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Quality education outcomes for marginalised children
Evaluation of DFID’s Girls’ Education Challenge Fund, Global

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) Fund supports projects that help overcome obstacles to girls enrolling in school, staying in school, and learning. The financed projects aim to enable approximately 600,000 marginalised girls to complete a full six-year cycle of primary school, or approximately 1 million marginalised girls to complete three years of secondary school.


As the evaluation manager of the fund, Coffey, A Tetra Tech Company worked across three windows of the fund – the Step Change, Innovation and Strategic Partnership windows – with all grantees. We evaluated the fund as a whole while also providing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) support to grantees and quality assurance for data and evidence produced by all the projects’ independent evaluations. We also helped to fill a knowledge gap on successful strategies in girls’ education in different environments.

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For the evaluation, we used secondary data from grantees and conducted our own primary research.


To ensure that the data for the evaluation was robust, we provided M&E support to all grantees, helping them develop customised M&E approaches that best met their specific project needs.
We provided M&E support to all three funding windows:
  • 15 NGOs in 9 countries under the Step Change Window 
  •  21 NGOs in 17 countries under the Innovation Window 
  •  4 private sector partners under the Strategic Partnership Window 
Rigorous education research

We applied a customised research approach to each of the funding windows. This research complemented the research undertaken at the project level to ensure a consistent level of rigour across all projects and funding windows. The research also produced world-class data on the impact of girls’ education on their future.


Over three waves of research we carried out: 

literacy and numeracy tests

household surveys

school surveys

qualitative interviews

projects in nine countries

Results and recommendations

Coffey’s research has enabled improvements to funded projects. The results produced helped grantees to make changes to their projects in real time to ensure that the projects were on track to deliver required results and those of the program as a whole.


Our work will also influence wider change in girls’ education. The results produced will help influence changes in behaviour amongst grantees, policy-makers, and other stakeholders to ensure that the benefits of the fund are sustained, replicated, and scaled up and that transformational change in girls’ education is realised.


Key recommendations

  • Projects need to assess school and community contexts as a starting point for their design, delivery and M&E processes. This helps to identify and focus on the most important barriers to girls’ learning that can be addressed within the time available. 

  • Projects should consider refocusing their designs to ensure that the teaching in school is of sufficient quality to deliver the learning gains that girls need. Projects that intervened at the school level and addressed issues around the quality of teaching had the largest effects on girls’ learning levels.

  • Projects need to find cost-effective ways of collecting more data about the different subgroups of girls that they are reaching. This enables them to better diagnose, prioritise and evidence what works and for whom, among groups of girls who have very diverse and challenging needs. 

  • Project should design activities that differentiate between the education and learning needs of girls who have never been to school compared to those who had some schooling but have dropped out. 

  • Projects should base their sustainability strategies on a realistic understanding of the barriers that they are able to effectively overcome within the time available, while recognising that more pervasive barriers such as poverty need much larger investments over a longer period. 

  • Projects need to monitor and evaluate the intermediate steps between outputs and outcomes – particularly the effects of teacher training on the quality of teaching.