As of 2013, almost 50 million primary and lower- secondary-age children were out of school in conflict-affected countries. Of these, 28.5 million were primary-age; more than half of them are girls. In addition, millions of older children and youth have been deprived of an education through the impact of crisis and/or conflict. Many of those deprived of an education had this loss compounded by displacement, being in a child-headed household, being an ex-child soldier (including cooks, porters and sex slaves) or disabled.
Accelerated Education Programs (AEPs) are flexible, age-appropriate programs that promote access to education in an accelerated time-frame for such disadvantaged groups—specifically, for out-of-school, over-age children and youth excluded from education or had their education interrupted due to crisis and conflict. AEPs are typically implemented to fill a critical gap in the provision of essential educational services to crisis and conflict-affected populations and ensure learners get an appropriate and relevant education responsive to their life circumstances.
Policymakers and practitioners are interested in understanding how Accelerated Education Programs (AEPs) progress towards their goals, whether they are the right policy tool for a particular context, which components of an AEP are integral to success, and how to better program them to optimize access, learning, transition to formal schools, and employment outcomes, among other objectives. This review originally endeavored to answer the above questions; however, consultations with experts and researchers in the field made it clear that the paucity of evidence and documentation around AEPs, particularly in crisis and conflict-affected environments, requires a step back to establish a deeper understanding of how AEPs are currently being implemented and whether and how programs are measuring success. This insight can in turn inform a discussion about how to determine the effectiveness of AEPs. As a result, this review focused on the following critical questions:
1. In operation, what are the profiles of AEPs? How do the elements of these profiles differ from the theoretical elements of accelerated learning?
2. What outcomes, if any, are reported on AEPs, and what can they tell us about how AEPs increase access and improve learning outcomes for out-of-school youth?
3. What are the critical questions related to the structure and outcomes of AEPs, and where are the gaps in the literature?
4. Based on what we know about AEPs, and the difficulties associated with evaluating AEPs and other education interventions in crisis and conflict-affected environments, what recommendations can we make about how to evaluate AEPs and operationalize the research agenda around AEPs?