The spread of the novel coronavirus and the resulting COVID-19 pandemic have affected many facets of global development and will continue to do so, even as response efforts take hold. In early March 2020, multiple countries were weighing the implications of closing schools to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. To support USAID in developing guidance on school closures in low- and middle-income countries, EnCompass LLC conducted a rapid evidence synthesis for USAID’s Office of Education. The resulting “Initial Insights” resource document has been well received as a source of public information on the evolving context. As a women-owned small business, EnCompass was able to act quickly, bring resources to bear for this effort, and provide timely and effective outputs to serve the needs of the global education community during this uncertain time.
EnCompass’ team for the USAID Data and Evidence for Education Programs (DEEP) activity already prioritizes, as its core mission, actions to support the generation and broad dissemination of information that can help inform evidence-based decision making for programs in the education sector. The DEEP team is led by EnCompass LLC and its partner MSI, a Tetra Tech company. To respond to the evidence synthesis request, DEEP immediately mobilized a team of education and public health experts to conduct a rapid (24-hour) review of data and guidance that are emerging as governments, United Nations agencies, and other development partners develop evidence-based recommendations on how to continue supporting learners and school communities in the context of actual and potential school closures.
The 17-page “Initial Insights” document was published on March 11, 2020, on USAID’s Education Links online knowledge platform. This resource is part of a series of actions to inform a multisectoral strategy for USAID’s response to COVID-19. It examines eight key questions related to the impact of the disease on education systems in low- and middle-income countries, how and why countries and localities decide to close schools, the benefits and economic implications of school closures, how to mitigate the impacts of partial or complete school closures, and how to maintain safety when schools remain open. As a mature small business partner with a global portfolio, EnCompass was honored to receive this request from the USAID Office of Education, and work with our extensive network of experts to help synthesize this learning for the agency’s audiences.
Building on this initial resource, the DEEP team is working with USAID and partners from the education sector to complete a rapid literature review of countries’ past and current actions to provide continuity of education. This review draws from lessons from Ebola and other disease outbreaks that resulted in school closures, as well as countries’ current and emerging efforts to provide technology-enabled and other distance-learning options (via radio, television, the Internet, and mobile devices) to support students, teachers, and those making critical decisions about how to continue schooling in a safe and inclusive manner. This latter consideration, of inclusivity, is an essential question for countries where ready access to these technologies is not a given. Such questions also intersect with questions the DEEP team is seeking to answer in its other evidence generation and synthesis work around school-based disability data collection efforts.
As the COVID-19 crisis evolves, EnCompass and other U.S. government small business partners are continuing to collaborate on multisectoral efforts to rapidly generate and share evidence, recommendations, and actionable resources that help governments, donors, education and health practitioners, and communities in low- and middle-income countries continue children’s education as seamlessly as possible. EnCompass encourages readers to visit edu-links.org and other sources listed in the “Initial Insights” document regularly to obtain the latest guidance for policy and programming related to COVID-19 and other significant issues facing the education sector. We also share public information resulting from DEEP’s work on our website, www.encompassworld.com.