Second Chance (formerly Speed School)

About the Project

This project is one of the 2017 WISE Awards winners. 

The Luminos Fund’s Second Chance initiative, formerly known as Speed School, is an accelerated learning program that targets out-of-school children aged 8-14 who have never attended school, dropped out of school before acquiring basic learning competencies, or had their education disrupted by crisis. Using a joyful, activity-based pedagogy, the Luminos Fund’s cost-effective program unlocks the light of learning in children at the margins of global society. In just ten months, Second Chance teaches children to read, write, and do math – covering as many as three grades. By unlocking the light of literacy, Luminos programs open the gateway for students to continue on to further learning. This unique, transformative model places children at the center of the learning process and equips them to learn how to learn, empowering them as self-motivated learners. At the end of Second Chance, Luminos supports students in their transition into the mainstream school system to continue their education with peers.

The model is comprised of three components. First, children are enrolled in the 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, Second Chance students learn reading, writing, and arithmetic through student-led activities, peer learning, and activity-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 that catalyze long-term support from the parents for keeping their children in school. The final component is capacity-building for partners and government schools, which ensures support for Second Chance graduates and helps facilitate broader adoption of the Luminos model by governments and other implementers. This includes exposure training for primary school teachers and head teachers to the Luminos child-centric and activity-based pedagogy. Second Chance combines a bottom-up focus on locally developed, five-senses learning methods with the best global research on what helps vulnerable children catch-up with sustained learning outcomes. The Luminos Fund partners with communities, educators, and governments to ensure it is providing robust, long-term education solutions that meet communities where they are with dignity. Luminos is led by a diverse, global team, informed by the communities it serves, and guided by an advisory board of leading thinkers in African education.

Context and Issue

Even before COVID-19 pushed 9-in-10 children around the world out of the classroom, 258 million children globally did not know how to read or write. Children who are out of primary school are uniquely challenged to develop vital skills and keep up with educated peers over time. The human cost of missed education is catastrophically high. Increased vulnerability to violence, teen pregnancy, and hunger—as well as the loss of future employment, agency, and prosperity—diminish the light of a child’s life when he or she misses out on learning. Global flourishing is incomplete so long as any child is denied the chance to learn.

During 2020 COVID-19 school closures, one-third of children globally were not reached by any remote learning — and 24 million students are expected to drop out of school permanently due to the pandemic (UNICEF). Without targeted outreach to the most vulnerable, millions will be left behind. And, in the hardest-to-reach communities, simple learning methods are still the only way to effectively reach the last first-generation readers and out-of-school children. Proven accelerated learning programs that reach these communities and celebrate rich, five-senses learning methods, like the Luminos Second Chance program, are more important than ever. Ethiopia and Liberia are two countries with staggering numbers of out-of-school children due to a mix of geographical, socio-economic, political, and cultural factors—a heartbreaking reality that the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded. Extreme poverty feeds child labor. Low expectations of school as well as 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.

The Solution and Impact

The Second Chance model is distinct for its exceptional results and proven track record as a program operating at scale. Second Chance is now implemented in two African countries, and to-date has served more than 136,502 children. Here is a highlight of the Luminos Fund’s results to-date:

• Resilience: Over 90% of Luminos program graduates advance on to their local government school, continuing on the path to opportunity and prosperity. Moreover, research shows that Luminos graduates complete primary school at twice the rate of their peers.

• Achievement: In Luminos classrooms, girls and boys learn to read at truly remarkable rates. Over a few months, Luminos students in Liberia advance from not recognizing ABCs to reading 39 words per minute. Only a fraction of their Liberian peers read at this level. Literacy is the gatekeeping event to learning – nothing else can happen until basic literacy is cracked.

• Gender Equality: Luminos always push for equality. They run gender-inclusive classrooms where girls’ voices are celebrated and their leadership is encouraged. • Happiness and Self-Efficacy: Even six years after completing Luminos programs, Luminos students show sustained advances in non-cognitive, socio-emotional skills – they are happier, more confident, and have higher aspirations for the future.

• Scalability: The Luminos Fund has scaled successfully to three diverse countries across Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and plans to expand to a fourth country in Africa. Their model works and they have the potential to scale rapidly.

Future Developments

The Luminos Fund is poised to expand Second Chance to an additional African country and to double its footprint in Africa toward reaching the next 200,000 children with joyful learning. The international Second Chance team continues working to provide thousands more children with sustained learning outcomes (literacy and numeracy) through Luminos’s evidence-based approach, support their attendance rates, and deliver access to rich, transformative education.

May 26, 2017 (last update 12-22-2020)