At a glance
- In 2019, 57% of children in low- and middle-income countries were unable to read with understanding by age 10. By 2022, largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that figure had grown to an estimated 70%—and a staggering 89% in sub-Saharan Africa.
- A consensus is emerging on evidence-based solutions that have the potential to address this learning crisis.
- We work to improve the quality of education for children in the lower primary grades (typically grades 1 to 3) in India and sub-Saharan Africa.
- We focus on identifying, advocating for, and funding evidence-based, cost-effective, scalable interventions that improve learning outcomes in public education systems.
- While the gender gap in access to primary schooling has shrunk, challenges remain in ensuring equal educational opportunities for girls, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.
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The Global Education team works to improve reading and math skills—also referred to as foundational literacy and numeracy—among primary school children in sub-Saharan Africa and India.
We aim to strengthen the quality of education for children in the lower primary grades (typically grades 1 to 3), with an emphasis on identifying, advocating for, and funding evidence-driven, cost-effective, and scalable interventions that improve learning outcomes in public education systems.
Areas of focus
We know that a learning crisis exists, but comparable data on reading and basic math skills is lacking. We support the development and testing of methods for measuring how much children learn and comparing that data against common metrics, and we promote ways to expand data collection.
We work to spread global awareness of the learning crisis and spur urgent action to address it through improved foundational literacy and numeracy. We support partners in promoting evidence-based solutions and strengthening global, national, and regional networks of advocates and champions who are working toward improved education outcomes in India and sub-Saharan Africa.
Our partners are building knowledge about how to improve teaching and learning to achieve foundational literacy and numeracy goals. This includes synthesizing and disseminating evidence on what works to improve teaching and learning and providing technical assistance to deepen expertise in the education sector.
We also invest in generating evidence on how to apply these solutions on a broad scale in public education systems, and we support implementation research to inform existing programs.
In India, our partners support the efforts of states to improve the quality of education for low-income students and support the Indian education technology ecosystem in providing cost-effective solutions.
In sub-Saharan Africa, we support the World Bank’s Accelerator Program to reduce “learning poverty”—the percentage of children who are unable to read by age 10. The program helps countries identify targets, design interventions, and build capacity to make significant progress over the long term. We also work to strengthen the capacity of organizations to improve teaching, political economy analysis, and program management skills.
Why focus on global education?
Reading and basic math skills are the foundation for gaining future educational opportunities. Too many children in low-income countries leave primary school without these basic skills, and their school systems rarely offer second chances to acquire them in higher grades. An estimated 7 in 10 children in low-income countries—and 9 in 10 children in sub-Saharan Africa—are unable to read by age 10. Support for students in the early grades is critical to their ability to gain the many benefits of education.
We support this research consortium in studying the biggest obstacles to delivering high-quality basic education in low- and middle-income countries and highlighting the most promising reform ideas to address them.
We support Central Square Foundation’s reform efforts to improve education for students from low-income backgrounds in India.
We support EdTech Hub’s research on the efficacy of using technology to improve basic literacy and numeracy outcomes in developing countries. The Hub provides policymakers with evidence and technical assistance so they can make informed decisions related to education technology.
We support the Population Council's Evidence for Gender and Education Resource (EGER), a free interactive database on key gender and education evidence and outcomes. This resource helps the global education community make informed decisions that lead to better results, particularly for girls.
We support this project to create relevant policy publications that draw on original research to improve the quality of basic education in the developing world.
We support the Research Triangle Institute’s Science of Teaching project, which synthesizes existing evidence, generates new research, and disseminates findings that can lead to improved foundational literacy and numeracy outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
We support the GEM Report, a regional report that tracks progress on learning outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa.
We support UIS in its work related to SDG 4.1.1, the indicator measuring the proportion of children and young people achieving minimum proficiency in reading and math.
We are partners with the World Bank and other institutions in creating the Accelerator Program, which works with countries in sub-Saharan Africa to improve learning.