The “Secret Sauce” to Scaling Up Quality Education in Developing Countries

Julia Gillard, Jenny Perlman Robinson, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Feb 16, 2017
Commentary by Stephen Downes

According to this article, "we know that large-scale progress, in both getting children into school and learning, is possible." It being Stanford, a certain amount of scepticism is warranted (83 page PDF). The 'secret sauce' is actually a combination of "14 core ingredients that appear to contribute to scaling quality learning, with the right combination depending on the context," grouped into four areas:

  • Design - "develop programs and policies that students, parents, or teachers actually want—not ones that governments, practitioners, or funders think they need
  • Delivery - "not new gadgets to replace teachers, but tools to help overcome a specific barrier, such as poor roads or a lack of reading materials."
  • Finance - "stability, flexibility, and predictability in financing are critical for scale that leads to lasting changes in children’s learning."
  • An enabling environment - "government must accept responsibility for ensuring a quality education for all, reaching out to a range of partners, and considering new ways of improving learning."

It's hard to disagree with any of these points, but the difficulty is always in the details. How do you determine what learners actually want? How do you deal with the scale of delivery problems? What are the mechanisms for stable finance? How do you convince increasingly reluctant governments to take responsibility for education?

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