5 critical issues to improve education outcomes
Five issues hamper the pace of improved education outcomes across the globe:
1. Limited knowledge about what works
Global evidence points to the characteristics of well-functioning education systems. Yet, a recent review of the impact of education interventions on learning and school participation in low- and middle-income countries noted that there is little available evidence about what does or does not make interventions work, or about the costs of implementing them.
Further, as recently observed, when relevant evidence is available, dissemination is often weak, especially among key education stakeholders in developing countries. To improve policy and practice and close the educational gap between rich and poor children, we need a much better approach to collect and disseminate dependable evidence about effective education interventions.
2. The challenges of scaling educational innovations
Expanding the use of innovations that demonstrate impact as pilots is crucial to accelerating positive change. Yet scaling is challenging in terms of funding and timing, and despite the proliferation of education innovations, there is limited evidence about how to scale initiatives that improve learning outcomes.
In recent years, projects such as Journeys to Scale and Millions Learning have generated important insights into successful scaling practice. Yet more knowledge and experience are required to understand why, for instance, the Cambodian attempt to scale early childhood development centers and preschools had varied and limited impact on child development, whereas the approach of getting textbooks to schools in Burundi proved successful, as noted in the World Development Report 2018.
3. The need for nationally relevant responses
Effective education systems are those that work with and best respond to national political, economic and cultural dynamics. Yet while it is universally acknowledged that context matters, contextualization remains challenging in developing countries because most systems refinements and innovations are sourced, designed and supported internationally, far removed from national realities.
For instance, while the learning crisis may be greatest across countries in sub-Saharan Africa, because these countries represent extremely heterogeneous contexts, attempts to accelerate change can only be successful if they are designed with specific country dynamics in mind, and include capacity development to adapt existing solutions.
4. The limited use of evidence in policy and planning
The quality of education will not improve without the effective implementation of robust policies. While there is increasing demand for the use of evidence in policy dialogue and planning in many developing countries, governments often have limited access to relevant evidence, and also face capacity constraints to use available evidence to shape policies and practices.
To accelerate the pace of improving education quality we must ensure, first, that governments have access to evidence-based research and, second, that they have the capacity to uptake evidence and innovations in their education sector.
5. Limited investments in knowledge sharing
The above issues are further intensified by very low investments in knowledge sharing that can help scale effective innovations, coordinate efforts across borders, and empower local education systems. Currently, only 3% of official development assistance in education is allocated to the production of global public goods, whereas this figure is 21% in the health sector.
If we are to close the 100-year gap, we need increased investments in global public goods to facilitate knowledge sharing across borders and disseminate effective practices adapted for national or local contexts.