Applying the Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach (ALESBA)

What do I need to know before applying the Adult Learning and Education System Building Approach?

Depending on the status of the system at the time of starting the journey of system building, it can take anything from six to 12 years or more to establish a fully functioning system that can deliver needs-oriented adult education services. The ALESBA consists of five phases as described briefly below. Each phase considers all the elements and building blocks as per the ALESBA Conceptual Framework across different levels. The framework also takes into consideration the definition of ALE and cross-sectoral programmes. Although the phases follow one after the other, the process is not necessarily linear. For example, consensus building is an ongoing process and the assessment of the status of the system (Phase Two) can be repeated after implementation has started (Phase Four) to determine what progress has been made. Stakeholders often need to see the results of the assessment (Phase Two) to understand the urgent need for system building – and therefore, Phase Two can contribute to consensus building. Each phase is covered in detail in the series of booklets in the toolkit.

ALESBA step by step

Phase 1: Consensus-building

Before embarking on a long-term process of ALE System Building, all stakeholders need to agree on a common interest and the necessity to improve the ALE system for optimised adult education service delivery. It is becoming increasingly clear that governments cannot meet the continually growing demand for services by acting alone. There is a need to co-operate and seek support from other sectors of society including NGOs, universities and the private sector.

Considering the complexity of stakeholder relations, consensus building is not a once-off step, but rather a crucial intervention conducted throughout the five ALESBA phases. Phase One of the ALESBA unpacks the conceptual understanding, principles and outlines a roadmap for consensus building. It covers the following steps:

  • Preparation: A preparatory period to convince stakeholders to engage in adult learning and education system building.
  • Start-up: Start-up activities of consensus building include defining the scope and context of ALE in the country, agreeing on the major existing challenges of the system and a visioning exercise.
  • On the way: Embracing consensus building across all the ALESBA phases with teamwork, partnerships, conflict management, risk management, etc.

Phase 2: Assessment and diagnosis

Phase Two consists of two parts. Once stakeholders have reached a consensus to start ALE system building, the status of the current ALE system needs to be assessed. The assessment provides baseline data and will assist in the design of a new improved system. The assessment of the system is conducted from the demand and supply side based on the ALESBA conceptual framework. The supply side assessment provides both quantitative and qualitative data on the status of the system.

Once the assessment is completed, a diagnosis has to be carried out to determine the root causes of system blockages and failures. The tools of assessment and diagnosis in Phase Two can be used at any time during other ALESBA phases and form part of the M&E tools of the ALESBA.

Phase 3: Alternatives for analysis and design

Phase Three feeds the outcomes of Phase Two into a decision-making process to design a better and improved system. For each decision to be taken there are alternatives to be considered and weighed against each other. Phase Three consists of four main steps:

  • Find and prioritise the best entry points to improve the ALE system
  • Consider the alternatives for the redesign of prioritised system building blocks
  • Assess the impact of the redesign on the whole system
  • Consolidate the redesign of the system into a cohesive ALE system design response framework.

Systems are implemented by different stakeholders and the redesign of the ALE system will also require attention to the partnerships, roles and responsibilities and mandates of different stakeholders. The alternatives analysis and design process should be driven and conducted by a core selected representative group from all ALESBA stakeholders.

Phase 4: Implement and test

Phase Four provides the opportunity to test run and implement the newly designed ALE system (Phase Three) in selected areas and with specific target groups on a smaller scale before reviewing, adjusting and scaling up to a national system in Phase Five of the ALESBA.

A national ALESBA steering committee is formed to guide the implementation and testing of the new system. Stakeholder participation during the entire Phase Four is crucial for the success of the new system. The institutional capacity of individual stakeholder organisations may need strengthening to fulfil their roles and responsibilities.

The implementation of the new system must be carefully monitored and evaluated. The data should be recorded in a Management Information System to inform Phase Five. Learning insights and best practices must be recorded to provide insights for upscaling potential. Information should be gathered from the demand side to know whether the new system addressed the needs and interests of the target group.

Phase 5: Review, adjust and upscale

Phase Five of the ALESBA pushes the focus and agenda towards the rationale for ALE system building or strengthening in the first place, namely, to have a national ALE system that can deliver quality services to all its users.  Phase Five consists of three major sub-phases/steps. To improve the system a review of the outcomes of the system that was piloted on a smaller scale during Phase Four (Implement and Test) is a necessary first step. The review outcomes need to be analysed and adjustments will have to be made to strengthen the system and make it work better especially at a much larger scale (second step).

Ultimately, we need to have a national ALE system in place that can deliver services to all ALE learners and target groups. We need to go beyond fragmented one-off projects. Therefore, the practical implications of pursuing a systematic up-scaling approach are the focus of the third part of Phase Five.

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