Governments share their Training reform experiences throughout first ‘Accelerator Trade Discussion board’
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank estimated that more than half of children in low- and middle-income countries were not getting the basic reading skills necessary to support future learning. The pandemic has exacerbated this global learning crisis, with more than 100 million additional children estimated to fall below the minimum level of reading literacy. In a post-COVID-19 scenario with no remedy and little attenuation effectiveness for the effects of school closings, WB / UNESCO simulations show learning poverty – the proportion of children who cannot read and understand simple text by the age of 10 – of 53% gone up. to 63%. The World Bank and UNICEF, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO); UNESCO Institute for Statistics; and USAID launched the Accelerator Program in late 2020 to address this pressing challenge.
The Accelerator program aims to recognize and support a small, global cohort of governments that have the key ingredients in the fight against learning poverty. Through large-scale success, accelerator countries and states can inspire each other, share experiences about what works, and motivate other countries by showing how targeted action and engagement can lead to rapid improvements in the education sector.
The programme’s first “Accelerator Exchange Forum” recently took place, at which six sub-Saharan African governments (Kenya, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria – Edo State, Rwanda and Sierra Leone) presented their approaches to combating learning poverty. Sharing experiences, lessons learned, and strategies – from creating “curriculum support officers” to working with parents to support home learning – is one way the ambitious, multiannual program drives educational reform in the midst of a global To accelerate the learning crisis.
With COVID-19 closing schools around the world over the past year, causing a deep socio-economic crisis, Robert Jenkins, UNICEF’s Global Director of Education, told the forum that “in many countries we are already past the state of crisis” . However, he also noted that the current crisis has placed a strong focus on learning and created a “once in a generation” opportunity to address these challenges.
The World Bank and UNICEF are responding with the support of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and USAID with the Accelerator program, which is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation through the new fund of funds of the Foundational Learning Compact the World Bank. Launched in October 2020, the program provides financial and technical support to accelerator governments reforming their education systems to rapidly improve basic learning outcomes for children. So far, ten countries or sub-national units have been named as accelerators1, but more countries are expected to be added over time.
Through the Accelerator Program, the World Bank supports (1) the setting and monitoring of key objectives aimed at improving fundamental learning; (2) develop a realistic plan or example of investment for evidence-based, calculated interventions to achieve these goals; and (3) strengthening the government’s ability to deliver the interventions.
UNICEF will work with governments to provide the “glue” for reform plans, which will focus on: (1) communication and advocacy strategies to build knowledge and ownership; (2) analytical and advisory services to support access to global knowledge and best practices; and (3) improved partner alignment and accountability for each country’s goals, reform plans and implementation.
One of the case studies presented in the forum from the Brazilian state of Ceará shows how this approach can drastically reduce learning poverty. As one of the poorest states in Brazil with a population of 9 million, Ceará has set itself the goal of ensuring that all students can read and write by the end of the second grade – and achieved that goal by 2017. It implemented a plan based on a set of evidence-based guidelines that promoted basic learning, including a focused curriculum that focused on teacher manuals and study materials that provided a clear flow for the classroom. Ceará also introduced responsible school management and used school reviews to monitor learning, with financial incentives thwarting these strategies. As an accelerator country, it can provide useful insights even as the state tries to build on its successes and address remaining and emerging challenges.
All Accelerator countries show strong political commitment to educational reform, and many have already initiated changes. Education ministers and other government officials from the six African Accelerator countries shared some of these initiatives on the online forum in June. The invitation-only event was attended by approximately 100 participants, including members of the Accelerator delegation and representatives from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the LEGO Foundation, the British FCDO, UNESCO and USAID. Representatives of the governments of Finland, Germany and Norway also attended.
The six accelerators are in different phases of their reforms and can benefit from the South-South exchange on their reform path. Governments share several priorities: getting more children to school; Ensuring a quality learning experience, particularly through effective teacher training; and using evidence to make policy decisions.
On the latter, Joanie Cohen-Mitchell, Acting Assistant Director of the USAID Center for Education, emphasized the importance of “strong feedback loops” during the forum and used evidence to make policy decisions to ensure lasting positive changes in teaching and basic skills learning.
Governments have taken different approaches to increasing enrollment and improving learning outcomes. Rwanda is committed to ensuring that the school environment is welcoming and that children learn, said Gaspard Twagirayezu, minister of state for primary and secondary education. In addition to opening over 600 new schools, the focus has been on training the 28,000 new teachers in these schools, providing them with teaching and learning materials, and ensuring that they are familiar with the technology being made available.
In Mozambique, there is a similar focus on creating an environment conducive to learning, with an emphasis on reading, writing and science, said Abel Assis, State Secretary. The country is increasing and training teachers and needs to benefit from the strong administration and supervision of schools, which has been shown to improve educational outcomes. “
Other governments are also promoting teacher training and assistance to improve service delivery. Nigeria (Edo State) has equipped teachers with 11,500 handheld devices and trained them to use the pre-installed content for teaching. The devices allow officers to monitor teachers’ classes and provide feedback, Governor Godwin Obaseki said.
Sierra Leone is investing in tablets to collect data on teaching and learning, according to Emily Gogra, assistant minister for elementary and high school education.
As part of the Kenyan Primary Math and Reading (PRIMR) initiative, in addition to distributing textbooks to every child in grades 1 to 3, the government has also set up intensive teacher support and training, said Abdi Elyas, director general of the Ministry of Education. The government replaced its teacher counseling centers with “curriculum support officers” who each oversee a “zone” of 20 elementary schools and assist the schools’ teachers in class. The officials use tablets to forward feedback on their visits to a central server, and the data are used to improve teacher training.
These practices illustrate how accelerator governments demonstrate flexibility and shape their policies on the basis of facts. For example, Sierra Leone uses data from its digitized 2020 annual school census, which collects information on enrollment, grade repetition, and students with special needs, among other things, to make decisions about teacher recruitment and placement. “It helps us respond to local needs,” said Conrad Sackey, Chairman of the Teaching Service Commission. “Without them we fly blind.”
Whether it is technology or more traditional assessments, it is important for countries to have “adaptive and iterative learning based on data, insights and the needs of each child,” said Jenkins of UNICEF. Laura Savage, senior education adviser and deputy team leader of the education research team at FCDO, said the UK is providing assistance to countries “analyzing, testing, learning and adapting approaches to ensure efforts are made to improve basic learning are as effective as possible. “
Niger, where half of its children are still required to meet minimum literacy requirements, is simplifying its school programs to focus on literacy and numeracy skills and providing additional support for students at risk, Minister for National Education Rabiou said Ousman. To improve accountability, school leaders will enter into performance-based contracts to ensure that political engagement at the top cascades down to the school level. Such contracts typically combine grants or other rewards with the fulfillment of predetermined, verifiable goals.
Other countries involve parents and communities. Minister Twagirayezu said Rwanda has tried to strengthen communication with parents so that they know how to support their children at home when the children do not read well or come home with poor grades. Edo State Governor Obaseki said sharing positive results of reforms with members of the community “can add the political leverage you need to drive reforms further.”
“Many of the things we have to do are not rocket science,” said Jaime Saavedra, World Bank’s global director for the Global Education Practice. The goal of the accelerator program is to “support” [Accelerator] Countries to improve [their] Efforts at an accelerated pace … so that we can change our children’s lives today and in a relatively short time while learning. “
In the next phase of the program, the Accelerator Governments, with the support of the World Bank and UNICEF technical teams, will set national learning goals and develop evidence-based calculated roadmaps that guide actions to achieve the goals. Accelerators will participate in a community of practice to address common challenges and share innovations and insights from across the program.
 Brazil (State of Ceará), Ecuador, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria (State of Edo), Pakistan, Rwanda and Sierra Leone.