Leapfrogging Inequality

Remaking Education to Help Young People Thrive

Rebecca Winthrop
Adam Barton, Eileen McGivney
Release Date: June 5, 2018
Inside Look:

Exemplary stories of innovation from around the world

In an age of rising inequality, getting a good education increasingly separates the haves from the have nots. In countries like the United States, getting a good education is one of the most promising routes to upper-middle-class status, even more so than family wealth. Experts predict that by 2030, 825 million children will reach adulthood without basic secondary-level skills, and it will take a century for the most marginalized youth to achieve the educational levels that the wealthiest enjoy today. But these figures do not even account for the range of skills and competencies needed to thrive today in work, citizenship, and life. In a world where the ability to manipulate knowledge and information, think critically, and collaboratively solve problems are essential to thrive, access to a quality education is crucial for all young people.

In Leapfrogging Inequality, researchers chart a new path for global education by examining the possibility of leapfrogging—harnessing innovation to rapidly accelerate educational progress—to ensure that all young people develop the skills they need for a fast-changing world. Analyzing a catalog of nearly 3,000 global education innovations, the largest such collection to date, researchers explore the potential of current practices to enable such a leap. As part of this analysis, the book presents an evidence-based framework for getting ahead in education, which it grounds in the here-and-now by narrating exemplary stories of innovation from around the world. Together, these stories and resources will inspire educators, investors, leaders of nongovernmental organizations, and policymakers alike to rally around a new vision of educational progress—one that ensures we do not leave yet another generation of young people behind.

Download a select excerpt from the Global Catalog of Education Innovations (xlsx)
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Praise for Leapfrogging Inequality

“This is an outstanding, eye-opening account of how innovation has the potential to transform the education landscape. If you’re looking for practical, path-breaking ways of fixing the problem of inequality, read this book.”—Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia, Chair of the Global Partnership for Education

“This book is compelling in its description of the dilemmas of contemporary schooling as well as the tantalizing possibilities of accelerated progress. Time is of the essence. A must-read for anyone concerned about the future of our children in an uncertain world.”—Nandan Nilekani, Co-founder and Chairman of Infosys, Co-founder and Chairman of EkStep Foundation

“Many people see education as doing just fine as it is, thank you very much. Others say it’s incapable of reforming, too complicated. Leapfrogging Inequality shows why education cannot remain what it currently is, and then paints a vivid, hopeful image for just how education can change worldwide by using proven innovations that work and are doable.”—Vicky Colbert, Founder of Escuela Nueva

Leapfrogging Inequality is a must read for anyone working to reimagine teaching and learning for children to equip them with the skills needed to navigate an uncertain future. Combining real experiences of innovators working in classrooms around the world and theories grounded in extensive educational research, this book describes both how to affect change and why it is critical to act now.”—John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation


Rebecca Winthrop is a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Her research focuses on improving education globally, with special attention to innovative education models, the skills children need to succeed in life, and quality learning for the most marginalized children and youth, including girls and children affected by extreme violence.

Adam Barton is a research assistant at the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

Eileen McGivney was a research associate at the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.