Our Approach

Education and Development: Our Approach

Education Specialists

Our education projects are managed by specialists, not generalists. Many agencies include basic education among their programmes, or focus on one aspect of education provision such as school building. We, however, employ national staff with formal qualifications in disciplines such as working with children, teaching, and education management.

Where staff, especially those that have lived through long periods of conflict, have had no access to further education, we support them to develop their knowledge and expertise using distance education methods. This is particularly important in conflict areas where human resources have been depleted, and professional standards in basic services such as education need to be raised. Our policy of recruiting and training national staff with specialist knowledge has enhanced the reputation of AET and distinguishes us from other agencies. Our AET staff help to build the capacity of government staff, education administrators such as head teachers, and local NGOs, in all areas of education, from examination development to adult literacy. Our external specialists work under their direction, drawing from internationally recognised best practice in education and making it available and practicable in areas affected by instability and conflict.


Education that Encourages Independent Thought

Our focus is on improving education so that students are encouraged to use and apply their knowledge, rather than merely learn facts and figures by rote. Some agencies help children get to school by sponsoring individuals, or by providing physical structures, but we are more concerned about the quality of education, wanting all children and adults to be afforded the opportunity to learn something useful and empowering.

This kind of education enables students to analyse problems for themselves, and take up new opportunities. We apply this active and participatory approach to all our work, from exam setting and text book development, to in-service teacher training. We support student-centred methods, and ensure that educational content is culturally relevant, enabling debate around gender norms, around discrimination against marginalised people, and also around peace building.

‘It is never too late to learn’ is one of AET’s maxims and we try to show adult students that we have confidence in their ability to learn. Students learn reading, writing and mathematics, and learn how to use these new skills at work, in day to day living, and in local decision making. Knowing how to do these things is empowering for people, and does not just improve their quality of life, but allows them to participate more fully at community and national level.

The teacher is of course an artist, but being an artist does not mean that he or she can make the profile, can shape the students. What the educator does in teaching is to make it possible for the students to become themselves.” – Paulo Freire, We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change

Locally Driven

We believe that the best education initiatives are ones that give local communities the opportunity to engage with new knowledge. We at AET do not impose our own view of education, but engage in action research in order to listen to and understand the needs of communities and their concerns and challenges relating to education. This is particularly important in the initial design of programmes and in the monitoring and evaluation of those programmes.

Part of our research is around understanding what motivates people and organisations to participate wholeheartedly in our programmes. We take into account factors such as the individual aspirations of teachers for promotion in the design of distance education courses, and the views of local communities who want education to be provided in two languages – an African language for effective learning of reading and writing when a child starts school and only speaks their own language, and English, seen as the language of success and prosperity. In short, whether we deliver our programmes through direct implementation by our staff, or in partnership with local NGOs and governments, we always seek to support local priorities.

Building Long Term Systems for Peace and Prosperity

Rebuilding state education systems can be a step towards recovery, peace and normality. We think it is important to work with line ministries who are endeavouring to rebuild their countries, and who have responsibility for providing education services for all, including those from groups disadvantaged by gender, disability, ethnicity or an inaccessible rural location.

We hope to increase national control of the education agenda through building staff and organisational capacity. Where possible, we share our direct programme experience (including school data) with governments so that they can, if they wish, feed it into their own writing of policy and guidelines. We aim to be completely transparent with governments, as well as local organisations and local people and the fact that our relationships are based on trust and respect, rather than financial dependency, makes it easier for us to enter into constructive and long term dialogue. For this to work well, it is essential that our staff are nationals of the country in which they work and AET is renowned for this.

Innovation and Testing

In the face of extreme poverty and conflict, we have no option but to be innovative in how we deliver education. One of the strengths of AET’s approach to development is that we use locally sustainable and strategic methods that are appropriate to the context, and do not require a big investment or an expensive infrastructure.

Where we have demonstrated that our initiatives have been a success, we have found other agencies willing to find the technical and financial resources to scale up or continue programmes over the long term. One such example is the construction of girl-friendly spaces within schools, rather than looking for funding for the construction of whole schools. Sharing learning with others is vital for successful innovation, and AET endeavours to be generous with its information and experience through publication of documents and social media, as well as conferences with academic and NGO stakeholders. We are always happy to be contacted about our work. Our publications can be found in the ‘About Us’ section of this website.