Improving children's wellbeing - An evaluation of NRC’s Better Learning Programme in Palestine

Publisert 22. mar 2017
The Better Learning Programme (BLP) aims to improve learning conditions for children and adolescents exposed to war and conflict in Palestine. The Better Learning Programme consists of two components: BLP 1 reaches out to all pupils and provides psycho-education and coping skills, while BLP 2 is a specialised intervention for those with chronic symptoms of traumatic stress. Both components combine a psychosocial and trauma-focussed approach.

In 2016, NRC commissioned an external evaluation to: 

  1. RETROSPECTIVELY examines what NRC has been able to accomplish to date in supporting and sustaining protective, inclusive, enabling learning environments through BLP’s focus on psycho-educational support to learners affected by a combination of protracted and acute crises in Palestine; and
  2. PROSPECTIVELY help NRC strategize on how it can leverage on the successes and shortcomings of BLP’s approach to date to ensure that institutional duty bearers in Palestine and other emergency settings can better support student wellbeing and learning outcomes through school-based psychoeducational support.

The evaluation used a range of methodologies, including secondary quantitative analysis of programme monitoring data, an extensive review of programme documentation, the collection of Most Significant Change (MSC) stories from beneficiaries, interviews with key stakeholders within and outside of NRC Palestine, and a series of validation workshops and discussions at the conclusion of the field work. Based on this, the evaluation reaches several key conclusions, four of which are listed below:

  1. BLP has clear and demonstrable impacts when it comes to improving the wellbeing of participating children, by equipping them with skills for coping with the fear, stress, and anxiety of living in a context of continual conflict.
  2. BLP supports conditions for children to better succeed in school, by improving their ability to focus/concentrate in class, strengthen connections between them/their parents and school actors, improve their ability to complete homework, and increase their overall enjoyment of school. That stated, the actual contribution it makes to learning outcomes – as measured by academic achievement or attendance – is difficult to measure, and existing data does not support such linkages.
  3. BLP also strengthens the home and school environment for students by improving the capacity of these duty bearers to acknowledge, respond to and address the symptoms of traumatic stress. That stated, BLP on its own, may not fully address the critical need for children to be protected at and on their way to/ from school.
  4. To date, BLP is only partially institutionalised with its key partners (UNRWA and MoEHE) and it is unlikely that the programme in its full extent would be sustained at present independent of NRC’s continued engagement/ involvement with BLP.

It makes a number of concrete recommendations to improve the current programme. Three of these are listed below:

  1. NRC needs to refocus attention and priority on BLP 1 as its primary intervention and impact focus.
  2. NRC should continue to strengthen BLP’s complementary links to other initiatives (such as Improved Education and ICLA initiatives) aimed at improving the protection of children and educational institutions/actors in line with the INEE Minimum Standards.
  3. NRC needs to more firmly locate BLP as an inclusive education strategy within UNRWA and MoEHE, and ensure that it does not become perceived as solely a specialised form of PSS provision for severe individual cases.

For NRC globally, there are important lessons from the implementation experiences of BLP in Palestine regarding the critical compromises that are made between achieving scale and programme quality, broad-based versus specialised PSS support programme delivery, and the challenges that come about in measuring the educational outcomes of an intervention which straddles the child protection/education border.