Testing education innovations to drive quality improvement at scale

This is the first installation of the Learning Journey blog series co-authored by Opportunity EduFinance, Instill Education, and Chalkboard Education. We will share insights from several pilot projects testing education innovations in the affordable private school sector in sub-Saharan Africa. The series examines the evolution, learning, adaptation, and failures as we endeavour to build sector knowledge around what works and what doesn’t when developing the right digital foundations and pedagogical approach to instructional leadership and teacher professional development.

Instructional leadership and teacher development in Africa

A perennial question that every development organisation must face when considering program growth is: how do we serve the greatest number of people while ensuring quality and impact at scale? To address this question, Opportunity EduFinance, in partnership with Instill Education and Chalkboard Education, launched a pilot in Uganda to support affordable private schools to drive improvements in education quality using a data-driven approach, blending in-person coaching and digital content into the implementation model. Using robust participant feedback data collected throughout, the pilot is testing how best to stimulate the development of an enabling environment for instructional leadership and teacher professional development by targeting school leaders and teacher mentors.

In partnership with Instill Education, a teacher professional development institute based in South Africa to confer pre-service and in-service certification, Opportunity EduFinance is expanding its existing EduQuality program and leveraging Instill’s expertise in developing digital and in-person training content for school leaders and teachers. Opportunity has also engaged Chalkboard Education, a Ghana-based e-learning social enterprise, partnering with educators and learners in low- and middle-income countries, to deliver a learning management system with digital education content to enhance comprehension and retention.

To ensure content is relevant, practical and localized, Opportunity’s team of Education Specialists in Uganda are working with Instill to collaborate on the development and testing of localized training content facilitated with a digital and in-person blended delivery approach. Using a training of trainers (ToT) model, teacher mentors are receiving guidance and have opportunities to practice adult basic education skills necessary for providing professional development to their colleagues, along with best practices in pedagogical tools and techniques.

The Global Learning Crisis

By commiting to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, the global education community expanded its previous focus on education access to include quality, recognizing that 617 million children are not meeting minimum proficiency levels in mathematics and reading, while two thirds of these children are actually in school. The World Bank recently launched an initiative to elevate global awareness around what they have termed as ‘learning poverty’ – pointing to the fact that 53% of children in low and middle-income countries cannot read a simple story by age 10.

We know that when low-fee ‘affordable’ private schools in low- and middle-income countries have access to financing, they build more classrooms and add more seats for students in their communities. However, of the estimated 1.3mn private schools globally, only a handful are part of larger school chains. The vast majority are run by sole proprietors that operate without a system of support for professional development and quality improvements, even if they have access to financing. 

Because these local school entrepreneurs are incentivized as business owners to make school improvements to attract more students for increased enrollment, there is a unique opportunity to support education quality improvements at an affordable private school and school ‘system’ level that become institutionalized within the business model and impact the whole school community.

Opportunity EduFinance Model

Opportunity EduFinance works to get more children into better quality schools by addressing both education access and quality.

We start by partnering with socially-focused financial institutions to provide the technical assistance necessary to unlock education finance for schools and communities. The EduQuality program at Opportunity EduFinance then brings together local entrepreneurs of affordable private schools in a self-improving school system, comprised as a network of smaller school clusters. Collaborating with EduFinance, financial institution partners lending to these schools, the EduQuality team offers their holistic school development program, allowing them to opt-in for the three-year program. Today the EduQuality program is working with over 1,600 affordable private schools in 8 countries.