DEEPEN stands for Developing Effective Private Education Nigeria. It is a five-year programme that is funded by the UK government. DEEPEN is designed to improve the quality of education in private schools in Nigeria.
Currently DEEPEN is focused in Lagos state. It will work to create an enabling environment for private schools, especially those serving children from poor households.
Lagos has a growing population, a vibrant economy and an aspiration to be Africa’s model megacity. Education is recognised to be central to fulfilling this aspiration. With over 15,000 private schools, Lagos has one of the largest private education markets in the world. Thus, credible efforts to build the human capital of Lagos need to include the private sector; which is now the main provider of education, even for children from low-income households.
Private schools are a major player on the Lagos education stage, dominating at the pre-primary and primary levels. Although they are often considered elitist, especially in developed countries, many private schools in developing countries serve the poor. However, a significant number of these schools are not licensed to operate, for example if their physical infrastructure, quality of teaching staff, or curriculum does not meet the required standards. In this context, improving overall educational performance in Lagos will require an effort that encompasses private as well as state-owned schools.
DFID currently supports several education programmes in Nigeria, including the Girls Education Programme, the Teacher Development Programme, and the Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) – all of which are delivering real impact. However, none of these programmes is focused on the private education sector. DEEPEN was introduced to work alongside these public sector programmes in order to achieve a wider approach to educational improvement.
DEEPEN is a five-year programme which started in September 2013.
DEEPEN aims to improve the quality of education offered in private schools in Lagos. In particular, it focuses on schools serving children from low-income families.
DEEPEN will achieve its aims by creating an enabling environment for private schools and a more effective market for them to offer better quality education.
The vision for private education
By the conclusion of the project in 2018, we anticipate that there will be:
- a vibrant and dynamic market for private education, especially in low-cost schools across Lagos;
- a sector characterised by learning innovations and quality improvements for children from families at all levels of household income; and
- private schools that respond to parental demands and adapt to meet their expectations for better education.
DEEPEN’s outcome will be better learning conditions and teaching practices in private schools, especially among schools serving poor children. This will be the result of more investment, better management, and improved pedagogy and innovation in private schools.
The programme’s impact will be the improved learning outcomes of about 1.5 million children attending private schools as a result of interventions to tackle the major constraints to schools’ investment in better learning.
DEEPEN will adopt an innovative market-development approach – Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) – The M4P approach concentrates on strengthening market systems so that they function more effectively, sustainably and beneficially for poor people. The focus will remain at all times on those schools that cater for girls and low-income families. More about M4P
The programme will work through interventions designed to address market constraints in four areas: rules and standards; information; pedagogy; and finance.
- Rules & Standards: The fragile relationships between government, private schools and their representative associations continue to present a considerable challenge. The majority of private schools operate unofficially, and they are frequently subjected to informal requests for payments as well as threats of closure. However, the government’s stance is changing in light of the significant contribution that private schools are making towards educating the children of Lagos.
DEEPEN will build upon this changing stance and facilitate the development of a framework of rules and standards that apply to private schools in Lagos, and which will support these schools to offer better education. More about Rules and Standards
- Information: The private education market is information-poor. Currently there is limited coverage of education/private school issues in the media. As a result, parents still rely on local sources of information such as word of mouth
The programme aims to support the growth of mass media in relation to education and build capacity among local stakeholders to conduct and use rigorous and detailed research to inform their decision-making. More about Information
- School Improvement Services: To improve learning outcomes in low-cost private schools, teaching must also improve. Key stakeholders, notably parents, do not understand what constitutes good teaching practice. Furthermore, limited resources in low-budget schools restrict the opportunities for teacher development.
DEEPEN will therefore focus on strengthening the supply of opportunities and services for schools and teachers. This will include professional development courses for teachers and academic leadership courses for principals. In each case, DEEPEN will be working directly to improve pedagogical approaches and increase awareness on how to recognise effective teaching. More about School Improvement
- Finance: Finance represents a major obstacle for parents and low-cost private schools, especially with regards to cash flow management. DEEPEN has undertaken field work to understand such financial challenges from the point of view of the schools, financiers, mobile money providers, and parents. We will work to address the following questions
- What changes are needed to improve access to financial services for schools and parents?
- What payment innovations would work in Lagos? More about Finance
DEEPEN will work with individuals and organisations which have a stake in the private education sector. These include the government, school proprietors/administrators, teachers, researchers, training providers, examination bodies, mass media, civil societies and development agencies. The programme will also engage with financial services providers and other businesses that have an interest in educational reforms. Furthermore, the programme will engage parents and their children – who are the primary customers for DEEPEN’s aims.
DEEPEN will work with these stakeholders to identify and address issues impacting private education, in order to achieve its aim of improving learning outcomes.
DEEPEN will focus on stimulating the market (through M4P), rather than grant funding. It seeks to facilitate systemic change in the market – in this case, private education – by addressing the underlying causes, rather than symptoms, of weakness in the market system. This implies that interventions are designed to develop capacity in the market system, rather than deliver support directly; that interventions are conceived to leverage the actions of market players to deliver large-scale benefits; and that interventions are constantly focused on sustainability. In adopting this approach, DEEPEN will be responding to the limitations of traditional methods, which tend to view a set of issues in purely financial terms (issuing grants for example) and often do not survive the withdrawal of donor-funding.
What is the difference in the approach to private schools, compared to DFID’s funding of public schools?
Recent research suggests that while donor-funded projects generate quick wins, and provide visible (albeit temporary) satisfaction for clients, they are limited in outreach, impact and sustainability. These projects are often time-limited and donor-driven, and there are hardly enough funds to ‘go around’.
M4P is based on an understanding of the central importance of well-functioning market systems to generate: (a) wealth creation; and (b) improved access by the poor to basic services. The effectiveness of M4P in delivering sustainable, pro-poor and large-scale change is increasingly being demonstrated and recognised across the globe. M4P is successfully being applied to a range of market systems, particularly in agriculture and financial services. Increasingly newer applications are being piloted with more public benefit, including in the fields of as labour, health, education, infrastructure, land and climate change.
DEEPEN will draw on the experiences of other DFID-funded programmes – indeed this is already happening. DEEPEN was initiated as a result of research conducted by ESSPIN – a programme supporting public education in six states of Nigeria. We will continue to leverage the existing relationships of these programmes with the government, the media and the private sector.