Dimensions of Impact: WHAT

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider the scale of the addressable problem, what positive outcomes might be, and how important the change would be to the people (or planet) experiencing it.

Key questions in this dimension include:

What problem does the investment aim to address? For the target stakeholders experiencing the problem, how important is this change?

Entire groups of vulnerable and marginalized children are excluded from education. Wealth directly affects children’s likelihood of dropping out of school (1). While enrollment gaps between girls and boys are narrowing, gender interacts with poverty and other disadvantages to make girls less likely to stay in school and less likely to learn. Girls face particularly difficult challenges at adolescence and in the transition to secondary education (1). Meanwhile, children with disabilities are less likely to start school and, if they do, are unlikely to transition to secondary school. Their access to school is often limited by poor understanding of their needs and a lack of trained teachers, classroom support, and appropriate learning resources and facilities.
Even children who do complete primary or basic education have their learning outcomes shaped by background characteristics such as poverty, location, gender, ethnicity, and linguistic ability (2, p. 38).
Greater educational equity and inclusion will require increased efforts to collect and analyze data on education for the most excluded segments of the population. Yet, data on education in general remain incomplete; many of the most marginalized groups are invisible in national and global statistics.
Equity-oriented programming must accommodate the multiple factors that affect the starting conditions and educational progress of children and youth and provide targeted support mechanisms to compensate for their effects on learning outcomes (3, p. 15). Since equity is a cross-cutting issue, elements of other strategies relate to this one, demonstrating how to integrate equity considerations into all areas of education:

  • Providing adequate resources to make education equitable and inclusive relates to Strategy 1: Improving the quality of teaching and learning environments.
  • Ensuring that all children are ready to learn relates to Strategy 4: Improving early childhood care and education.
  • Ensuring that all children, especially vulnerable groups can learn in school relates to Strategy 6: Improving access to education for children in crisis- and conflict-affected environments.
    In terms of educating girls, investments aligned with this strategic goal can:
  • increase equitable access to learning opportunities through curricula, budgets, and strategies that are sensitive to gender, reflect girls’ needs, and provide support to female teachers;
  • support advocacy and community efforts, including those addressing restrictive social norms, such as early marriage; and
  • improve girls’ safety by making sure the journey to school is safe and that appropriate facilities are provided at school, among other measures.
    In terms of building data and evidence on equity, investments aligned with this strategic goal can:
  • attend to equity in the monitoring of education systems and allocating resources; and
  • improve data collection to identify excluded groups and to calculate more precisely indicators related to excluded groups.
    In terms of disability and inclusion, investments aligned with this strategic goal can:
  • train teachers to use inclusive, learner-centered approaches and flexible assessment methods which recognize individual differences; and
  • provide targeted support to children with disabilities, such as teaching assistants, early screening, inclusive teaching materials, and access to appropriate assistive technology.

What is the scale of the problem?

Globally, 250 million children acquire no literacy skills, but failure at any step of educational progress hits the poorest, most marginalized, and most vulnerable children the hardest. Across low- and middle-income countries, the gap between the chances of children in the poorest and richest quintiles completing primary school averages 32% (1, p. 33). For those children who are in school, 54% of the richest children learn basic skills compared to only 35% of the poorest. On average, low-income countries allocate 46% of their public education resources towards the 10% best-educated students (1, p. 87). In 10 of 25 low- and middle-income countries reporting data, wealth-related inequalities in primary completion rates are getting worse (1, p. 33).
Gender, geography, family, and ethnic and cultural backgrounds, together with other factors, compound the effects of poverty. Fewer than one in 20 poor, rural girls in sub-Saharan Africa are on track to complete secondary school, which is seven times fewer than the proportion of non-poor, urban boys who are on track (1, p. 33). Today, more girls are in school around the world than ever before, but an estimated 31 million girls of primary-school age and 32 million girls of lower-secondary school age are still out of school (1, p. 99). One in three girls in the developing world marries before the age of 18, and one in nine marries before the age of 15 (1, p. 96).
According to the World Report on Disability, approximately one billion people around the world are living with a disability, at least 10% of whom are children and 80% of whom live in developing countries. More than half of the 65 million children with disabilities in low- and middle-income countries are not in school (12, 13).


Dimensions of Impact: WHO

Investors interested in deploying this strategy should consider whom they want to target, as almost every strategy has a host of potential beneficiaries. While some investors may target women of color living in a particular rural area, others may set targets more broadly, e.g., women. Investors interested in targeting particular populations should focus on strategies that have been shown to benefit those populations.

Key questions in this dimension include:

Who (people, planet, or both) is helped through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Adolescent Girls: Many adolescent girls drop out of or do not learn in school because of child marriage and early pregnancy. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, close to half of girls still marry before the age of 18. Challenges to the sexual and reproductive health of adolescent girls also affect their education. These include unsafe abortions, early pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and gender-based violence apart from child marriage (5, p. 44).
Children with Disabilities: Children with disabilities often require specific support. Disability may lead to a school-participation deficit as high as 50% in some countries, larger than gaps related to gender, rural residence, or socioeconomic status (5, p. 41).
Vulnerable Children: Children in extreme poverty, in remote rural areas or urban slums, orphans have lower educational attainment, with some groups combining multiple sources of disadvantage (5, p. 27). Depending on context, specific groups of disadvantaged children, including the very poor and those from socially disadvantaged ethnic minorities, are more likely to be out of school. Performance on international student assessments greatly varies by socioeconomic status (5, p. 33).
High-Need Schools: Schools in underprivileged areas tend to lack resources and qualified teachers. Their quality of instruction is therefore weaker than offered by schools in more privileged areas; learning outcomes and even enrollment can therefore suffer (5, pp. 20–21).

What are the geographic attributes of those who are affected?

Inequalities in education persist across the developing world, with entire groups of children either excluded from education or in school and not learning. In low-income countries, just 57% of those who begin primary school reach the last primary grade (3, p. 24). Of children worldwide who never enter school, 57% are in sub-Saharan Africa (6). Conflict and state fragility are major reasons children fail to ever enter school, with two-thirds of countries with the most exclusion affected; more than 40% of children never enter school in countries such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger (3, p. 23). Inequalities also exist between students living in urban and rural locations, with rural students typically more disadvantaged (3, p. 29).


Dimensions of Impact: CONTRIBUTION

Investors considering investing in a company or portfolio aligned with this strategy should consider whether the effect they want to have compares to what is likely to happen anyway. Is the investment's contribution ‘likely better’ or ‘likely worse’ than what is likely to occur anyway across What, How much and Who?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How can investments in line with this Strategic Goal contribute to outcomes, and are these investments’ effects likely better, worse, or neutral than what would happen otherwise

Economic Equality: More equitable educational opportunities for all could help drive inclusive growth. On average, for each additional year of education among young adults, poverty rates are 9% lower (2).
Education and Literacy: A longitudinal study in Pakistan found a strong, positive relationship between the availability of post-primary schooling and girls’ retention in primary school. In Ethiopia, the introduction of mother-tongue instruction in 1994 increased educational attainment by an estimated half year, improving reading ability by 40% and the probability of reading a newspaper by about 25%.
Social + Health: Educated girls tend to marry later and have fewer and healthier children, with wide-ranging implications for development and growth. They can better protect their families from shocks and are more empowered to participate in and lead their communities. A child whose mother can read is 50% more likely to live past the age of five, 50% more likely to be immunized, and twice as likely to attend school (1, p. 99). In Ethiopia, educational attainment levels improved alongside a 20% fall in the prevalence of early marriage between 2005 and 2011 (8).
Policy and Politics: Data on disadvantaged and marginalized groups in education raise public awareness of inequality, draw the attention of policymakers, and are essential for determining the extent of discrimination and building an evidence base for more inclusive policies (9). In low- and middle-income countries, participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey has built national capacity to use data by drafting national reports, analyzing results, and assessing a wider range of skills (8).
Peacebuilding: Evidence strongly suggests that increasing secondary-school enrollment and literacy rates decreases the probability of civil war and that increasing expenditures on education tends to pacify internal conflict. Every additional year of schooling reduces an adolescent boy’s risk of becoming involved in conflict by 20% (1, p. 36).

How Much

Dimensions of Impact: HOW MUCH

Investors deploying capital into investments aligned with this strategy should think about how significant the investment's effect might be. What is likely to be the change's breadth, depth, and duration?

Key questions in this dimension include:

How many target stakeholders can experience the outcome through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Addressing inequities in education would improve access to education for the estimated 63 million girls and more than 30 million children with disabilities in developing countries and of primary and lower-secondary school age who are out of school (7). Investments in this strategy would also support the 250 million children who are in school but not learning, especially those from marginalized and vulnerable groups.

How much change can target stakeholders experience through investments aligned with this Strategic Goal?

Each additional year of schooling for girls leads to an average 10% increase in earnings, 4.2% reduction in under-five mortality, and 3.7% reduction in mortality for women and men in low-income countries. When women earn, they invest 90% of their income into their families, compared to 30–40% of men’s earnings. Increasing the proportion of female teachers improves girls’ participation in education in countries where they face a disadvantage in participation (8, p. 174). Regarding students with disabilities and impairments that hinder access to education, many are preventable with access to adequate nutrition and simple medical care (1, p. 94). Early identification of disabilities and intervention can reduce the level of support children with disabilities may require throughout their schooling and ensure they reach their full potential (13, p. 221).

Examples of impact from projects and investments associated with this strategy include the following:

  • In Niger, which has one of the highest rates of child marriage, the cost savings from lower population growth after the elimination of child marriage and the benefits of increased education would likely exceed USD 25 billion between 2014 and 2030 (1, p. 96).
  • Educating girls averted more than 30 million deaths of children under five years old and 100 million deaths in adults aged 15 to 60 (1, p. 34).
  • Each additional year of schooling typically raises an individual’s earnings by 8–10%, with larger increases for women (8, p. 39).


Dimensions of Impact: RISK

Key questions in this dimension include:

What impact risks do investments aligned with this Strategic Goal run? How can investments mitigate them?

Stakeholder Participation Risk: Inappropriate tailoring of products to address needs across types of equity and local norms, misunderstanding of the objectives and experiences of those affected by educational inequity, or stakeholder mistrust in education service providers can greatly reduce positive impact. Mitigating this risk requires that programs to increase educational inclusion adapt to existing social norms.

External Risk: The lack of a supportive local regulatory framework—or inappropriate government intervention—could impede the development of inclusive education. Investors can mitigate this risk by developing alliances with local government to influence local regulatory frameworks and advise how they may be conducive to scaling products and services for targeted or affected stakeholders. Additionally, investors should consider regulatory risks to scale or operations.
Execution Risk: Some families cannot afford to have all their children attend school due to financial constraints; in such cases, they therefore prioritize attendance based on gender or perceived ability. Teachers managing disproportionately large classes will have limited resources to properly integrate inclusive, learner-centered approaches that recognize individual student differences. Some solutions could benefit an unintended demographic in a given country or context, perhaps benefiting upper-middle classes or private schools, for example, and deepening inequalities. To mitigate this risk, investors should collect data and indicators to verify the demographic served by the investee or fund. Poor access to electricity and other resources in low-income countries can present challenges for some technological solutions. Investors should make sure such solutions fit the geography or demographic to be served.
Unexpected Impact Risk: In some cases, when traditionally marginalized populations—women or disabled people—receive educational services, traditionally more privileged populations may feel threatened or resentful of their educational empowerment. This may embolden privileged populations to take action against educational service delivery, which sometimes escalates to minority- or gender-based violence. To mitigate this risk,

What are likely consequences of these impact risk factors?

These risks could prevent clients from effectively using provided services and could even negatively impact clients who face opportunity costs from the use of products and services that are do not meet their needs. Cases resulting in harmful social practices, such as gender-based violence, could have considerable negative effects on target stakeholders.

Illustrative Investment

Voice4Girls enables marginalized adolescent girls in India to take charge of their futures, imparting critical knowledge, spoken English, and life skills through activity-based camps, as well as developing problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities. Critical knowledge includes basic health, safety, rights, self-awareness, and future planning, while life skills include interpersonal and leadership skills. Voice4Girls received impact investments from Gray Matters Capital, since their solution aligned with Gray Matters’ mission to provide a meaningful life to 100 million women and girls through education and 21st-century skills. Voice4Girls reaches an average of 5,500 girls each year.
Anudip creates new-economy livelihood opportunities for impoverished youth, women, and minorities in rural and semi-urban areas of India, providing IT-based skills training, job placement, and entrepreneur development services. The customized curriculum creates an immersive professional development program. The company received impact investments from Omidyar Network and other investors. Anudip has 100 skills training centers in India, where it has trained more than 85,000 individuals with a 75% job-placement rate, leading to a 300% increase in family income.

Draw on Evidence

This mapped evidence shows what outcomes and impacts this strategy can have, based on academic and field research.

Targeted, multidimensional approaches to overcome inequalities in secondary education: Case study of Camfed in Tanzania

Research for Equitable Access and Learning Centre (REAL), University of Cambridge. 2016. “Targeted, multidimensional approaches to overcome inequalities in secondary education: Case study of Camfed in Tanzania.” Background Paper for the Education Commission

Effects of household and district-level factors on primary school enrollment in 30 developing countries

Huisman, J. and Smits, J. 2009. Effects of household and district-level factors on primary school enrollment in 30 developing countries. World Development, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 179-93.

Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All: Findings from the Global Initiative on Out-of-School Children

UNICEF. 2015. “Fixing the Broken Promise of Education for All.” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): Paris.

Hope for Life - Ghana.

United Nations (2011). “Selected examples: Best practices at the international, regional, subregional and national levels for
including persons with disabilities in development efforts.” New York: United Nations.

The transition from non-formal to formal education: The case of BRAC, Bangladesh

Nath, Samir R. (2002). “The transition from non-formal to formal education: The case of BRAC, Bangladesh”. International Review of Education, 48(6): 517-524.

Leaving no one behind: a critical path for the first 1,000 days of the Sustainable Development Goals

Overseas Development Institute (ODI). 2016. “Leaving no one behind: A critical path for the first 1,000 days of the SDGs.” ODI: London

Education’s Missing Millions: Including Disabled Children in Education through EFA FTI Processes and National Sector Plans

Tirussew,T. and Teklemariam,A. (2007) A Study on Integrating Disability into the FTI Process and National Education Plan in Ethiopia, Case study undertaken for World Vision UK, Milton Keynes:World Vision UK

Because I am a Girl: State of the World’s Girls 2012 - Learning for Life

Plan International. 2012. Because I am a Girl: State of the World’s Girls 2012 – Learning for Life. Woking, UK, Plan International.

Interventions to Enhance Girls’ Education and Gender Equality: Education Rigorous Literature Review

Unterhalter, E., North, A., Arnot, M., Lloyd, C. B., Molestane, L., Murphy-Graham, E., Parkes, J. and Saito, M. 2014. Interventions to Enhance Girls’ Education and Gender Equality: Education Rigorous Literature Review. London, UK Department for International Development.

Getting girls into school: evidence from a scholarship program in Cambodia.

Filmer, D. and Schady, N. 2008. Getting girls into school: evidence from a scholarship program in Cambodia. Economic Development and Cultural Change, Vol. 56, No. 3, pp. 581-617

Do Conditional Cash Transfers Lead to Medium Impacts? Evidence from a Female School Stipend Program in Pakistan

Independent Evaluation Group, 2011a. Do Conditional Cash Transfers Lead to Medium Impacts? Evidence from a Female School Stipend Program in Pakistan. Washington, DC, World Bank

Early marriage and the campaign against it in Ethiopia.

Mekonnen, B. and Aspen, H. 2009. Early marriage and the campaign against it in Ethiopia. Ege, S., Aspen, H., Teferra, B. and Bekele, S. (eds), Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies Vol. 3. Trondheim, Norway, Department of Social Anthropology, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Equipping Mayan Girls to Improve their Lives New York

Catino, J., Colom, A. and Ruiz, M. J. 2013. Equipping Mayan Girls to Improve their Lives New York, Population Council. (Transitions to Adulthood Brief, 5.)

Bringing the School to the Children : Shortening the Path to EFA

Lehman, D. 2003. Bringing the School to the Children : Shortening the Path to EFA. Washington, DC, World Bank

New Lessons: the Power of Educating Adolescent Girls - A Girls Count report on Adolescent Girls.

Lloyd, C. B. and Young, J. 2009. New Lessons: the Power of Educating Adolescent Girls – A Girls Count report on Adolescent Girls. New York, Population Council

Building Support for Gender Equality Among Young Adolescents in School: Findings from Mumbai, India.

Achyut, P., Bhatla, N., Singh, A. K., Verma, R. K., Khandekar, S., Pallav, P., Kamble, N., Jadhav, S., Wagh, V., Sonavane, R., Gaikward, R., Maitra, S., Kamble, S. and Nikalje, D. 2011. Building Support for Gender Equality Among Young Adolescents in School: Findings from Mumbai, India. New Delhi, International Center for Research on Women

PISA in Low and Middle Income Countries

Bloem, S. 2013. PISA in Low and Middle Income Countries. Paris, OECD. (OECD Education Working Paper, 93.)

Raising Domestic Resources for Equitable Education

Research for Equitable Access and Learning Centre (REAL), University of Cambridge. 2016. “Raising Domestic Resources for Equitable Education.” Background Paper for the Education Commission

Each resource is assigned a rating of rigor according to the NESTA Standards of Evidence.

Define Metrics

Core Metrics

This starter set of core metrics — chosen from the IRIS catalog with the input of impact investors who work in this area — indicate performance toward objectives within this strategy. They can help with setting targets, tracking performance, and managing toward success.

Additional Metrics

While the above core metrics provide a starter set of measurements that can show outcomes of a portfolio targeted toward this goal, the additional metrics below — or others from the IRIS catalog — can provide more nuance and depth to understanding your impact.