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Refugee schoolchildren attend a lesson in a classroom on the first day of the new school year at one of the UNRWA schools at a Palestinian refugee camp al Wehdat, in Amman, Jordan, September 1, 2016.  REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed  - S1AETYUEWBAB
Education Plus Development

Reflections from global convening for large-scale impact in education

Editor's Note:

This is the first blog post in a series reflecting on key scaling-related themes discussed at the global convening of the Millions Learning Real-time Scaling Labs held in July 2019 in Switzerland.

If there is one thing we have learned from the Center for Universal Education’s Millions Learning project over the past five years, it’s that scaling social change does not just happen automatically. Far from being guaranteed, scaling requires deliberate and strategic planning from the start, a willingness to learn and experiment throughout the process and flexibility to adapt, engagement from a wide variety of stakeholders, and an approach responsive to local needs and priorities.

Last week, the Millions Learning project brought together nearly 30 representatives from the first cohort of Real-time Scaling Labs, an applied research project to learn from, document, and support education initiatives as they scale. The three-day workshop, hosted in Feusisberg, Switzerland by the Jacobs Foundation, assembled a diverse group of civil society leaders and senior government officials from Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Philippines, and Tanzania. The group planned for the ongoing expansion and sustainability of their labs, shared progress, and collectively reflected on common challenges.

Select a location to learn about each scaling lab Real Scaling Labs
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Teaching at the Right Level, Young 1ove

Botswana

Dates: 2019-2023

CUE is partnering with the NGO Youth Impact (formerly Young 1ove), which works with the Botswana government to adapt and scale the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) remedial education approach that groups students according to learning level rather than age or grade. Youth Impact is working with UNICEF, the University of Botswana, the Ministry of Basic Education, and the Ministry of Youth Empowerment, Sport, and Culture Development with the goal of scaling up TaRL in stages with plans to reach all primary schools in Botswana by 2025. This lab brings together key stakeholders to collaboratively learn from and strengthen the adaptation, implementation, and expansion of TaRL in Botswana, as well as share key learnings with the broader TaRL community as other countries across Africa implement the approach.

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Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities, Jacobs Foundation

Côte d’Ivoire

Dates: 2018-present

CUE is collaborating with the Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities initiative and the Ministry of National Education and Literacy to implement a Real-time Scaling Lab centered around the government-led process of implementing, adapting, and scaling the Programme d’Enseignement Ciblé (PEC)—a remedial education approach to improving early grade reading and math adapted from Teaching at the Right Level. While the lab has focused on the experience of PEC to date, it serves as a case study into larger questions of how an evidence-based initiative can achieve progress toward national sustainable scale, with lessons that are transferable beyond PEC and Côte d’Ivoire.

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Financial Education Program, INJAZ

Jordan

Dates: 2019-2022

CUE is partnering with INJAZ, a nonprofit Jordanian organization, to draw lessons from the adaptation and mainstreaming of an NGO-developed financial education program (FEP) across the secondary school system in Jordan. The Ministry of Education—with support from the Central Bank of Jordan, commercial banks, and NGOs—is rolling out the FEP to improve youths’ financial literacy and entrepreneurship skills so that they can better participate in the national economy. The Real-time Scaling Lab documents and learns from efforts to mainstream financial education in all public, military, and public schools for grades 7 through 12.

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Ahlan Simsim

Jordan

Dates: 2018-2022

CUE is collaborating with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to assess how to scale the impact of the Ahlan Simsim project in Jordan. Ahlan Simsim is the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response, combining an educational broadcast reaching 9.4 million children in the region with direct services for 1.5 million of the most vulnerable children and caretakers. CUE and IRC have been working together to identify scaling pathways in Jordan to sustainably embed the impact of the project into existing sectors and services that work with young children and their families across Jordan.

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Playful Learning Landscapes, Temple University Infant and Child Laboratory

Philadelphia

Dates: 2017-2019

In partnership with the Temple University Infant and Child Laboratory, this Real-time Scaling Lab learned from, documented, and shared findings on a Philadelphia-wide Playful Learning Landscapes initiative to transform everyday public spaces into learning opportunities to maximize the “80 percent” of time children spend outside of school. The lab documented how key stakeholders in Philadelphia united around the common activity of supporting children’s development and learning through transforming city spaces, and culminated in a final report on the scaling journey to date and lessons learned to help inform further expansion in Philadelphia and adaptation and adoption by other cities and countries.

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Teacher Professional Development @Scale Program, Foundation for Information Technology, Education, and Development (FIT-ED)

Philippines

Dates: 2018-2021

CUE collaborated with the Teacher Professional Development at Scale (TPD@Scale) Coalition for the Global South, through direct engagement with the Coalition Secretariat, the NGO FIT-ED, to draw out key insights and recommendations from the Philippine Department of Education’s scale-up of a blended TPD program for K-3 teachers in more than 36,000 public elementary schools across the country. Lessons learned were shared with coalition members to inform the expansion of TPD programs in other countries, as well as with the broader international education community.

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Learner Guide Program, The Campaign for Female Education

Tanzania

Dates: 2018-2021

CUE collaborated with the Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), the Ministry of Education, Science and Technoloy, the President’s Office of Regional Administration and Local Government, and key education stakeholders to design and implement a Real-time Scaling Lab to scale the Learner Guide (LG) Program, a mentorship program that brings young women graduates into schools to facilitate a youth mentorship and life skills program. Findings from this scaling journey have informed future plans for institutionalizing components of the LG program in government structures within Tanzania, as well as scaling efforts for CAMFED programs in other countries.

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On paper each of these scaling labs has little in common—hailing from different countries across the globe, focusing on completely different education interventions, each at a different stage of scaling—and yet, despite this diversity, participants identified many shared scaling-related challenges and questions across their work and practical areas to learn from each other and problem-solve collectively.

During the workshop, an overarching theme that emerged was the importance of shifting from a project mentality to a systems change approach in scaling—with the aim of expanding impact and altering long-term processes and outcomes in a country, rather than just growing a particular intervention or organization. As part of this conversation, the group discussed the need to approach scaling “beyond ego.” As funders or implementing organizations, it is easy to “fall in love” with one’s project and become too invested in promoting a fixed solution. Participants discussed how the focus should be on long-term impact and being receptive to required adaptations. This includes recognizing what already exists in the system and looking for ways to build upon it. Ms. Devyani Pershad, head of international collaborations at Pratham, stressed this point when discussing implementing the Teaching at the Right Level (TaRL) approach in new country contexts, sharing that TaRL is not replicated—it is adapted—with core aspects maintained and other aspects contextualized. Scaling “beyond ego” may mean a loss of control for the originating organization, which can be an uncomfortable prospect, but is essential to expanding and sustaining impact and moving beyond a project-focused approach.

Building on this point, another key theme that emerged during the discussion was the critical importance of focusing on the problem when it comes to scaling, not the solution. Ms. Rapelang Bogatsu, chief education officer at the Ministry of Basic Education in Botswana, underscored the need for local government actors to feel the urgency of a problem and the need for change, rather than the sense that others are pushing a prefabricated solution. For implementers, this means putting in the time to understand the local system and existing government priorities, including how the government conceives of the problem, in order to frame the scaling process as a direct response to existing concerns and policies. Dr. Leonard Akwilapo, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology in Tanzania, further emphasized this point, reminding the group that just as problems differ from context to context, so must solutions.

A third, related theme throughout the three days was the need for local champions that can drive the proposed change forward. Mr. Faustin Koffi, inspector general for administration and school life at the Ministry of National Education in Côte d’Ivoire and also scaling lab manager for the Ivoirian Real-time Scaling Lab, highlighted the importance of a champion, particularly in the Ministry of Education, who believes in the solution and who has the power to convene actors, build government commitment, and propel the scaling process forward. At the same time, participants recognized the risk of depending on one champion and the need to build support throughout all levels of the government to normalize a change.

Millions Learning
Participants at the global convening of Real-time Scaling Labs, Feusisberg Switzerland, July 2019

This brief summary only scratches the surface of three days of illuminating and thought-provoking conversations. Over the coming weeks, we will publish a series of blogs authored by several participants that reflect on common scaling themes and questions emerging across the labs. As always, we welcome and invite feedback.

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