The Three Star Approach (TSA) for WASH in Schools (WinS) is a benchmarking system designed at a Ministry of Education (MoE) national level to categorise schools according to their WinS status. These benchmarks are defined by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) basic service level and national priorities to guide schools towards reaching national WASH in Schools standards.
The Three Star Approach was jointly developed in 2013 by GIZ and UNICEF. The approach is based on the SDGs for WinS. It is an accreditation system that defines benchmarks for specific WASH standards and allocates a corresponding star rating. The TSA outlines the pathway for schools to gradually improve and reach the national standard. A corresponding Monitoring M.2 system measures the WinS status of each school, usually on an annual basis, and tracks progress over time. The TSA is intended to support countries in the management of WinS at a national, sub-national and school level by providing a clear direction on priorities for the different star levels and by setting incentives to reach them and acknowledge performance. The TSA uses the Joint Monitoring Programme indicators to reach the SDG targets (access to drinking water, access to gender-segregated improved toilets and access to handwashing stations with water and soap) as well as nationally defined targets and standards. While the respective SDG targets and indicators are globally defined and reported, the TSA is a system for the MoE to manage its WinS programme, provide technical guidance at a sub-national and school level and monitor progress. Some MoE have invested in the development of additional guidance and interactive tools for use by teachers, as part of the TSA.
The TSA is applicable as a MoE management support tool for all countries as part of longer-term development interventions. It can be used in conjunction with the Fit for School F.10 approach or any other approaches targeting schools. It provides a model that countries can use for national benchmarking depending on national conditions. It can be used by all schools within a country using a self-assessment form and results can be uploaded onto an electronic monitoring system. Dashboards to visualise the results at a national, provincial or city level can be produced, showing the percentage of schools reaching a certain star level or other specific indicators. If no national monitoring system is in place, categories for stars can be defined and schools can rate themselves by using the assessment form. This will help schools realise their own status, assess the achievements and gaps and use the results to plan for improvement of WinS conditions. The plan can then support the mobilisation of funds to reach the next star level and, ultimately, the national standard.
The development of a country-specific TSA with a definition of categories and respective indicators and a monitoring system is a rigorous process. It is done at a national level within MoE, usually supported by the WinS technical working group which includes the organisations actively supporting the WinS programme within a country. The TSA development process facilitates an alignment of strategies of all relevant development partners with the direction set by the national level of the MoE. As good models already exist, exchange platforms between countries can be established to support learning from each other and shorten the time and resources required.
The TSA approach is currently used in a variety of countries where significant improvements in WinS have been achieved.
In the Philippines, the MoE’s national monitoring system has been in place for four years and has shown an impressive improvement. The system is now being used by 92% of all elementary and high schools in the country. During the first round of national monitoring, only 9% of schools reached star level but the 2021 data shows 26% of schools reaching star level.
Likewise, the Cambodian MoE uses the TSA to manage the WinS programme. The monitoring results show that the number of schools that do not reach a star level has declined by nearly 5% per year. In 2018/19 almost one in three schools did not reach a star level; this was already reduced to only one in five by 2020/21. Progress is further shown by the fact that the percentage of schools with one star also went down, whereas the percentage of schools with two or three stars almost doubled in the same period.
Define the national standard based on the SDG basic service standard and national priorities
Define star categories using simple and measurable indicators. Simplicity is essential
Develop a national monitoring system for WinS using a self-assessment of schools
Ensure transparency and accountability of results and triangulate with different school stakeholders (e.g. parent-teacher associations and the community)
Do not use a complex matrix of indicators
Do not use complex validation processes as this will limit scalability and increase costs
Do not compare TSA results between different countries: each country develops its own benchmarks
One example of at-scale implementation of TSA is by the Philippines Department of Education. In the most recent 2019/20 TSA monitoring cycle, the number of non-participating schools had been reduced by half from the 2017/18 baseline. The proportion of schools that started the process but dropped out also reduced significantly. Over the years the percentage of schools achieving any star levels has improved significantly. The proportion of one-star schools has almost doubled since 2017/18. There is a fourfold increase in two-star schools between baseline and the latest round of WinS monitoring. Finally, the number of schools reaching the national WinS standards (three-star level) has increased drastically from a baseline of only 41 schools to nearly a thousand in 2019/20.
To provide a clear pathway for schools to meet national WASH standards by defining benchmarks and providing incentives and recognition to reach them
Philippines Department of Education (2020): Wins Monitoring Results. School Year 2017/18 to School Year 2019/2020
Schlenk, J., Pizzacalla, K. et al. (2019): Digital Monitoring Approaches to Trigger Action – Making WASH in Schools more Sustainable (Volume III), SuSanA
Philippines Department of Education (undated): WASH in Schools Resources
Fit for School (2020): Operation and Maintenance (O&M) App Factsheet, GIZ
Fit for School (2020): Factsheet: WASH in Schools Massive Open Online Courses. Two MOOCs for Schools and Divisions, GIZ