Capturing complexity and context: evaluating aid to education

The objective of this study is to do a synthesis of evaluations of aid supported education activities that recognizes the complexities of education, aid, and evaluation. The authors are arguing that since education, aid, and evaluations are multi-layered and shaped by context, evaluation strategies based on analyzing events and phenomena out of their context will be partial and carry a risk of generating inappropriate expectations, and encouraging an unrealistic sense of confidence in claimed links between inputs and results. Evaluations with broad utility will focus on process as well as outcomes, will study education in context, and will insist on a more holistic approach to education. The synthesis includes studies that evaluate impacts and outcomes through experimental methods, but do not limit the analysis to evaluations that are reliant on them.

Authors: Joel Samoff, Jane Leer, Michelle Reddy, Stanford University