Solutions to Learning Poverty

2019 Nobel Prize-winning economist, Professor Michael Kremer‘s ground-breaking study into NewGlobe’s methodology in Kenya has announced learning gains among the ‘largest ever measured in international education’.  The impact  is among the greatest of any rigorously studied intervention in emerging markets.

The highly anticipated study found that primary and middle school students in NewGlobe’s Kenya program gain almost an additional year of learning (0.89) under the NewGlobe integrated methodology, learning in two years what their peers learn in nearly three. 

For early childhood development (ECD) students the gains were even bigger. Those students supported by NewGlobe gained almost an additional year and half of learning (1.48), learning in two years what students in other schools learn in three and a half years. 

Foundational literacy gives children better life chances but The World Bank estimates that  50% of children in low and middle income countries cannot read with comprehension by their tenth birthday, with the impact of the covid pandemic potentially increasing that figure to 70%. The newly released study found that a student in Grade 1 (approximately  7 years old) is three times more likely to be able to read when taught using NewGlobe methods. 

The study was conducted over two school years and included more than 10,000 students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, using indicators such as access to electricity and whether homes had dirt or mud floors

The findings put the learning gains in the top 1% of studies ever rigorously studied at scale in low and middle income countries. Assuming similar impacts over the course of a student’s primary schooling, those in NewGlobe supported schools would receive 53% more education over the course of their early childhood and primary school career. 

2019 Nobel Prize Winner, Professor Michael Kremer said:

“The effects in this study are among the largest in the international education literature, particularly for a program that was already operating at scale. It shows that a highly structured and standardized education model has the potential to substantially improve learning outcomes. Policymakers may want to explore incorporating more structure into their education systems.”

The relevance of the study’s findings for political leaders and policy makers is clear. When students are better educated, the economy benefits significantly. Economic growth follows improved schooling, enhancing the opportunities for a nation’s youth, and for the economy’s workforce.

And, if replicated at scale across public systems, this integrated methodology could put students on the study track to match academic performance levels achieved by peers from middle and upper-middle income countries,  pushing their countries up education league tables to match countries with incomes three or four times greater per person.

Education scholars estimate education reforms resulting in a 25-point gain on Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)  (0.25 standard deviation) will increase the GDP growth rate by 0.5% annually in lower and upper middle income countries. The path to higher PISA results begins with effective early childhood and primary instruction. When learning increases mirror the results found in the study, we can expect students to perform better on later assessments as well.

Achieving these results is not due to one single programming aspect but rather the integrated methodology that produces better academic performance and fairer educational outcomes. The study highlights a combination of methods deployed by NewGlobe, including instructional design and ongoing professional development and support as part of this holistic system. This same combination of methods is recognized by the Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel (GEEAP) and recommended as a “good buy” and highlighted as priorities in clawing back pandemic-related learning losses for students in low and middle income countries.

Additionally, findings of equity feature prominently.  Equity has long been the target of education programming but with 2030 rapidly approaching, meeting SDG4 is increasingly regarded as unachievable.  Yet, the study shows that Kremer and his collaborators show that students in schools implementing NewGlobe’s integrated methodology benefited its most struggling students most. 

Pioneered in Kenya, this integrated approach to teaching and learning has been embraced by visionary governments and brought to support government teachers and school leaders; it continues to show significant learning gains in these contexts. In Edo State’s Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) program in Nigeria, results indicated students had the equivalent of 54% more schooling in English and 71% more schooling in math, learning in one term than what would have normally been learnt in 1 year. In Lagos State’s Excellence in Child Education and Learning (EKOEXCEL) program, students advanced in numeracy twice as fast and in literacy three times as fast as their peers. In the Liberian Education Advancement Program (LEAP), 81% of students in NewGlobe supported schools were proficient or basic readers, compared to only 33% of their peers.

Effectively tackling learning poverty is the challenge of this generation. Every year that passes without system change impedes our global development and prosperity.

As the study shows, an effective holistic learning system can deliver transformational learning outcomes at scale and tackle the endemic learning poverty crisis. One million students are currently being taught using the methodology in this ground-breaking study and the figure is increasing year on year.