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U.Va. Darden School Works With Nigerian Education Reform Group

Three weeks ago, 16 educators from Lagos, Nigeria, embarked on a journey to the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business to take part in Darden Executive Education training.

Their charge: to improve secondary education in their homeland through the use of data, strategic planning and the art of communication, as part of the World Bank-funded Lagos Eko Project.

As advocates for their community, the group works to secure input at the grassroots level regarding education budgets. Traditionally, Nigerian budgetary decisions are made at the highest levels of government and trickle down to localities. By working to reorient decisions to the local level, educators can target specific issues and needs indigenous to their communities, and create more nimble and responsive school systems. Importantly, this local control also empowers school leadership and has improved student-learning outcomes at the school and division level.

While in residence at Darden, the group traveled to school districts across Virginia to learn best practices in data-driven management, competency-based selection and purpose-based strategic planning.

“To ensure that this rapidly growing school system sustains the major gains resulting from the Lagos Eko Project, it was vital to partner with these education leaders to create a shared vision and mission,” said Michael Koenig, Darden’s senior assistant dean for degree programs. “The team drafted a detailed strategic action plan to be communicated to the Lagos state governor and state commissioner of education.”

“Apart from the knowledge that we have gained at Darden, we have also seen and observed very good practices, very good models of how schools can achieve,” project coordinator and participant Ronke Azeez said. “It is important that we can communicate to higher levels of government the successes we have achieved while making decisions at the local level.”

This innovative program is an example of how we develop global relationships as we bring groups to the University of Virginia and Darden to learn from the best faculty in the world,” Koenig added. “It’s a win-win. These educational professionals gain the knowledge and skills to advocate for themselves, and in doing so, Darden helps a public school system face the herculean challenge of continually improving its learning outcomes. Lagos is a dynamic city that has grown from a U.N.-estimated 11.2 million in 2011 to an astounding 21 million today.”

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