New education project INCE in Burkina Faso

‘To change a child is to change a family. To change a family is to change a community. To change a community, is to change a region and to change a region is to change a nation’, said Jacob Jan Vreugdenhil, project manager of Woord en Daad in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso on Monday 4 November. The International Network for Christian Education (INCE), founded by Woord en Daad and Driestar Christian University, was launching a project for better education in Burkina Faso in the presence of the Minister of Education and representatives of various (educational) organizations.

In 2014, Woord en Daad carried out an evaluation study with partners in Burkina Faso. ‘We were shocked by the results. Many of its investments in educational projects did not lead to real structural changes. Trained and inspired teachers went back to their school and became encapsulated by the ‘systems’ of their local level, as it were. A school-leaver did not always get into higher education as a result. They were also unable to find a job that could support them enough to live a decent life. Many desirable changes were not achieved’, said the project manager at the meeting in Ouagadougou.

It has to change, that was the short and right conclusion of Woord en Daad, and together with Driestar Christian University, the INCE was founded: The International Network for Christian Education. Ready to begin a new chapter in Burkina Faso and bring real change. The quality of education in this African country at this moment is both a major problem and a high ambition. In the meantime, however, the Ministry in the country is convinced that well-qualified teachers and demonstration schools are needed to bring about structural change in the education system.  And this is exactly what INCE can do to support the government.

Entrepreneurial mindset

The INCE project is focused on three areas of interest: the schools itself, the teacher training courses and the government / other stakeholders. In addition to languages and mathematics, life skills and career orientation are important elements in the INCE’s educational programme. Wim Boogaard, INCE project manager at Woord en Daad, said: The students have to consider their areas of interest and what jobs are available, as early as possible during their school years. After finishing school, they must be ready to enter into the labor market with an entrepreneurial mindset’. INCE’s educational programme is part of the JOB BOOSTER programme of Woord en Daad in Burkina, which brings job opportunities in the labor market to the attention of schools.

Parental involvement is also an important priority at INCE: ‘There is a lot of evidence world-wide to support the fact that the involvement of parents in the learning process of their children has a positive influence on the learning results’, explains Wim.

In order to evaluate the quality of education in various areas, INCE has set out to use resources such as scorecards. Based on the results, schools can choose in which areas they would like to improve. The school advisory service will support the local schools in their improvement process.

It is however the teachers themselves who can be seen as the real ‘agents of change’ and a country can be proud of its teachers, said the INCE coordinator.  After all, they play the key role in educating students to become responsible citizens. It is the teachers who are responsible for encouraging their students to have the attitude and life skills that are necessary for their development. It is important that teachers are trained to do this. They also need to know how a young child’s learning process proceeds in order to be able to support them with the right tools.

Tomorrow’s generation

In order to achieve the INCE ideals, close cooperation with the government and other organizations is necessary. Wim: ‘The young generation of today is the work generation of tomorrow, therefore the government is closely involved in education. The government and the education sector work closely together to determine the direction of education. They must also take the right actions together to improve education.’

To support the improvement of education, there are three INCE-services for Burkina Faso: the school advisory service, the accreditation service and a policy influencer/interest representation service. The advisory service is responsible for advising and training teachers to improve themselves on the basis of fundamental competencies, the learning process and the relationship with the parents. If a school works on quality, then it also expects to know where they are on this journey during the process. To make this visible, we are introducing a system of accreditation or certification’, explains Robert Zoutendijk, vice-CEO at DCU. ‘We are also searching and maintaining intensive contacts with the ‘owners’ of the education system, such as local and national governments.’

At the end of this year, the INCE will start the INCE advisory service with with four regional part-time consultants. Zoutendijk: ‘These support services will grow and become national services when the INCE project has developed further. This will also apply to other INCE BF services. From 2019 to 2028, INCE aims to improve 8,800 schools in Burkina, reaching 800,000 children and bringing 300,000 children into the labor market.’

Ambassador

Not only at the local level but also at the wider sector of education, INCE aims to work with so-called demonstration schools. Project leader Wim: ‘This year INCE Burkina Faso has started its work on four schools. These schools were selected strategically through the entire country in order to become INCE model schools through the process of continuous improvement, supported by the INCE school advisory service. In this process, the schools are also involving the representatives of four other schools. These representatives will then become the ambassadors of the INCE and may also participate after one year. This approach has the potential to increase the number of INCE schools from four in the first year, 2019, to more than 5,000 schools in the fifth year.’

However, this does mean that after 2021 they will need a broader consortium and more training as well as advisory capacity in order to facilitate their growth. The program manager Jacob Jan is hopeful for the project. ‘It is now four years since the streets of the capital were flooded with 27-year-olds protesting and demanding change. The new generation is emerging and sees a different future from their parents. This movement is very powerful. We only have to guide them so that they are able to make the changes they believe in. And we are feeling connected with the urge of this movement.’