Africa Day and the AU’s Year of Education: Prioritizing Foundational Learning for a Brighter Future

Africa Day and the AU’s Year of Education: Prioritizing Foundational Learning for a Brighter Future

By: Kirstin Buchanan

Each year, May 25 marks Africa Day – a time to celebrate the rich culture, traditions, and diversity of the continent and its people. As a member of the African diaspora raised in the Caribbean, Africa Day is an opportunity for me to celebrate the strong cultural identity and common heritage that intricately connect us and an important reminder that together, we can lay the foundations for a brighter future.

This year, the African Union declared 2024 the “Year of Education,” calling on governments to accelerate progress toward achieving regional and global education targets.

With nearly 90% of 10-year-olds in Sub-Saharan Africa unable to read and understand a simple text, this declaration brings renewed hope for unlocking Africa’s immense potential, emphasizing the critical role of education. For the Luminos Fund, it underscores the importance of our education mission: to ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning.

Luminos student in The Gambia writes in his student workbook during class.

In The Gambia, Luminos student Ebrima practices his handwriting during class. Learning to write is a critical part of foundational literacy. (Photo: Lena Nian for the Luminos Fund) 

A Day of Celebration and Reflection

Africa Day commemorates the founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) on May 25, 1963. Since its founding, the OAU, known today as the African Union (AU), has served as the pillar of regional cooperation, focused on achieving shared development goals and promoting peace and stability through unity. Africa Day has become a day of both celebration and reflection on the region’s progress toward these goals.

Education is a crucial piece of the puzzle on Africa’s path to continued prosperity. The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25), adopted by AU heads of state and government, provides the framework for transforming education systems and equipping Africa’s youth to become agents of change for advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The theme for the AU’s Year of Education, “Educate and Skill Africa for the 21st Century,” is a timely reaffirmation of these commitments. Multiple years of compounding crises, from pandemics to climate change, have reversed much of the continent’s progress in education and underscored the urgency for building more equitable education systems that are resilient to future crises.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, one in five primary-school-aged children are still out of school. Even beyond access, one in four children does not complete primary school, and most children enrolled in school are not learning. At most, only one in five children achieves the minimum proficiency level in reading upon completing primary education (UNESCO).

Prioritizing foundational learning for all children is one of the most important tools for addressing the learning crisis. With strong foundations in literacy and numeracy, children and youth are empowered to access a world of knowledge and ideas that will enable them to build higher-order skills and unlock pathways to improved livelihoods. For the most marginalized children, the ability to read, write, and do math builds belief in their own potential, resulting in the confidence and motivation to succeed in future learning environments.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Luminos is helping out-of-school children get a second chance at education. I fondly remember one of my first experiences entering a Luminos classroom in Ethiopia – students’ faces lit up with joy as they practiced counting play money through a song, sung to the tune of a local nursery rhyme. Throughout the room, an array of colorful artwork, including numbers and the letters of the alphabet, bring life to the otherwise barren thatch and bamboo walls. By focusing on joyful, foundational learning, we provide children with a safe and inclusive environment where they can feel comfortable and enjoy the learning process. This, in turn, helps develop a love of learning in students that continues well beyond their time in the Luminos program.

Indeed, this was the experience of Luminos alumna, Degnesh, who is now proudly enrolled in grade 4 at her local government school. After many years out of school, Degnesh enrolled in the Luminos catch-up program in 2021. There, she built foundational reading, writing, and math skills, as well as her love for learning.  “When I entered the Luminos classroom, I could not identify letters,” says Degnesh. “Now I’m reading at home and at school. The program made me love education.”

Luminos alumna Degnesh outside her classroom holding her school books.

Luminos alumna, Degnesh, says, “I was sad to leave [the Luminos program], but at the same time, I was very proud of myself. Now I have the attitude that I can achieve anything I want.” (Photo: Michael Stulman/Luminos Fund) 

Beyond the individual impacts, strong foundational learning systems serve as the cornerstone for building flourishing societies by promoting productive citizenship, sustainable development, gender equality, improved health, social cohesion, and stability. In the words of the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed, “Investing in education is the greatest investment we can make in our common future, in peace, and sustainable development, and particularly in gender equality.

 A Critical Inflection Point

Addressing the learning crisis has long been an expressed priority for African governments. Many governments have endorsed the Commitment to Action on Foundational Learning, a global initiative launched at the 2022 United Nation’s Transforming Education Summit (TES), signaling their commitment to ensure foundational learning for all children and advance progress toward SDG 4 targets. The AU’s declaration of 2024 as the Year of Education presents an opportune, yet critical moment for governments to further build on these commitments and prioritize foundational learning in national policy agendas.

African governments and ministries of education can chart a path to a brighter future for generations to come by investing in strengthening education systems. While this takes many forms, evidence-based strategies include prioritizing implementation of structured pedagogies and instructional methods, ongoing teaching development and coaching, and robust monitoring and evaluation.

In addition to strong political leadership, substantial collaboration will be required.

SDG 4: Quality Education

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Targets:

  • 4.1 Free primary and secondary education
  • 4.2 Equal access to quality pre-primary education
  • 4.3 Equal access to affordable technical, vocational and higher education
  • 4.4 Increase the number of people with relevant skills for financial success
  • 4.5 Eliminate all discrimination in education
  • 4.6 Universal literacy and numeracy
  • 4.7 Education for sustainable development and global citizenship
  • 4.8 Build and upgrade inclusive and safe schools
  • 4.9 Expand higher education scholarships for developing countries
  • 4a Increase the supply of qualified teachers in developing countries

Education leaders and experts from Ethiopia, Ghana, and The Gambia during an inter-ministerial exchange facilited by Luminos in Ethiopia. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund) 

Through my experience at Luminos, I have learned that there is power in unity – no one country can solve the learning crisis alone. This notion of strength in unity was the impetus for a recent inter-ministerial exchange facilitated by Luminos, which convened a range of education leaders and experts from Ethiopia, Ghana, and The Gambia for a series of discussions on advancing foundational learning in Sub-Saharan Africa. This power in unity is also the very pillar on which the African Union was formed.

 This Africa Day, let us celebrate the unity and collaboration that has paved the way for the continent’s progress to date. Let us also unite in our commitment to work together to unlock the light of learning in every child through joyful, foundational learning, so they may bring to fruition the AU’s aspirations to transform Africa into the global powerhouse of the future.

Kirstin Buchanan

Kirstin Buchanan is the Communications and Advocacy Manager at the Luminos Fund where she amplifies student voices and program stories, in addition to helping drive content, messaging, and fundraising strategy. Kirstin leads the development and implementation of the communication strategy relating to the organization’s advocacy and government engagement work. She also leads engagement with the Luminos Fund Advisory Board.  

Transforming Liberia’s Education: A Journey from the Classroom to the Ministry of Education

Transforming Liberia’s Education: A Journey from the Classroom to the Ministry of Education

Hailing from rural Grand Bassa County, Liberia, Abba G. Karnga Jr. was destined to be an educator. From a young age, Abba’s father instilled in him a deep passion for learning and a commitment to shaping Liberia’s future through education.

With over a decade of service to the education sector, including seven years at the Luminos Fund, Abba has soared to new heights in his mission to improve Liberia’s education system: on April 2nd, Abba was confirmed as the new Assistant Minister of Basic Education at the Liberian Ministry of Education.

This milestone marks a significant achievement for Abba and highlights his inspiring journey from the classroom to becoming a key figure in Liberia’s education system. His story is not just one of personal accomplishment but also a testament to the transformative power of education.

Following in His Father’s Footsteps

Growing up, Abba’s father had never been to school, which was not uncommon for indigenous Liberians. After the country’s founding in 1822, political tensions led to the marginalization and systematic exclusion of indigenous Liberians from political, economic, and social life. Through determined persistence, and with the support of American missionaries, Abba’s father graduated high school and pursued higher education in the United States.

Abba encourages a Luminos student during the reading portion of an assessment. (Photo by Mara Chan/Luminos Fund)

Following in his father’s footsteps, Abba was determined to go to school, but his path to education was not easy. Liberia’s prolonged political instability and civil wars, ending in 2003, caused the deaths of an estimated 250,000 people – mostly civilians. The country’s education system was yet another casualty of the conflict. Thousands of Liberians, including Abba, had their education disrupted and many students dropped out of school altogether.

During the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1997), Abba and his family were forced to flee their home and seek refuge in Cote d’Ivoire when Abba was just 11 years old. As a refugee, education provided a much-needed sense of stability and hope. Over time, Abba built not only his foundational literacy and numeracy skills, but also his deep love for learning.

When his family returned to Liberia, Abba entered grade 9 in an education system with severe teacher shortages, resulting in overcrowded classrooms and poor-quality teaching. Despite these challenges, Abba graduated high school, and enrolled at Cuttington University in Liberia to study Education. However, the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003) disrupted his schooling yet again. When peace prevailed, Abba returned to school, graduated in 2007, and began his career as a school principal, starting his journey to reform Liberia’s education.

“High-quality education ensures the human capacity needed to drive the development and well-being of any nation, no matter where it is situated,” says Abba. “To transform Liberia, we must prioritize education for our people.”

“High-quality education ensures the human capacity needed to drive the development and well-being of any nation, no matter where it is situated. To transform Liberia, we must prioritize education for our people.”

Abba G. Karnga Jr., Assistant Minister of Basic Education, Liberian Ministry of Education

During a coaching session, Abba provides feedback to Luminos-trained teacher Matthew, who was recruited by community partner LIPACE. (Photo by Mara Chan/Luminos Fund)

Liberia’s Education Landscape

Liberia is a beautiful, inspiring, and very challenging context for raising children to fulfill their true potential. With a population of 5.3 million people, more than half of Liberians live in poverty. Furthermore, 44% of children of primary school age are out of school. Malnutrition and lack of access to basic technology further complicate learning. The Ebola outbreak in 2014, and more recently COVID-19, pushed thousands more children out of school.

During an interactive math lesson, Abba supports a group of students playing a learning game with flashcards. (Photo by Mara Chan/Luminos Fund)

“When schools reopened after Ebola, many families did not have the money to send their children back to school, which contributed to the out-of-school problem we see today in Liberia,” says Abba. This reality motivated him to help bring children back on the path to education.

In 2016, the Luminos Fund expanded our accelerated learning program from Ethiopia to Liberia as part of the country’s recovery journey post-Ebola. Abba joined Luminos in 2017 as a Program Manager and played a key role in shaping the program, helping double its size and strengthening partnerships with parents, community partners, and the Ministry of Education.

“I have always been inspired by programs that give hope to the less fortunate and vulnerable children of Liberia. The idea that a child in the most challenged parts of the country, who had never had the opportunity to learn the alphabet, can learn to read and write over the course of 10 months through the Luminos program — that was mind-blowing to me, and I knew that I had to be part of such magic,” reflects Abba.

“I have always been inspired by programs that give hope to the less fortunate and vulnerable children of Liberia. The idea that a child in the most challenged parts of the country, who had never had the opportunity to learn the alphabet, can learn to read and write over the course of 10 months through the Luminos program — that was mind-blowing to me, and I knew that I had to be part of such magic.”

Abba G. Karnga Jr., Assistant Minister of Basic Education, Liberian Ministry of Education

Each week, Abba would visit Luminos classrooms, providing regular mentoring and coaching for teachers and Luminos community partners.

“Abba worked tirelessly to improve every aspect of the Liberia program. He has an eye for identifying great teachers and played a major role in developing our training content and approaches to training teachers,” says James Earl Kiawoin, Luminos Country Manager in Liberia. “Several of our most outstanding supervisors got their training from Abba and learned by observing how he inspired students, coached facilitators, led trainings, and was laser focused on improving learning outcomes.”

Above all, Abba always encouraged students, serving as true exemplar of leading with passion. He never passed on an opportunity to share with students his belief in their capabilities, or give an impassioned speech on the importance of education.

“My time at Luminos was the most valuable phase of my career as an educator so far,” says Abba. “I witnessed and influenced a lot of transformations. I saw children who started the program not knowing even a single letter progress to reading above 50 words per minute. I also saw young high school graduates with limited teaching experience enter the program and become great teachers – some even became program supervisors.”

A New Journey Begins

Today, sitting at his desk at the Ministry of Education in Liberia, Abba draws inspiration from the words that are plastered on the hallway: “Children are Born Ready to Learn.” In his new role as Assistant Minister of Basic Education, Abba is responsible for developing and implementing programs that support the improvement of basic and secondary schools in Liberia and strengthening partnerships with development partners to ensure alignment with the Ministry’s priorities.

Throughout his youth and career, Abba never gave up on his pursuit of an education despite the challenges before him, much like his father. Abba has since devoted his life to expanding educational opportunities for other Liberians, to ensure that no child is denied the chance to learn.

“This new role gives me the opportunity to bring the commitment and skills that I have exhibited in various organizations over the last thirteen years at the national level,” says Abba.

Abba tests Luminos student Princess on her reading fluency. (Photo by John Healey for the Luminos Fund)

“I am passionate about seeing Liberian students compete with other students globally, and I am committed to ensuring that our students have all the resources necessary for success.”

Luminos Webinar on Proximate Leadership: Critical in the Fight Against Learning Poverty

Luminos Webinar on Proximate Leadership: Critical in the Fight Against Learning Poverty

On April 2, 2024, the Luminos Fund convened leading education experts to discuss how to build effective global-local partnerships that improve children’s learning outcomes and strengthen the roles of proximate leaders.

The webinar is part of an ongoing series highlighting the Luminos Method–a collection of best practices that are fundamental to the success of our program and equally relevant to organizations and governments helping children achieve foundational learning worldwide.

Speakers:

Dr. Una Osili, Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Armando Ali, CEO, PAL Network

LeAnna Marr, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Acting Senior Coordinator of U.S. International Basic Education Assistance, USAID

Caitlin Baron, CEO, Luminos Fund

Watch the webinar for valuable reflections:

Local Leadership and Innovation

“The people closest to the problems are often the ones who have the most innovative and relevant solutions.”

“As funders… building in flexibility is key because, especially in this fast-changing environment, unrestricted giving has enormous advantages as far as innovation and creativity are concerned.”

Dr. Una Osili, Associate Dean for Research and International Programs, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Echoing Dr. Una Osili’s emphasis on the importance of proximate leadership, Luminos prioritizes working with locally rooted, non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In our experience, these community partners approach the challenges of their country’s education system as their own, serving as stewards for the children of their communities. They provide a deep and nuanced understanding of national, regional, and local contexts. 

Community Engagement and Active Participation 

“The PAL Network is a movement of unsatisfied parents, mothers, fathers, and caretakers who started going from household to household, trying to find out if children could read a very simple story… what brings us together is this idea of finding ways to make citizens as active participants in the search for solutions to improve learning outcomes for all our children.

Armando Ali, CEO, PAL Network

Just as Armando Ali describes the PAL Network’s grassroots efforts to identify solutions to improve children’s learning outcomes, the Luminos model is built on active collaboration with community partners. This spans the entire partnership experience and nearly every aspect of the program, combining international best practices with deep local expertise and creativity. In addition, Luminos works alongside our community partners to engage parents and guardians in their children’s education by inviting them inside the classroom to witness their children’s progress and organizing monthly parent engagement group meetings. 

Learn more about how Luminos works with and supports our Community Partners element of the Luminos Method!

Local Leadership in Program Design 

“The first goal is that a quarter of USAID’s funding should be directly awarded to local partners. This is a big shift for us. I did, however, want to emphasize that our localization efforts are about more than just funding, though I know that funding is incredibly important. So the second goal is that at least half of USAID programs will be locally led, which for us means they create space for local actors to exercise leadership over priority setting, activity design, implementation, and defining and measuring results.”

LeAnna Marr, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Acting Senior Coordinator of U.S. International Basic Education Assistance, USAID

In line with USAID funding and program leadership goals, Luminos could not achieve our education mission as effectively, efficiently, and joyfully without the proximate leadership of our community partners. As of 2023, Luminos has helped over a quarter of a million children learn to read, write, and do math using this model, setting children on the path to lifelong learning. 

“The challenge before us is not to bring a local voice into the tent, it is to bring the cacophony of local voices into the tent: government, teachers, parents, and the children themselves who also very much deserve a voice in their education.”

Caitlin Baron, CEO, Luminos Fund

To learn more about how Luminos works with and supports our community-based partners, download the Community Partners element.

Explore additional elements of the Luminos Method here.

To view the webinar on LinkedIn and read the commentary from event participants, click here.

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Joyful Learning Webinar: Why Children Everywhere Learn Best When They Are Happy

Joyful Learning Webinar: Why Children Everywhere Learn Best When They Are Happy

On January 30, 2024, Luminos convened leading education experts to explore the power of Joyful Learning to drive better learning outcomes for children. The LinkedIn Live webinar featured insights from Dr. Kwame Akyeampong of the Open University, Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen of LEGO Education, and Caitlin Baron from the Luminos Fund. Watch the webinar for valuable reflections and read on for three key recommendations from the discussion.

Speakers:

Dr. Kwame Akyeampong, Professor of International Education and Development, Open University

Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen, Head of Educational Impact, LEGO Education

Caitlin Baron, CEO, Luminos Fund

Watch the webinar below:

Key speaker recommendations include:

1) Develop Joyful Learning on the Foundation of a Safe and Inclusive Environment

The well-being of students is paramount for joyful learning. Luminos CEO, Caitlin Baron, emphasizes this, stating, “We always emphasize that…learning of any kind really cannot happen until we can provide children with a safe and inclusive learning environment​​.” Ensuring staff and partners are well-trained, educating students about their rights, and promoting healthy practices are all critical components of ensuring student well-being.

Learn more in the importance of safe, inclusive, and healthy environments in the Joyful Learning element of the Luminos Method!

2) Develop a Meaningful Program of Study

Meeting students where they are with culturally relevant materials is a cornerstone of the Luminos approach. “A meaningful program of study…connects with these children’s interests and background,” says Dr. Kwame Akyeampong, underscoring the need to tailor education to the child’s learning level and cultural context​​.

Caitlin Baron adds that “the lack of resources doesn’t actually need to change the pedagogy, it just needs to change the materials and the modality.” This lesson challenges educators to adapt their teaching methods to the resources available without compromising on the quality of pedagogy.

“A meaningful program of study…connects with these children’s interests and background.”

Dr. Kwame Akyeampong

As a Luminos Board member, Dr. Kwame Akyeampong has observed that Luminos classrooms are “a very rich, stimulating environment. It is something that strikes you immediately.” To promote joyful learning, educators should create spaces that are vibrant and connected to the students’ community and experiences, using materials and resources that resonate with their backgrounds. A classroom where “there is a lot of movement, hand movement, a lot of talking” is one where joyful learning thrives, as described by Dr. Akyeampong.

“The lack of resource doesn’t actually need to change the pedagogy, it just needs to change the materials and the modality.”

Caitlin Baron

3) Employ an Engaging Pedagogy

Luminos uses “a range of fun and engaging teaching methods,” an essential practice for student interaction and empowerment.

Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen contributes to this point, saying, “Happiness is fundamental to learning. But the reality is when you are going to prioritize it, it is very difficult when you are faced with a stressed, highly competitive, and often resource-constrained environment​​.” An engaging pedagogy is designed not just for fun, but also to empower students to experience success, voice their opinions, and grow in confidence. By incorporating these principles into teaching strategies, teachers can cultivate an atmosphere where learning is not just an obligation, but a joyful and empowering journey for every learner.

Luminos students in The Gambia use their student workbooks during a literacy lesson.

Students in Ethiopia have fun during writing practice. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund) 

Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen speaks further to the importance of collaborative learning environments, “We know that children learn when they can share ideas, they collaborate, observe each other.”​ A joyful learning environment is one where interaction is encouraged, and everyone—teachers and students alike—contributes to and benefits from shared learning experiences.

“We know that children learn when they can share ideas, they collaborate, observe each other.”

Dr. Bo Stjerne Thomsen

Caitlin Baron adds to this, suggesting that a learning environment which allows children to “thrive is a real foundation for everything that comes after.”​ When students feel heard and are given the chance to succeed, their confidence and enjoyment in learning naturally increase.

To learn more about Luminos’ approach to creating joyful learning environments, download the full Joyful Learning element.

Explore additional elements of the Luminos Method here.

To view the webinar on LinkedIn and read the commentary from event participants, click here.

Learn more in the Joyful Learning element of the Luminos Method!

Amid Global Learning Crisis, New RCT Shows Dramatic Learning Gains for Luminos Students in Liberia 

Amid Global Learning Crisis, New RCT Shows Dramatic Learning Gains for Luminos Students in Liberia 

A new randomized controlled trial (RCT) shows children in the Luminos catch-up education program in Liberia achieve dramatic learning gains: a country where more than one in three children are out of school. In just one school year, Liberian children enrolled in the Luminos program learn 90% of what the average Liberian will learn in their lifetime. 

Boston, Massachusetts – The Luminos Fund, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable out-of-school children, is pleased to announce new results from a randomized controlled trial (RCT), confirming dramatic learning gains among children in the Luminos catch-up education program.  

In just one school year, Liberian children enrolled in the Luminos program learn 90% of what the average Liberian will learn in their lifetime. Read the full report and executive summary here.

“In the midst of a global learning crisis, with millions of children either out of school or attending without gaining foundational reading skills, there is an urgent need to make quality education a reality for every child,” said Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund. “The RCT results prove that children can learn a remarkable amount in a short period of time with the right support. Luminos students go from not recognizing all the letters in the alphabet at the start of the program to reading short stories by the end. This is truly transformative and establishes a solid foundation for lifelong learning.”  

IDinsight, a global research and advisory organization, conducted the RCT during the 2022-23 school year in Liberia. The data shows Luminos students progressed from reading an average of 4 words per minute (WPM) at the start of the program to 29 WPM by the end, compared to 7 WPM for children in the control group.

Jeffery McManus, Senior Economist at IDinsight, said, “The Luminos Fund is demonstrating that there is a way to reach the most marginalized children and to run an accelerated program that, within 10 months, can give them the building blocks that will prepare them to transition to and succeed in the mainstream education system.” 

In a review of external evaluations conducted in the global education sector, forty percent show no effect on student learning. Among the programs showing an impact, the Luminos program stands out as both transformational and cost-effective for children’s learning.  

LEARN MORE: 

For media inquiries, please contact Michael Stulman at michael@luminosfund.org or via WhatsApp at +1-667-289-7534.  

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About the Luminos Fund: The Luminos Fund runs catch-up education programs for some of the most vulnerable and hardest-to-reach children in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. In just one school year, out-of-school children learn how to read, write, and do math – to learn how to learn – through a joyful, activity-based curriculum. As an international education nonprofit, our mission is to ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning, especially those shut out of education by crisis, poverty, or discrimination. To date, Luminos has helped over 277,541 children secure a second chance to learn. 

Measuring Transformative Learning Gains: Key Findings from the IDinsight RCT of Luminos’ Liberia Program

Measuring Transformative Learning Gains: Key Findings from the IDinsight RCT of Luminos’ Liberia Program

Since 2016, the Luminos Fund’s one-year catch-up education program in Liberia has reached more than 17,660 out-of-school children. Luminos is always laser-focused on data to measure our program’s impact on children’s learning and, today, we are delighted to share the excellent results of a new IDinsight randomized controlled trial (RCT) of our Liberia program.

The RCT confirms that children make dramatic learning gains during our program. In the 2022-23 school year, Luminos students read four times more words per minute (WPM) and showed a two-times increase in addition and numeracy skills by the end of our one-year program, compared to the control group. Data from the RCT also shows that the Luminos program is one of only three education programs that is both transformational for children’s learning and cost-effective. Our team is immensely proud of these findings, which are a testament to our tireless focus on helping the most vulnerable children learn.

The Luminos Fund presented key findings from the RCT during our seventh annual U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) week luncheon in New York on September 19, 2023.

1. Luminos students achieve substantial learning gains year over year, even as the program reach has doubled in scale.

During the 2022-23 school year in Liberia, Luminos students progressed from reading an average of 4 WPM at the start of the program to 29 WPM by the end of the program. This remarkable increase is 21 WPM more than students in the control group gained. This finding mirrors external evaluation data from our two prior program years in Liberia when children achieved similar results. In this same three-year period, our program doubled from serving 2,400 students in the 2020-21 school year to 5,010 students in the 2022-23 school year. The RCT also finds that Luminos students achieve substantial gains in numeracy skills compared to the control group.

2. In one year, a child in the Luminos Liberia program learns 90% of what the average Liberian will learn in their lifetime.

The learning that Luminos students achieve in just one school year is almost as much as the average Liberian achieves over their entire life. No other externally evaluated program in Liberia has come close to the learning gains that IDinsight documented through the RCT of the Luminos program. [1]

This statistic not only highlights the remarkable impact of the Luminos program but also underscores the significant challenges facing the education system in Liberia. Luminos is honored to have such a strong presence in Liberia, including our partnership with government, to help more children achieve similarly remarkable results in the years ahead.

3. Uniquely, the Luminos program is both transformational and cost-effective.

The RCT results confirm that the Luminos program is one of only three education programs that have been shown to be both transformational for children’s learning and cost-effective. This is measured using data from the 2020 Global Education Evidence Advisory Panel “Smart Buys” report on learning gains and USAID cost-effectiveness metrics.

Why these two variables? An intervention’s cost is vitally important: even the most transformative education program may have limited ability to scale if the cost per child is extremely expensive. Equally, the total amount of learning achieved in a given intervention is vitally important. Foundational literacy interventions only become catalytic if they enable children to reach the threshold of fluent reading. A program that moves children from 3 to 6 WPM could appear cost-effective if it was delivered for a low cost, but would not have any deep or meaningful impact on that child. Thus, we mapped interventions by how they performed on these two variables.

The Luminos program is one of only three education programs that has been shown to be both transformational for children’s learning and cost-effective. Source: USAID, Early Grade Reading Barometer, GEEAP

(A grim side note that makes us all the more proud of the rarified results Luminos is achieving: A staggering 40% of evaluations in the education sector show no effect on student learning. Lots of work remains in the global community’s quest to ensure every child is receiving a high-quality education.)

Looking Ahead: Expanding Our Reach

The Luminos Fund’s impact on children’s learning is only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Cartier Philanthropy, Dubai Cares, Echidna Giving, Legatum, The LEGO Foundation, Mulago Foundation, Pousaz Philanthropies, UBS Optimus Foundation, USAID, and others. Luminos is scaling our model as broadly as possible, funding permitting, advancing our unwavering mission to ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning, especially those shut out of education by crisis, poverty, or discrimination. We are grateful to our global community of supporters, partners, and advisors for joining us on this important journey.

Read the full IDinsight RCT report.

Learn more about the Luminos program in Liberia.

[1] The Learning Adjusted Years of School expresses learning in comparison to what would be achieved in a high-quality education system within a year. This enables the comparison of learning outcomes across different contexts.

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The Luminos Fund is a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt charitable organization registered in the United States (EIN 36-4817073).

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