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Cost efficiency: teacher professional development

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a leader in education programs that promote the wellbeing of conflict- and crisis-affected children and youth. Education programming takes many forms, including the building of school structures, material support for classrooms, advocacy work amongst government ministries, and several types of support for teachers. Meta analyses from developed and developing country contexts have demonstrated positive linkages between teacher professional development and student achievement. The IRC invests in several kinds of teacher development activities, including face-to-face workshops, mentoring, and teacher learning circles (TLCs).

This brief explores the relative costs of running these different professional development activities across nine programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Most of the programs provided multiple kinds of support to the teachers they served, and the analysis separates out the costs of face-to-face workshops, individual mentoring, and TLCs to estimate the cost per unit of training from each of them. Comparing within and among programs allows us to consider the ingredients necessary to implement such programs, how much each type of teacher development costs per unit of training, and how cost and cost efficiency vary with contextual or programmatic features.

  • Face-to-face training workshops cost between $8 per teacher per day of training on average in Afghanistan, and $181 per teacher per day of training on average in Iraq, with much of the difference in cost efficiency driven by program scale. These programs require substantial fixed costs, such as space rental and the hiring of facilitators, as well as the variable costs incurred per attendee, including transport, food, and accommodation. These costs are particularly pronounced when workshops are held at a centralized location.
  • Looking at other forms of teacher development, TLCs cost $49 per year of participation on average, while one-on-one mentoring costs $423 per year of participation, considering just program costs. Running TLCs is a relatively small time investment with few costs to the implementing organization, as compared to the cost of face-to-face workshops or one-on-one mentoring. If TLCs are held regularly and prove to be effective, they are probably worth the relatively small incremental cost in larger teacher training programs.
  • A significant percentage of these programs’ costs went to support functions, such as payroll, procurement, or cross-grant management, rather than direct program activities. This is because of the need for support functions, such as security, payroll management, and procurement, to make program activities run smoothly. Larger programs that spread support costs across many beneficiaries have a smaller percentage of total cost allocated to these non-program activities.
  • Across programs, the amount and type of support that teachers receive varies greatly, and cost efficiency metrics must take these factors into account. Among the programs in this analysis, some face-to- face workshops lasted three days, while some lasted many weeks. Looking at the cost per teacher without considering the length of programming would lead to the fairly obvious conclusion that longer programs are more expensive. To ensure comparability, cost analyses of teacher training programs must use metrics that incorporate this time element.
  • More data on the effectiveness of each training modality needs to be collected, so that the costs can be compared to the relative impact of each training modality. While face-to-face trainings seem to be the most costly module of training, they could be the essential entry point through which education staff build relationships with teachers for future mentoring and TLC participation.

Available documents & links