have more opportunities to study, etc. She also asks about their attitudes towards health and annotates their family background, analyzing whether or not personal history affects a student’s answers.
Anastasia interviewing a sixth-grade student
Students from small, very rural communities are sometimes nervous to talk about themselves with a stranger, but Anastasia does her best to make them feel comfortable, and as the interview goes on they loosen up and begin to share more. Some children open up to her and tell her stories about their lives that serve to illustrate the extreme poverty they live in and how limited access to resources creates an extra barrier to their studies. One boy explained to Anastasia that his family's economic status forces him and his brother to share only one pair of pants between them—one boy wears them to school in the morning, and the other brother borrows them to wear to school in the afternoon. Other children explain that they sometimes miss days of school to work in the fields with their parents, that they don't have money for pencils or notebooks, or that sometimes they have to walk up to an hour through the rain in order to get to school each day.
These interviews often remind Anastasia of her own childhood. She was one of 9 children living in rural Guatemala with her family, and often missed school to help out with household chores. She took her studies very seriously, however, and with some help from an organization that provided her with a scholarship, she achieved a higher level of education than most people from her community. Although several of her sisters, now all grown, remain illiterate, Maria is a professional working for PoP and finishing her university degree while raising her five children and urging them to continue studying as well. Her own experience with education has given her extra motivation to work with PoP; she has first-hand experience of the importance of interventions in rural education.
Anastasia gives a 3rd-grader an embroidered hat as a 'thank-you' for participating in the interview.
In addition to student surveys, Anastasia interviews teachers, school directors, community leaders, and health providers in each area where PoP works in order to gain a more nuanced picture of these communities. Using the information gleaned from our Monitoring and Evaluation activities allows us to better focus our efforts and measure our successes in order for PoP to be as effective as possible.