What

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?

In low- and middle-income countries, only half of primary school children and a little more than a quarter of secondary school children are on track to complete school and meet minimum benchmarks on learning assessments (1). Three in four of these children who are not learning are failing to achieve despite attending school (1). In six of the ten countries one study assessed, only about half—or even fewer than half—of younger adults (18 to 37) who completed primary schooling can read a few sentences without help (2).

Worldwide, countries face a shortage of qualified teachers for their rapidly expanding student populations (3, pp. 133–34). Though teaching methods can often be improved through simple in-service training (1, p. 60), the quality of teacher training varies dramatically across countries, and much training does not align with practices that are associated with better student performance. And, while teaching and learning resources are regularly cited as keys to improving the quality of education, textbooks and other instructional materials remain inaccessible or unavailable in some countries (4, p. 203).

Improving the quality of teaching and learning environments through teacher training and by providing quality teaching and learning materials helps to ensure that all children obtain the education and skills necessary to achieve their individual potential while enhancing national growth and social development.

Investments aligned with this strategic goal can, in the context of teacher training and performance:

  • provide individually targeted, repeated teacher training that emphasizes student-based learning and context-specific, gender-sensitive, and inclusive instruction;
  • use evaluation, monitoring, and reporting mechanisms to hold teachers accountable and offer incentives to motivate their performance; and
  • harness technology to improve teacher–learner interaction.

In the context of educational materials, investments aligned with this goal can:

  • ensure that high-quality textbooks, instructional materials, and technology are made available to all students;
  • provide materials that are non-discriminatory, learning-conducive, context- and language-specific, and cost-effective; and
  • increase the use of inclusive and gender-sensitive learning materials in appropriate languages and accessible to students with various physical disabilities, including vision impairments.

Private schools are increasingly important in education, particularly in low-income countries; one in eight primary students globally attends private school (5). While private schools offer certain advantages, including expanding enrollment and allowing more freedom for innovation, effective service provision requires both innovation and accountability for results in terms of access, quality, and equity (11).

What is the scale of the problem?

Access to quality teachers and educational materials is essential to the quality of learning environments and leads to improved student retention and performance on learning assessments. Globally, approximately 387 million primary-school-aged children are not learning basic reading (6), and, as of 2017, 262 million children and young people do not attend school (7, p. 122). And, of 19 sub-Saharan countries in a 2008 World Bank analysis, 18 had inadequate supplies of textbooks for students in secondary schools (4, p. 203).
Between 2015 and 2030, the Education Commission projects, demand for teachers in lower-middle-income countries will grow by 25%—and nearly double in low-income countries (1, p. 70). However, by national definitions, in 2017, 15% of primary teachers around the world were untrained, an increase of 1.5 percentage points since 2013 (7, p 216).
Education systems around the world must improve teacher training and access to quality teaching and learning materials to attract and retain quality teachers and enable students to learn.

Who

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?

Students from poor and disadvantaged backgrounds: Students from disadvantaged households, including rural households, complete less schooling and learn much less while in school (3, pp. 44–45). Investing in the quality of teaching and learning environments with a focus on inclusion will increase enrollment and retention and improve learning outcomes for all students while helping disadvantaged students to close this gap.

Teachers in low- and middle-income countries: High-quality teachers are in short supply in low-income countries (3), and pupil-to-teacher ratios are higher in poorer countries (5, p. 245). Inadequately trained teachers are common in several parts of the world, with only 62% trained at the primary level in sub-Saharan Africa (5, p. 244). Investing in high-quality teacher instruction and development will provide a professional structure and motivate teachers to apply what they know.

Households and families (urban and rural): Access to quality education helps break the cycle of poverty by increasing income. Educated people also tend to be healthier, more empowered in their own lives and societies, and more socially tolerant and able to resolve conflicts (10, pp. 10–13).

Education systems (national and subnational): Aligning components of education systems coherently toward learning can improve government accountability and strengthen the educational workforce (1, p. 175).

What are the geographic attributes of those who are affected?

Low- and middle-income countries: Education systems in low- and middle-income countries around the world fail to provide students with quality educations. The average student in these countries performs worse than 95% of students in high-income countries (3, p. 5). Low-income households in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia are disproportionately affected by this learning crisis.

Sub-Saharan Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa has the fewest proportion of trained teachers and growing share of the out-of-school population (7, pp. 123, 216). Textbooks are also scarce; a 2008 World Bank analysis found only one sub-Saharan African country of 19 studied had adequate textbook provision (4, p. 203).

Latin America: Latin American school enrollment has sharply increased in recent years, but students still leave school lacking the skills they need for employment. Teachers in Latin America are generally paid above the poverty threshold, but their salaries compare unfavorably with those working in professions requiring similar qualifications: in 2007, other professionals in Brazil and Peru, respectively, earned 43% and 50% more than pre-school and primary school teachers (8, p. 29).

Contribution

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

Teacher effectiveness is the most important school-based predictor of student learning (10), which drives social and economic progress. Specific investment contributions and their sustainability vary by context and approach.

  • Economic benefits: Increased educational attainment is associated with higher personal and national income (11, p. 11). On a national scale, one dollar invested to increase the mean years of schooling in low- and lower-middle-income countries respectively returns to additional gross earnings 10% and 7% over the average lifetime (1, p. 34).
  • Social benefits: Education is linked to better health outcomes and longer lives (3, p. 39–40). Additional years of education are also associated with reduced maternal and child mortality, fewer disaster-related deaths, less conflict, and increased civic engagement (11, p. 11). Particularly for girls, one dollar invested to increase the mean years of schooling generates a health-related benefit in low-income countries that is equal (in cost–benefit terms) to the economic benefit alone; for lower-middle-income countries, improved health adds value that exceeds half the economic benefit alone (1, p. 35).

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?

This strategy can improve learning outcomes for the 262 million children who do not attend school and the 387 million primary-school-aged children who are in school but not learning basic reading. It can also support the 2.5 million primary school teachers and 4.5 million secondary school teachers around the world who have not been trained.

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

Systematic change requires sustained investment. Bilateral development programs generally last 5 to 10 years per cycle, and many programs continue over many cycles. Improved teaching methods, combined with teacher training, materials, and remedial help for students who fall behind, could improve learning outcomes by 25–53% in some contexts (1, pp. 59–60).
Examples of impact from projects aligned with this strategy include the following:

  • In 22 sub-Saharan African countries, student achievement increased by 5% to 20% in class subjects with textbooks provided for each child (1, p. 66; 9).
  • The Schools of Quality approach in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic supplies classrooms with relevant teaching and learning materials and ensures teachers are motivated, professional, and skilled in organizing learning to meet students’ individual needs. As a result, especially in underserved rural areas, enrollment and retention rates rose and repetition rates declined (6, p. 204).
  • In the Philippines, the reading scores of fourth-grade students significantly increased just one month after their teachers received two days’ training on conducting one hour of reading activities every day (8, p. 245).

Risk

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?

Failure to adequately address these risks could dilute positive impact by reducing the quality of teaching and learning environments in targeted primary and secondary schools.

Illustrative Investment

LEAD School’s ‘school-in-a-box’ solution is designed to empower affordable private school (APS) operators in India, specifically catering to the needs of first-generation learners in the low-income segment and to teachers serving and parents in this demographic segment. Their product covers various aspects of school management including curriculum, content, assessments, delivery, administration, in-depth teacher capacity-building, and meaningful parent engagement. A recent round of impact investments into LEAD School was led by Elevar Equity. In 18 months of operation, LEAD School signed up more than 80 affordable private schools to use their solution.
Geekie offers an integrated learning, assessment, and information management platform to school administrators, teachers, and students in Brazil. The company has received impact investments from Omidyar Network and other investors. Its adaptive learning platform, designed to help learners improve their performance in different educational settings, has been adopted by public and private high schools and students preparing for the national college entrance exam. To date, more than three million learners have benefited from Geekie’s learning products, which have demonstrated improved learning outcomes: for example, active users improved their simulated test scores by 30% over their initial assessment after using the platform.
Tomi Digital is a Colombian enterprise that believes the education paradigm can only be changed by producing better teachers. Its vision is to change the classroom experience from a static, rote model to a dynamic, active learning environment and aspires to facilitate meaningful learning within the classroom through innovative technological tools. The company’s technology includes a smart board that increases classroom interactivity through augmented reality. The company received impact investments from the education-focused investor GrayMatters Capital and other investors. More than 40,000 classrooms have been transformed to date, according to the company’s impact report.

Draw on Evidence

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

NESTA: 2
The Effectiveness of Education Programs Worldwide: Evidence from a Meta-Analytic Dataset

Conn, Katherine. 2016. “The Effectiveness of Education Programs Worldwide: Evidence from a Meta-Analytic Dataset.” Background Paper for the Education Commission.

NESTA: 1
The Escuela Nueva (The New School) in Colombia; An Innovative Educational Program in Developing Countries.

Ahmed, Refah and Samar Mari. 2018. “The Escuela Nueva (The New School) in Colombia; An Innovative Educational Program in Developing Countries.” Multi-Knowledge Electronic Comprehensive Journal For Education And Science Publications (MECSJ). ISSUE (15)

NESTA: 3
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

NESTA: 3
Innovation and Technology to Accelerate Progress in Education

Winthrop, Rebecca, Eileen McGivney, Timothy Williams, and
Priya Shankar. 2016. “Innovation and Technology to Accelerate Progress in Education.” Background Paper for Education Commission. Center for Universal Education (CUE) at The Brookings Institution.

NESTA: 3
What Are the Different Profiles of Successful Teacher Policy Systems?

Ganimian, A. J. and E. Vegas. 2011. “What Are the Different Profiles of Successful Teacher Policy Systems?” SABER- Teachers Background Paper, No. 5. World Bank: Washington, DC

NESTA: 3
Toward a better future: Education and training for economic development in Singapore since 1965

Goh, C.B. and S.K. Lee. 2008. “Making teacher education more responsive and relevant,” in Birger, Fredriksen, Sing Kong Lee, and Chor Boon Goh. Toward a better future: Education and training for economic development in Singapore since 1965. World Bank: Washington, DC.

NESTA: 1
Mobiles For Reading: A Landscape Research Review

USAID. 2014. “Mobiles for Reading: A Landscape Research
Review.” USAID: Washington, DC.

NESTA: 2
World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends

World Bank. 2016. World Development Report 2016: Digital
Dividends. World Bank: Washington, DC.

NESTA: 1
A Landscape Analysis of Information & Communication Technology’s Role in Education Effectiveness and Efficiency: Issues, Techniques, and Possibilities.

Relhan, Gaurav. 2016. “A Landscape Analysis of Information & Communication Technology’s Role in Education Effectiveness and Efficiency: Issues, Techniques, and Possibilities.” Background Paper for the Education Commission.

NESTA: 4
Educational Technology Topic Guide

Power, Tom. 2014. “Educational Technology Topic Guide.” HEART: Health and Education Advice and Resource Team: Oxford.

NESTA: 4
Can Technology Make a Difference? A Landscape Review

Dahya, Negin. 2016. “Education in Conflict and Crisis: How
Can Technology Make a Difference? A Landscape Review.” Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ): Bonn

NESTA: 1
Technology and Child Development: Evidence from the One Laptop per Child Program

Cristia, J., P. Ibarraran, S. Cueto, A. Santiago, and E. Severin. 2012. “Technology and Child Development: Evidence from the One Laptop per Child Program.” IDB Working Paper IDB-WP-304, Inter-American Development Bank, Washington, DC.

NESTA: 3
Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India

Banerjee, Abhijit Vinayak, Shawn Cole, Esther Duflo, and Leigh Linden. 2007. “Remedying Education: Evidence from Two Randomized Experiments in India.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122 (3): 1235–64.

NESTA: 4
Identifying Effective Education Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Meta-Analysis of Impact Evaluations

Conn, Katharine M. 2017. “Identifying Effective Education Interventions in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Meta-Analysis of Impact Evaluations.” Review of Educational Research (May 26).

NESTA: 4
Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya

Duflo, Esther, Pascaline Dupas, and Michael Kremer. 2011. “Peer Effects, Teacher Incentives, and the Impact of Tracking: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Kenya.” American Economic Review 101 (5): 1739–74.

NESTA: 4
Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim Ijaz Khwaja. 2015. “Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets.” Policy Research Working Paper 7226, World Bank, Washington, DC

NESTA: 4
The Impact of an Accountability Intervention with Diagnostic Feedback: Evidence from Mexico

de Hoyos, Rafael E., Vicente A. Garcia-Moreno, and Harry Anthony Patrinos. 2017. “The Impact of an Accountability Intervention with Diagnostic Feedback: Evidence from Mexico.” Economics of Education Review 58: 123–40.

NESTA: 3
The permanent input hypothesis: The case of textbooks and (no) student learning in Sierra Leone.

Sabarwal, S, Evans, DK and Marshak, A, 2014. The permanent input hypothesis: The case of textbooks and (no) student learning in Sierra Leone. Washington, DC: World Bank Group Education Global Practice Group & Africa Region

NESTA: 1
If you don't understand, how can you learn?

“If You Don’t Understand, How Can You Learn?” (Global Education Monitoring Report), February 2016.

NESTA: 3
Textbook Development in Low Income Countries: A Guide for Policy and Practice

Crabbe, Richard A.B. and Mary Nyingi, with Helen Abadzi, “Textbook Development in Low Income Countries: A Guide for Policy and Practice” (World Bank), 2014

NESTA: 1
Education in Africa: The Uberification of Education by Bridge International Academies, Learning (Re)imagined.

Brown-Martin, G. 2016. Education in Africa: The Uberification of Education by Bridge International Academies, Learning (Re)imagined.

NESTA: 1
Schooling the Poor Profitably: The Innovations and Deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda

Riep, C. and Machacek, M. 2016. Schooling the Poor Profitably: The Innovations and Deprivations of Bridge International Academies in Uganda. Brussels, Education International.

NESTA: 3
From Free to Fee: Are For-profit, Fee-charging Private Schools the Solution for the World’s Poor?

Smith, W. C. and Baker, T. 2017. From Free to Fee: Are For-profit, Fee-charging Private Schools the Solution for the World’s Poor? Washington, DC, RESULTS Educational Fund.

NESTA: 3
Review of school and instructional effectiveness research

Scheerens, J. 2004. Review of school and instructional effectiveness research. Background paper for EFA Global Monitoring Report 2005

NESTA: 3
Ethiopia: Second Phase of General Education Quality Improvement Project

World Bank, 2013. Ethiopia: Second Phase of General Education Quality Improvement Project Washington, DC, World Bank. (Project Appraisal Document, PAD476.)

NESTA: 2
Textbooks in the developing world: Economic and educational choices

Farrell, JP and Heyneman, SP, 1989. Textbooks in the developing world: Economic and educational choices. Washington, DC: Economic Development Institute of the World Bank (ch 4)

NESTA: 3
Quality education for all children. What works in education in developing countries?

Krishnaratne, S and White, H, 2013. Quality education for all children. What works in education in developing countries? Delhi: 3ie

NESTA: 3
Dropping out from school: A cross country review of literature.

Hunt, F, 2008. Dropping out from school: A cross country review of literature. Falmer, UK: Consortium for Research on Educational Access, Transitions and Equity (CREATE).

NESTA: 1
School Resources and Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: A Review of the Literature from 1990 to 2010

Glewwe PW, Hanushek EA, Humpage SD, Ravina R, 2011. School Resources and Educational Outcomes in Developing Countries: A Review of the Literature from 1990 to 2010. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research

NESTA: 3
The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data

Rockoff, J. E. (2004). “The Impact of Individual Teachers on Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data.” American Economic Review, 94(2), 247-252.

NESTA: 2
Do Financial Incentives Help Low-Performing Schools Attract and Keep Academically Talented Teachers? Evidence from California

Steele, J. L., Murnane, R. J., & Willett, J. B. (2009). “Do Financial Incentives Help Low-Performing Schools Attract and Keep Academically Talented Teachers? Evidence from California.” NBER Working Paper 14780. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

NESTA: 3
Teaching Students and Teaching Each Other: The Importance of Peer Learning for Teachers

Jackson, C. K., & Bruegmann, E. (2009). “Teaching Students and Teaching Each Other: The Importance of Peer Learning for Teachers.” NBER Working Paper 15202. Cambridge, MA: National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

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.