The WISE Awards

Speed School

Activity: Enables out-of-school children to catch up to their grade level in government schools through an intensive, child-centered pedagogy for teaching basic literacy and numeracy.

Name of the Organization: Luminos Fund

Headquarter: USA

Geographical reach: Global

Number of beneficiaries: 100,000 out-of-school children aged 9-14 years

Project Representative: Ms Caitlin Baron

Websites: http://www.luminosfund.org/

The Speed Schools WISE Awards 2017

About the Project

The Luminos Fund’s Speed School accelerated learning program enables out-of-school children aged 9 to 14 to achieve functional literacy and numeracy in just one year and transition back to local government schools to study with students their own age. The model is comprised of three components. First, the children go through a ten-month accelerated learning program designed to cover grades one, two and three which prepares children to transition into grade four in their local government schools.

During the seven to eight-hour school day, children learn reading, writing and arithmetic through student-led activities, peer learning, and play-based education in class sizes of 25 students. Regular assessments ensure teachers provide individual attention so that all children fully grasp the core learning competencies. The second component is community mobilization through parent engagement groups which catalyzes long-term support from the parents for keeping their children in school. The final component is capacity building for partner government schools which ensures support for Speed School graduates. This includes exposure training for primary school teachers and head teachers to the Speed School child-centric and activity-based pedagogy.

Context and Issue

Ethiopia and Liberia are two countries with staggering numbers of out-of-school children. A mix of geographical, socio-economic, political, and cultural factors results in children not being in school. Extreme poverty feeds child labor. Moreover, low expectations of school, early pregnancy and early marriage also prevent youth, especially girls, from entering school. In some regions, caste and ethnic differences determine who gets access to education. Ethiopia has the second largest number of out-of-school children (5.7 million) in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Ethiopian regions of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR) and Amhara, where the Speed School operates, account for 45 percent of the country’s out-of-school children population, according to the Education Policy Data Center. In Amhara, 60 percent of the out-of-school children are involved in some kind of child-labor activity. Liberia also has one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the world; 67 percent of girls and 63 percent of boys of primary school age are out of school. 91 percent of primary school students entered late and are overage. The Liberian education system remains crippled after fourteen years of civil war and was further hindered by the Ebola outbreak in 2014 which led to school closings for seven months.

The Solution and Impact

Accelerated Learning Programs have been used across the developing world to address the issue of out-of-school children dating back at least to the 1990s. What differentiates the Speed School model is its exceptional results and proven track record as a program operating at scale. Since the mid-2000s, the model has been implemented in four African countries, and to date has benefitted over 100,000 children and their families.

The Speed School program takes a holistic view in helping children reintegrate into the school system. On the supply side, Speed School helps children become functionally literate and numerate and elevates their prospects of formal schooling. The long-term aim is to work with government and strengthen the public schooling system from within. On the demand side, the project also works to change community attitudes and perceptions about school attendance through the parental engagement module. More support at home, combined with a chance to continue their education, opens new opportunities for these children and their families. The Speed School program chooses to run programs in the most disadvantaged communities because education is the only pathway for these children to break out of intergenerational poverty. The program makes sure to adapt the curriculum in any country in accordance with national standards.

Speed School classrooms blend child-centric pedagogy and activity-based, participatory learning methods to ensure children not only grasp the minimum learning competencies but also develop a positive experience towards learning. More than 90 percent of out-of-school children who enroll in the Speed School program transition into government schools. According to a recent evaluation by University of Sussex, 75 percent of them are still in school four years after transition. Early evaluation reports also suggest that Speed School children outperform their government school counterparts once in the government schooling system. In 2017, the Speed Schools project operates in 650 Speed Schools providing education to 16,250 children across Ethiopia and Liberia.

Future Developments

The Speed School program seeks to enable six million more children from targeted groups to access school by 2030. The fund for the program was spun out of the Legatum Foundation to build on the success of their accelerated learning, back-to-school program, delivered across Africa. Building on the successful Speed School model, the Luminos Fund is exploring and developing new, similarly successful models of achieving universal education.

Along with Legatum Foundation, the Speed School program has mobilized funding from the UBS-Optimus Foundation, Dubai Cares, and the mobile gaming company Supercell. This new support fueled their expansion to Liberia and Lebanon in 2016. The Speed School program also aims to expand its operations to Nigeria and Pakistan, the countries with the highest number of out-of-school children, by 2020.