Measurement in education endeavours are complex because there are so many variables in this social activity. In addition, education changes are slow and incremental, so more nuanced instruments, indicators and targets are needed.
Perhaps this is why millions have been spent on education programmes with little impact and subsequent return on investment. It is therefore imperative that we understand what is working and what is not. Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) can help us apply a framework of efficiency and effectiveness to programme delivery and outcomes.
Video: Prof Johann Mouton on the importance of M&E, its characteristics and benefits
In the video, Professor Johan Mouton, Director, Evaluation Research Agency, talks M&E, its characteristics and benefits.
What is monitoring and evaluation?
M&E is essentially a management tool that allows managers to assess the status or progress of a programme and report on it accordingly. M&E embeds credibility and accountability within programmes and determines the way in which donors fund and engage with these programmes.
M&E should not be seen as a tedious process that places a burden on organisations. Rather, it should be viewed as an enabling mechanism that should be co-created with engaged funders, who should use the data in a critical and informed fashion. M&E is a crucial part of any project’s life cycle. It is impossible to assess impact without it. Donors need to know what has not worked, whether resources can be allocated better, whether interventions should be more targeted, and if systemic change or sustained impact can be achieved. By measuring programmes, it is possible to assess if one is asking the right questions, obtaining the clearest answers, and addressing underlying problems rather than just the symptoms.
M&E is not simply an accounting or governance exercise – social development imperatives come into play, making it a lively, three-dimensional process rather than a technical compliance exercise.
M&E needs to be informed by a comprehensive framework to ensure that the right questions and the right approach are involved.Such a framework is concerned with which indicators should be used to measure the success of a programme. The goal of M&E is to improve the current and future management of outputs, outcomes, and impact – all of which contribute to the quality of reporting.
Why is monitoring and evaluation important?
Most stakeholders involved in education would agree that M&E is critical. While there is increasing support for implementing M&E, there is a high variation both in knowledge about M&E and in the quality of M&E undertaken. This Knowledge Hub is intended to educate development practitioners about quality M&E systems and the roles it should perform.
Monitoring and Evaluation is becoming more common as a donor requirement, with the need to tangibly measure the impact of development programmes becoming more important. World Bank statistics show that there has been a verifiable link between good-quality M&E and project performance – a clear indication that sustained development is driven by accountability and good governance.
Millions are spent on development programmes in South Africa every year, particularly in the education sector. However, it is sometimes the case that there is little to show for them, and even less indication as to why this is. A ‘best guess’ approach will not reveal what has worked, when, and why – and with little available evidence, it is difficult to scale up a project that appears to be successful. M&E helps to explain successes and failures, along with helping programmes to achieve their objectives. It is important to study the elements of these programmes, and have honest conversations about the data, challenges, and victories, to ensure greater success in future.
Recommended monitoring and evaluation resources:
- A powerpoint presentation by the Zenex Foundation, explaining how a good Monitoring and Evaluation Framework contributes to reliable reporting.
Strategic role of evaluations: A donor perspective
- A powerpoint presentation by the Zenex Foundation explaining the strategic role of evaluations and why evaluation is important in education environments.
CSI Forum: Social Return on Investment
- This forum, held in Johannesburg on 9 February 2016 and Cape Town on 11 February 2016, examines Social Return on Investment (SROI), one of the many approaches to M&E. It focuses on developing an understanding about whether a company’s CSI project or programme is creating value, and how that value can be quantified.
Why should NPOs do M&E?
- A panel discussion on M&E, convened on 24 May 2016 at the Trialogue CSI Conference, brought together corporate, non-profit, foundation and academic perspectives on M&E in non-profit organisations. Panellists agreed that M&E has become an essential component of CSI work – but the question of why practitioners need to monitor and evaluate their projects and organisations is a complex one.
Monitoring and Evaluation – Post COVID-19 Complete Guide
- Technology social enterprise SOPACT has produced a guide to M&E for a post-Covid-19 world using continuous outcome monitoring, a data-driven decision-making approach to measuring long-term impact on society.
5 reasons why monitoring & evaluation is good for NGOs
- This 2019 article draws attention to five advantages of M&E for non-profit organisations, namely greater transparency and accountability, improved project performance, effective resource allocation, promoting learning and data-driven decision-making, and the systemic management of an organisation.