Millions Learning Report

Thirty-eight percent of children around the world lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. Approximately 250 million children either fail to make it to grade 4 or do not meet a minimum level of learning. Despite great gains in access to schooling in recent decades, these dire statistics have been clear since the release of the 2012 UNESCO Global Monitoring Report. How do we ensure millions of children are not only able to access education, but are learning? And how do we close the nearly 100-year learning gap between developing and developed countries?

In a new report analyzing 14 education delivery case studies, the Brookings Institute Center for Universal Education’s (CUE) Millions Learning initiative attempts to address these questions through in-depth research on how quality education has scaled up in the developing world. According to the former Prime Minister of Australia and Distinguished Fellow at CUE, Julia Guillard, during the launch of Millions Learning: Scaling-Up Quality Education in Developing Countries, “The genius of the report is that it allows us to think through what we need to know and what is required to take education initiatives to scale.”

As a result of the analysis, Millions Learning identifies 14 “core ingredients” that, in different combinations depending on context, contribute to scaling up quality learning. The core ingredients are organized into four main areas: design, delivery, finance, and an enabling environment for bringing quality education to scale. An enlightening finding from the case study analyses revealed that successful scaling initiatives often began and developed in the margins and were able to spread to reach greater numbers of children and youth. The core ingredients provide a deeper and precise understanding of what factors create the conditions for effective scaling. However, the primary assertion made by Millions Learning is that these conditions are fostered through the creation of “inclusive and adaptive education ecosystems.” According to the report, we must move toward this “new norm” in order for the global education community to meet the learning needs of all children and youth.

Inclusive and adaptive ecosystems include providing the space to innovate new education delivery approaches, providing incentives for new partnerships and collaboration among diverse education stakeholders, and, ultimately, considering local needs for relevant knowledge and skills so that children and youth may reach their full potential in the 21st century. To create inclusive and adaptive education ecosystems, the report recommends the following actions and associated initiatives:

  • Develop a culture of research and development (R&D) promoted by a cohort of Learning Leaders with the necessary skills and attributes.
  • Share new ideas through a network of Idea Hubs. Idea Hubs would provide dynamic and flexible ways for decision-makers to stay up-to-date with innovations.
  • Activate talent and expertise outside the classroom to elevate the teaching profession and support overburdened teachers. Stakeholders from government, civil society, and the private sector could potentially be a part of All-In Community initiatives to support teachers and other personnel.
  • Fund the “middle phase” to bridge implementation of an education innovation from prototype to broader reach. Mechanisms to bridge this financing gap would require greater coordination and segmentation to provide greater attention and support for this middle phase.
  • Measure and learn what works through better learning and scaling data to cultivate continuous improvement across the education ecosystem. Actions include strengthening national student assessment systems, creating a Real-Time Scaling Lab to encourage peer-to-peer learning among the research community, and exploring the breadth of learning beyond literacy and numeracy to include ways of teaching and assessing 21st century skills.

At the Millions Learning launch, Jenny Perlman Robinson, one of the lead authors, stated that the goal of the report was to “contribute to an ongoing conversation [among the global education community] by providing new evidence and insight on what needs to be done to scale quality education more quickly in the developing world and what children need to learn into the future.”

For more information:

Millions Learning: Scaling-Up Quality Education in Developing Countries (full report download)

UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring Reports

Anne Bauer