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.

What are likely consequences of these impact risk factors?

Such risks could lead to clients’ inability to effectively use the services provided. Opportunity costs from the use of products and services that are not effectively tailored to meet clients’ needs can be one negative impact. In cases involving harmful sociopolitical practices, such as corruption, possible negative effects on targeted or affected stakeholders could be considerable.

Illustrative Investment

Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) is a large-scale, multi-country research program to understand how school systems in the developing world can deliver better learning for all. By supporting, facilitating, synthesizing, and harnessing education systems research, the RISE Programme aims (1) to provide an analytical framework to describe and understand how education systems function; (2) generate research that evaluates large-scale efforts at system reform on the basis of their impact on student learning and equity in learning across genders and socio-economic classes; (3) explain why reforms succeed or fail; (4) collect and disseminate new quantitative and qualitative data on education in general; and (5) build a community of practice of local and international researchers, policymakers, and education practitioners to ensure they have access to the most relevant, up-to-date research. RISE is a partnership between UKaid, Australia Aid and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Stakeholder Participation Risk: Inappropriate tailoring of products, inadequate technical literacy, insufficient understanding of the objectives and experience of those affected by the EMIS, lack of trust in government or technology service providers, or any of these could lead to comparatively low technological adoption rates and reduced positive impact on clients. To mitigate this risk, investors should deeply understand the socio-political environments in which investees intend to operate, understanding in particular the likelihood targeted and affected stakeholders will adopt the product or service.

Draw on Evidence

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

NESTA: 3
Teaching with the test: experimental evidence on diagnostic feedback and capacity building for public schools in Argentina

De Hoyos, Rafael, Alejandro J. Ganimian, and Peter A. Holland. “Teaching with the test: experimental evidence on diagnostic feedback and capacity building for public schools in Argentina.” (2017).

NESTA: 3
Information and collective action in community-based monitoring of schools: Field and lab experimental evidence from Uganda

Barr, Abigail, Frederick Mugisha, Pieter Serneels, and Andrew Zeitlin. “Information and collective action in community-based monitoring of schools: Field and lab experimental evidence from Uganda.“ Unpublished paper, Georgetown University, 2012.

NESTA: 1
Community-Based Accountability for School Improvement: A Case Study for Rural India

Galab, S., C. Jones, M. Latham, and R. Churches. “Community-Based Accountability for School Improvement: A Case Study for Rural India.” Washington, DC: Center for Education Innovations, 2013.

NESTA: 3
Oregon DATA Project Final Evaluation Report

Next Level Evaluation, Incorporated. Oregon DATA Project Final Evaluation Report. Salem, Oregon: Oregon Department of Education, 2011.

NESTA: 3
Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets

Andrabi, Tahir, Jishnu Das, and Asim Ijaz Khwaja. 2017. “Report Cards: The Impact of Providing School and Child Test Scores on Educational Markets.” American Economic Review, 107 (6): 1535-63.

NESTA: 1
Using National Education Management Information Systems to Make Local Service Improvements: The Case of Pakistan

Nayyar‐Stone, Ritu. 2013. “Using National Education Management Information Systems to Make Local
Service Improvements: The Case of Pakistan.” PREM Note, Special Series on the Nuts and Bolts of
M&E Systems. Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network (PREM), World Bank,
Washington, DC.

NESTA: 3
The Impact of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) on the Management Practices of Malaysian Smart Schools

Zain, M .Z. M., H. Atan, and R. M. Idrus. 2004. “The Impact of Information and Communication Technology
(ICT) on the Management Practices of Malaysian Smart Schools.” International Journal of
Educational Development 24 (2): 201–11.

NESTA: 4
Information and Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools

Rockoff, Jonah, Douglas Staiger, Thomas Kane, and Eric Taylor. 2010. “Information and
Employee Evaluation: Evidence from a Randomized Intervention in Public Schools.”
NBER Working Paper 16240, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA.

NESTA: 3
Information, school choice, and academic achievement: Evidence from two experiments

Hastings, J.; Weinstein, J. 2008. “Information, school choice, and academic achievement: Evidence from two experiments.” In: Quarterly Journal of Economics, 123(4), 1373–1414.

NESTA: 3
Community participation in public schools: Impact of information campaigns in three Indian states

Pandey, P.; Goyal, S.; Sundararaman, V. 2009. ‘Community participation in
public schools: Impact of information campaigns in three Indian states’.
In: Education Economics, 17(3), 355–375.

NESTA: 4
EGRA Plus: Liberia. Program Evaluation Report.

Piper, B. and Korda, M. 2010. “EGRA Plus: Liberia.” Program
Evaluation Report, RTI International.

NESTA: 2
Opportunity to Learn: A high impact strategy for improving educational outcomes in developing countries.

Moore, Audrey-Marie Schuh, Joseph DeStefano, and Elizabeth Adelman. Opportunity to Learn: A high impact strategy for improving educational outcomes in developing countries. Washington DC: Education Policy and Data Center (EPDC), 2012.

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.