Photo by Jeswin Thomas, Burst
Young people around the world are shaped by systems—political, educational, cultural, and myriad others. When we help influence those systems to better work for young people, we generate our greatest and most long-lasting impact because, even after a program ends, change at the systems level endures.
To do systems change work, it is critical to understand and address the needs of our systems partners. During a recent assessment project, this meant understanding our education systems partners—including school administrators and government stakeholders—and the instructors who support youth.
Using key informant interviews and surveys, an interdisciplinary team from IYF, working across multiple projects and countries, recently came together to assess the challenges of online training delivery faced by instructors in two of the largest Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) systems in Mexico. These TVET institutions prepare young people for jobs in more than 50 different sectors. Our assessments drew upon the responses of 9,500 instructors across the country. Whether you are assessing the capacities and needs of education systems yourself or just reading to learn more about IYF, we hope you'll find our recommendations and resources useful.
Build upon existing partnerships. Assessments require access to the right people and data. Without that access, your assessment will likely be cursory and misrepresentative. In our case, we accessed the unfiltered, direct perspectives and experiences of teachers and administrators who work in Mexico’s TVET institutions by drawing on our existing strong relationships within the system, respecting the formal organizational structures, and focusing on the value of the assessment for the institutions. Recognizing the value of an expanded partner network, we also worked with Instituto Trivium, another organization supporting the education sector in Mexico whose partner network complemented and expanded our own. With this broad collaboration, we were able to distribute the survey to nearly all relevant instructors within the TVET institutions.
Define your specific objective. There are many lenses from which to assess an education system, so it’s critical to define the purpose of your assessment. Is your intention to bolster a particular element of the system—like increasing learner access to materials online or strengthening the connection between instructors and learner who engage digitally? Are there research questions that your stakeholders wish to include? IYF, for example, often serves as a bridge between educators and the private sector—reviewing how curricula align with market needs and employer priorities. For our most recent work, we wanted to understand how we could best support instructors to make high-impact, digitally-delivered trainings easier for them to deliver. Based on our findings, we had the opportunity to either introduce new software tools with the instructors or better leverage the tools already at hand. We shaped the assessment with these possible intervention points in mind.
Use data to draw out “pain points.” To best understand the context of the TVETs’ digitally-delivered training in Mexico, our assessment drew on both 20 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and a broadly deployed survey with over 9,500 responses. We leveraged interviews with administrators to build a foundational understanding. But we knew that the assessment needed to be practical and result in concrete recommendations, so the instructor-level interviews and the survey focused on “pain points” (i.e. ranked and delineated challenges) that made the core work of an instructor harder. By eliminating pain points, we turn technology from being a burden to being an approachable tool or even a superpower!
Share your findings and act! If an assessment is completed in the forest, and no one uses it, did it really help? It’s VERY easy to define the assessment as the finish line. It can be a lot of work to conduct the research, but we should consider the assessment as just the warm-up before the race. The real work happens next as we take the findings, share them, and support the changes needed to strengthen the TVET systems.
Globally, when we consider appropriate technologies, the IYF team focuses on what youth are already using and on options that can deliver dynamic, engaging content. With the TVET assessment in Mexico, we found that WhatsApp is truly king and the most important technology for making distance learning possible. This means we align our offerings for the WhatsApp ecosystem while mitigating the inherent risks of one-to-one correspondence between adults and youth over encrypted platforms. In our review of instructors’ needs, we also discovered their desire for game-based learning resources and more tools for tracking student attendance/engagement, so we are also putting our attention there, exploring software like Territorium and Thinkific.
We are committed to translating our findings into tangible change for the instructors and students within Mexico’s TVET systems. We will draw on the learnings from our assessment and repurpose our assessment tools as we engage other systems globally.
As you assess the capacities of other education systems, we hope you embrace these recommendations and repurpose the assessment tools to suit your needs. To make that easy, we’ve provided the survey here in both English and Spanish. It is freely available to use as you wish; however, we’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to shoot us an email.
Young people deserve incredible education systems, and we at IYF are excited to develop them together.