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How do government decision-makers adopt large-scale educational innovations?

Providing quality, inclusive and equitable education remains one of the biggest challenges for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). Two hundred and sixty million children are currently out of school and up to 8 out of 10 children in low-income countries are functionally illiterate by their 10th anniversary. COVID-19 has intensified this, with early data suggesting the pandemic may have wiped out 20 years educational achievements. Despite the efforts of global, national and local actors, improving education is progressing too slowly and unevenly to meet the scale of the need.

Since 2014, the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution has sought to address the challenges of scaling impact in education through the Millions Learning Project, which focuses on how and under what conditions innovations in quality education evolve. In 2020, Millions Learning joined the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) program, a joint partnership between GPE and the International Development Research Center (IDRC) , to facilitate cross-national, multi-team, design collaboration – a research-based initiative and professional support called Research on Scaling the Impact of Innovations in Education (ROSIE). ROSIE brings together researchers and practitioners working in 29 PRITIs to study the processes of scaling up education initiatives and to deepen the impact of their ongoing work. In parallel with this learning work alongside these researchers and practitioners of scaling, we are pursuing a complementary qualitative study on how governments identify, adopt and support large-scale educational innovations. The following summary report and conclusions focus on this study on decision-making at the national level.

In this qualitative study, CUE seeks to examine how national and regional public sector decision makers approach the scaling up of education innovations in LMICs. This includes exploring what they see as key factors or influences on the process of supporting or adopting large-scale educational innovations, what are the contours and calculations of their decision-making processes, and how the broader components of the decision ecosystem are interdependent. To answer these questions, CUE conducted three separate reviews of existing literature and conducted more than a dozen hour-long semi-structured interviews with national education decision-makers in five GPE countries: Bhutan, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan and Malawi. CUE also drew on data from the ongoing ROSIE Collaborative Study with our 15 Collaborative Teams, in which we are learning alongside KIX teams working at scale and researching promising innovations across 29 PRITIs.

The first section of the full report describes the data and study methods. The second section provides the context for the analysis by examining the mechanisms for identifying and adopting educational innovations in LMICs. The third section offers insights emerging from the analysis, and the fourth section presents final considerations for action. By illuminating and analyzing how some of these decision-making processes and insights are occurring in a handful of countries, CUE hopes to open the “black box” of partnering with government for scaling up education and sharing advice with others.

As this study is ongoing, this information is provisional and will likely be deepened and expanded during our second cycle of data collection which will be conducted in the last months of 2022. A final report will be published in 2023.

Download the full report»

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