A recent review of the ways monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is taught in Master of Public Health programs around the world follows a continuing trend from knowledge-based to competency-based learning. Identifying specific skills, and basing curricula around those skills, is crucial in preparing students to address the complex monitoring challenges of the 21st century.
[Photo: Ms. Hemali Kulatilaka (at right), senior technical specialist for capacity building with MEASURE Evaluation at UNC and co-author of the article in Frontiers in Public Health, worked on the study with representatives from the Indian Institute of Public Health.]
Findings from the review, conducted by MEASURE Evaluation, a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded project based at UNC’s Carolina Population Center, and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) were published June 23 in Frontiers in Public Health.
Dr. Jim Thomas, associate professor of epidemiology at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, is MEASURE Evaluation’s project director.
The review identified 321 universities offering master’s programs across 194 countries. Of those, 88 offered a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, and 95 taught M&E. Reviewing how M&E is taught across countries provided important insight into M&E education, including common components and areas of need. For example, authors identified the need to identify best practices for tailoring content to context.
Of particular value is the discussion of M&E skills essential to every public health graduate. Examples included (1) determining the need for conducting program evaluation, (2) designing an evaluation, and (3) interpreting results of an evaluation. The authors note that while many MPH courses include working in groups on projects, only one-third of them include practical experience as a competency.
Results of the desk review were shared initially in 2013 at a consultative meeting of South Asian institutions in New Delhi, along with more details regarding 10 institutions in the region. These findings also were combined with the results of an M&E competency-development exercise facilitated by the Global Evaluation and Monitoring Network for Health (GEMNet-Health) and its member institutions. Using this input, the group agreed on the 10 core competencies for M&E education within their MPH programs. The full list of competencies is reported in the paper.
This effort highlights several important characteristics of MEASURE Evaluation’s support for postgraduate-level education in M&E: (1) adopting a competency-based approach to curriculum development; (2) drawing on regional and global best practices; (3) facilitating collaboration among institutions; and (4) recognition of the need for regional, national and local adaptation and customization of generic curricula.
“In development aid, there is often the hope for a two-way street—that developed countries also will learn from innovations in the countries undergoing development,” Dr. Thomas said. “This study of monitoring and evaluation curricula in Master of Public Health degree programs around the world provides a lesson for schools of public health in the United States. Our schools often address data analysis, but may give less attention to data collection and the use of data to make decisions about public health services. This study highlights the importance of training in this fundamental role of public health.”