On October 15, the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at Brookings brought together stakeholders of the Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (QEI DIB) in a webinar to discuss the second-year results of the DIB aimed at improving learning outcomes for the most marginalized students in India. Representatives from the British Asian Trust, ConveGenius Insights (formerly Gray Matters India), Dalberg Advisors, Kaivalya Education Foundation, and UBS Optimus Foundation shared insights and challenges related to this innovative project. Additionally, representatives of the Quality Council of India, the World Bank, and the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation India discussed the wider significance of impact bonds and other outcomes-based financing tools to achieve education development goals in India and internationally.
Watch the whole conversation here and read the highlights below.
Year 2 success of the Quality Education India Development Impact Bond
As the world’s largest education DIB, the QEI DIB has on average exceeded learning targets by two to three times over the last two years, reaching over 100,000 children thus far. In the fireside chat, Abha Thorat-Shah of the British Asian Trust shared that the unique structure of the DIB consists of four service providers focusing on direct to student instruction, teacher training, school leadership training, and ed-tech models. Service providers were selected based on a rigorous assessment of their track record and aptitude to adapt to outcomes-based financing, and year 2 performance was evaluated based on positive gains in student learning outcomes.
The panelists highlighted two main elements of the DIB structure, which propelled positive year 2 evaluation results:
- Flexibility. Panelists emphasized the room for innovation provided to service providers within the DIB framework. Unlike in traditional grant models, the DIB allowed service providers to adapt throughout the project based on intermediate results without needing pre-approval from funders. This benefit was particularly helpful in adapting to COVID-19, which required a speedy adoption of new digital technologies and different strategies to teach students and train education practitioners remotely.
- Data-based approach. Panelists stressed the importance of the DIB’s focus on outcomes rather than inputs, in the form of real, measurable results. Clear and ambitious targets can generate the enthusiasm necessary to achieve both impact and scale. Moreover, the heavy reliance on data in the DIB structure allowed service providers to use the data in real-time to recalibrate their service models to better achieve learning-based outcomes.
The panelists also shared challenges experienced in the design and implementation of the QEI DIB:
- Initial assessment and target setting. Panelists shared that the implementation of the QEI DIB required a rigorous target-setting process and assessment design. Some practitioners found creating a single measurement model across four very different interventions and operating with little existing measurement data particularly difficult.
- Long-term sustainability of results. Panelists discussed the sustainability of the high levels of achievement after the QEI DIB contract expires. While the DIB allowed for institutional learning among the service providers, the focus and flexibility in implementation may not exist without an outcomes-based funding structure. In particular, there may be less funding for education projects available in the coming year due to an increase in spending on COVID-19 relief measures. The panelists shared that the key to ensuring long-term sustainability of DIB impact would be to directly engage with governments in order to build focus and flexibility into their national programs.
Room for scaling outcomes-based financing to improve learning outcomes
The panelists concluded that year 2 successes of the QEI DIB presented the potential for the instrument to grow in scale to finance broader education initiatives in India and internationally. The “soft”-sided aspects within the DIB structure—flexibility and data-driven outcomes—present a unique opportunity to be replicated within other government programs. In particular, the panelists noted a growing enabling environment for results-based approaches in India. They explained that increasing government support toward innovation and private-sector partnership in the recent decade, as well as expanded professionalism around measurement-based approaches, could allow for an easier uptake of outcomes-based financing methods. Larger efforts are underway internationally to make DIBs more mainstream, including, for example, through the introduction of outcome funds and the World Bank’s expansion of results-based financing for education projects into other countries, such as Pakistan, Ghana, and Uzbekistan. Scaling outcomes-based financing will, however, require that governments, multilaterals, and bilaterals make a concerted effort to institutionalize an outcomes focus and allocate funds to the key elements that strengthen systems including monitoring and evaluation.
Note: 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.
Support for this publication was generously provided by the British Asian Trust.