January 24 is the UN’s International Day of Education. The theme for 2023 is “Invest in people, prioritize education.”
UNESCO, the UN’s education arm, makes a compelling case for such investment:
“Without inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that is leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind.”
Governments are already investing vast sums of money in education. Although the average for sub-Saharan Africa is lower at 3.4% – below the global average of 4.3% – international donors also contribute very large sums.
The Global Partnership for Education invests funds raised from donor countries such as the US and UK. In total, GPE has spent more than $5.7 billion of donor funding on education across sub-Saharan Africa.
But despite such levels of government and international spending, education outcomes are at crisis levels.
The World Bank’s most recent update estimates that 89% of ten-year-olds in the region cannot read a simple sentence.
The Covid pandemic and associated school closures are not to blame. “Learning poverty was very high even before the pandemic,” says the Bank.
Nor is a lack of enrollment. 90% of primary age children attend school in low and middle income countries.
These grim statistics make clear that prioritizing education is not enough. What must be prioritized is learning.
Increasingly, visionary leaders across Africa are changing the way they spend money on education, by investing in outcomes – clear learning gains for their students and opening the sectors for more partnerships in education.
In Liberia, the Government has leveraged its flagship education Program; LEAP to improve learning gains for students in government schools as a means of addressing the country’s learning crisis.
LEAP, is the Liberia Education Advancement Program, an innovative education partnership that came into existence in 2016, currently supporting nearly 500 public schools across Liberia’s fifteen counties.
The multi-partnership educational model designed by the Liberian Government delivers 100% tuition-free primary education throughout Liberia from early childhood education through Grade 9.
Government’s largest technical partner in the LEAP Program; Bridge Liberia, ensures every teacher receives comprehensive instructional guidance for every lesson, based upon cutting edge pedagogical research with a technological approach.
The technology enables world-class quality lessons, specifically designed to maximize learning, to be delivered by all teachers.
It also provides real-time monitoring from every classroom in every school supported by Bridge Liberia. Government education officers can track not only students’ performance, but a whole range of other crucial indicators that support learning gains.
This also helps to reduce absenteeism, truancies, and even teachers not coming, by remotely monitoring them and seeing who is teaching what and the quality of teaching across primary schools.
The results of all these interventions are excellent.
The teaching methods underpinning the Liberian Government’s technical education partner; Bridge Liberia and all other programs supported by NewGlobe have been independently studied in Kenya by a team led by Professor Michael Kremer, Nobel Prize winner for Economics in 2019.
It reported that students taught using the methods made some of the biggest learning gains ever found in such a study.
On International Day of Education, we should be clear that investment which drives-up learning and transforms outcomes for students must be our priority. We also need to understand that if it can be achieved, the gains across Africa and r the whole world will be transformational too.