How do government decisionmakers adopt education innovations for scale?

Implications for national-level education policymaking in low- and middle-income countries

Children lean out of a school classroom in sub-Saharan Africa.
Editor's note:

Translations of this report are available in Español and Français.

Provision of quality, inclusive, and equitable education remains one of the biggest challenges for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Two hundred and sixty million children are currently out of school, and as many as 8 out of 10 children in low-income countries are functionally illiterate by their 10th birthday. COVID-19 has intensified this, with early data suggesting the pandemic may have wiped out 20 years of education gains. Despite the efforts of global, national, and local actors, education improvement is moving too slowly and unevenly to address the magnitude of the need.

Since 2014, the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution has sought to address the challenges of scaling impact in education through the Millions Learning project, which focuses on how and under what conditions quality education innovations scale. In 2020, Millions Learning joined the Global Partnership for Education’s (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), a joint partnership between GPE and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), to facilitate a cross-national, multi-team, design-based research and professional support initiative called Research on Scaling the Impact of Innovations in Education (ROSIE). ROSIE brings together researchers and practitioners working in 29 LMICs to study processes of scaling education initiatives and to deepen the impact of their ongoing work. Parallel to this work of learning alongside these scaling researchers and practitioners, we are pursuing a complementary qualitative study on how governments identify, adopt, and support education innovations to scale. The following report and summary findings focus on that national-level decisionmaking study.

In this qualitative study, CUE seeks to examine how national and regional decisionmakers in the public sector approach scaling education innovations in LMICs. This includes exploring what they see as key factors or influences on the process of supporting or adopting education innovations to scale, what the contours and calculations of their decisionmaking processes are, and how broader components of the decisionmaking ecosystem interrelate. To answer these questions, CUE conducted three separate reviews of the existing literature and conducted over a dozen hour-long, semi-structured interviews with national-level education decisionmakers in five GPE countries: Bhutan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, and Malawi. CUE also relied on data from ROSIE’s ongoing collaborative study with our 15 collaboration teams, in which we are learning alongside KIX teams that are working to scale and research promising innovations in 29 LMICs.

Section one of the full report outlines the data and study methods. Section two provides context for the analysis by examining the mechanics of identifying and adopting education innovations in LMICs. Section three offers insights emerging from the analysis, and section four presents concluding considerations for action. By illuminating and analyzing how some of these decisionmaking processes and perspectives occur in a handful of countries, CUE hopes to open the “black box” of partnering with government for education scaling and share guidance with others.

Because this study is ongoing, these insights are provisional and will likely deepen and grow during our second round of data collection to be conducted during the final months of 2022.  A final report will be released in 2023.

Download the full report»

  • Acknowledgements and disclosures

    This project is supported by the Global Partnership for Education Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX), a joint partnership between the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent those of GPE, IDRC, or their Boards of Directors.


    Brookings is committed to quality, independence, and impact in all of its work. Activities supported by its donors reflect this commitment and the analysis and recommendations are solely determined by the scholar.