The lessons below come from MCC’s experience developing, implementing, and closing the Georgia Education Compact. Several lessons from the Compact overlap and complement lessons derived from the independent evaluations of each project.
Partnerships outside of the compact can be structured creatively to enhance and contribute to compact goals. The compact’s impact on the education sector and the popularity of STEM education was amplified by strong partnerships. The WiSci Camp in 2018 and Millennium Innovation Awards initiated in 2014 have raised the profile of STEM fields and professions, providing many students typically underrepresented in STEM fields in Georgia (girls, women, socially vulnerable populations in the regions outside of Tbilisi) with a platform to obtain and receive public, widespread positive recognition for STEM achievements. These two activities, running alongside the compact, have amplified the compact’s impact on women’s participation in STEM fields, thus supporting women’s economic empowerment.
When implementing through a government entity, be realistic about what institutional change is achievable during the compact term and adapt the scope and support to existing capacity. Implementing entities within partner governments have varying levels of capacity. MCC’s approach to cooperation with implementing entities should take into account both what is feasible given the level of capacity and what is necessary in order to make the project sustainable. In the case of school rehabilitation, MCC agreed early in the compact to assign substantial and critical responsibility for utility infrastructure as well as operations and maintenance to the Educational and Scientific Infrastructure Development Agency (ESIDA) despite ESIDA’s limited prior experience in this area. While this decision introduced delays in school re-openings and increased the risk that utility connections would not be completed before the end of the compact, it was important that MCC worked through ESIDA in order to ensure the country ownership and capacity building necessary for sustainability of rehabilitated schools. ESIDA was able to successfully complete O&M-related tasks, though a new GoG decentralization plan announced at the end of the compact increased ambiguity and introduced other institutions into school O&M management.
Likewise, the decision was made early on to implement the teacher training component through the Teachers’ Professional Development Center and the Education Assessment Support Activity through the National Assessment and Examination Center. Both had implementation challenges at different times in the compact due to insufficient staffing. The Teachers’ Professional Development Center struggled at the beginning, until MCA-Georgia and MCC asked them to change key personnel. After that, the program ran successfully and exceeded all expectations in the final two-and-a-half years of the compact. Conversely, the Education Assessment Support Activity was run well until the final year of the compact, when changes at the minister level resulted in changes in top management at the National Assessment and Examination Center, which in turn resulted in changes at lower levels. As a result, the National Assessment and Examination Center was unable to complete all planned assessments in the final year and had to re-focus its efforts and re-adjust its budget to acquire technical assistance and train new staff.
Implementation of smaller dollar value compacts still requires significant resources comparable to that of larger programs. MCC assumed that the relatively smaller dollar amount of the compact implied that a smaller MCA could be hired. However, this assumption proved incorrect. Based on original program administration budget allocations, the MCA-Georgia infrastructure team was envisioned to include only two staff to oversee the implementation of the Improved Learning Environment Infrastructure Activity. By the end of the compact, the heavy workload led MCC and MCA-Georgia increase the size of the infrastructure team to six people. Adequately staffing the team earlier may have avoided implementation delays. MCC’s requirements during a tight implementation timeline are demanding and effectively the same for both small and large compacts and projects.
New tertiary education programs like SDSU-Georgia and degree and certificate offerings require significant ramp-up periods for outreach and to build brand recognition. As demonstrated by lower-than-expected initial enrollment numbers at SDSU and in certain TVET programs, MCA-Georgia, MCC, and SDSU were overly optimistic about student enrollment in year one of operations in first-of-its-kind programs. However, once the “brand” became better known, year-on-year enrollment increased at SDSU. MCC should more conservatively estimate and re-visit assumptions on enrollment numbers that factor into financial commitments and cost-benefit analyses.
Institutionalizing operations and maintenance through building government capacity and reforming policy requires significant resources, local champions, government commitment, and adequate implementing entity capacity. To implement a nation-wide school operations and maintenance reform, MCC should include more upfront technical assistance earlier in order to cultivate greater ownership and an environment ready for a reform activities. In the case of Georgia, a $2.5 million school O&M Incentive Fund matched by $2.5 million in Georgian government funds, was an insufficient financial resource to catalyze institutional changes necessary for a nation-wide reform.
Identifying sectors with a significant demand for specific skill sets is a critical prerequisite for the success of a TVET grant program. In Georgia, this was accomplished through publishing a “Call for Ideas”. The “Call for Ideas” process included strategic engagement with both the GoG and the private sector. This partnership resulted in greater impact and results that should be replicated in other partner countries where grants are used to introduce new and expanded TVET programs.
Requiring industry engagement can create real collaboration between educators and employers when implementing grants. MCC requirements on partnering with industry catalyzed symbiotic relationships between industry and TVET providers as part of the TVET grant selection process. These strong ties between TVET providers and the private sector have directly expanded industry engagement beyond compact-funded activities. This will help sustain the objective of better aligning provision of TVET courses with labor market needs. 1