“Quite a Victory”: Conducting the Largest-Ever Evaluation of the Thai Education System
The shortage of professionals able to meaningfully apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in their work limits developing countries' economic growth prospects and makes it that much harder to find solutions to their most challenging development problems. But it is possible to address this imbalance.
The Enjoy Science Project in Thailand has reached over three million beneficiaries through STEM activities in schools and other locations. From building students’ skills in critical and creative thinking to provisioning technical colleges with industrial robots like those found in real-world manufacturing plants, the program has helped Thailand's next generation gain the skills they will need to succeed in the workforce. This can be said with confidence because a comprehensive impact evaluation was carried out, and the findings were conclusive.
Statisticians and evaluation experts from MSI, A Tetra Tech Company, provided third-party evaluation services to Kenan Foundation Asia, the lead implementer of the Enjoy Science project. The project is a Chevron-funded five-year, $30 million public-private partnership that developed STEM teachers and established STEM and Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Hubs nation-wide.
But this was no “typical” impact evaluation. Normally, MSI would have selected the population, determined the sampling methodology, and decided upon the contextual data to capture and the timing of the collection. Adherence to high methodological and statistical standards is a necessary and difficult challenge in many of the contexts in which MSI operates, given constraints in resources and staffing. With the Enjoy Science Project, this was not a problem, and in fact represented an opportunity to do something different in the field of monitoring and evaluation.
MSI experts worked with a National Research Team (NRT) of education professors from 16 regional universities who helped craft the evaluation design and implementation, and contextualized MSI’s state of the art evaluation methodology. The scale of this partnership strongly contributed to the awareness and support for the evaluation amongst Thailand’s education policy and research community. The NRT also designed special studies linking evaluation data with their own research agendas, thus expanding the breadth of the evaluation and ensuring the sustainability of the research process well beyond the original scope.
“This is the first study I’ve ever been a part of where we have such a large and really meaningful set of relationships with national universities”, said Dr. Nitika Tolani, MSI’s technical director on the Enjoy Science Project. The NRT’s invaluable insight and contextual awareness of the Thai educational system combined with MSI’s international best practices made the large scope of the evaluation possible.
By combining industry-leading expertise in monitoring and evaluation with opportunistic flexibility, MSI helped Chevron demonstrate that their capacity building program was a success, delivering upon the intention to strengthen Thailand’s competitiveness and innovation by improving STEM education and TVET across the country.
Read more about MSI’s monitoring, evaluation and learning services here.