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.”

Students’ Welfare in the Center: Creating Safe, Inclusive, and Healthy Environments

Students’ Welfare in the Center: Creating Safe, Inclusive, and Healthy Environments

In a Luminos classroom in Ghana, students gather in a circle around the Luminos Program Coordinator, Suwaida Aziz. Students eagerly raise their hands to answer questions as Suwaida leads the class through “Your Promise,” a story for Luminos students to help them understand their rights and what to do if they have any concerns. Today, students listen to the story of Alpha, a child who has learning difficulties and sometimes mixes up his numbers.

“Can we learn if we have trouble writing?” Suwaida asks the class, prompting a series of hands to fly in the air. This short story about Alpha emphasizes inclusive learning and celebrating children’s unique differences.

At Luminos, we have the privilege of supporting vulnerable children every day through our catch-up education programs in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. In just one year, the Luminos program helps formerly out-of-school children learn how to read, write, and do math through a joyful, activity-based curriculum. At the heart of our mission is a firm commitment to protect children from harm. In the Luminos program, we have a zero tolerance policy for abuse of any kind. Students’ well-being is a top priority. Not only is it a fundamental right of all children, but it also helps them to learn effectively.

Topics Covered in “Your Promise,” a Story for Luminos Students About Safeguarding

Corina Wornee leads a session for students on their rights. (Photo: Mara Chan/Luminos Fund) 

“We not only teach and support students, but we also train and engage teachers, parents, and community members to ensure all students have a safe and inclusive environment and experience joyful learning,” says Corina Wornee, Luminos Global Safeguarding Lead and Liberia Senior Program Manager.

“By including the entire community, we ensure that everyone is more mindful of the well-being of their children. And Luminos is ensuring that learning is happening in a safe, joyful, and welcoming environment.”

Luminos takes a three-fold approach to ensure our student’s well-being: 1) safeguarding students’ welfare through extensive child protection training, 2) creating inclusive classrooms, and 3) supporting students’ health.

1. Safeguarding Student’s Welfare

We prioritize the well-being of our students by ensuring that staff are well-trained, students are educated about their rights, and there is a well-defined process to address any concerns. In all Luminos program locations, staff and teachers receive child protection and safeguarding training created by local and international specialists.

In these training sessions, we thoroughly review the Luminos Child Protection and Safeguarding Policy, covering topics such as child rights, classroom management, types of abuse, inclusive and gender-responsive teaching, and safeguarding with parents and the community. These sessions are designed to be interactive, providing teachers with frequent opportunities to apply new knowledge through case studies and role plays.

We also involve parents and community members as a holistic part of our child safeguarding strategy. Relevant topics are addressed in initial meetings with parent engagement groups before the school year starts and are woven into monthly meetings that teachers hold with parents throughout the year. Luminos strives to ensure all parents have a clear understanding of our safeguarding policy and their roles, and that they feel that the Luminos team respects their culture and rights to guide their child.

Finally, we make sure our students are educated about their rights so that they can build the confidence and skills to help protect themselves and their peers. Lessons are delivered throughout the year through a narrative format, using “Your Promise.”  Lessons are reinforced throughout the year.

2. Inclusive Classrooms

All children learn best when they are happy. Ensuring all students feel included and able to fully participate in class is essential for providing a joyful learning experience. To that end, we prioritize inclusion in every facet of the Luminos program, from teacher recruiting and training to classroom instruction. Reinforcing the belief that all children are capable of learning is critical. We also train teachers in gender-responsive teaching and work with parents to support girls’ learning by addressing gender-related topics in our parent engagement meetings. Our pedagogy intentionally includes using multiple techniques to engage students and present information in a variety of ways, maximizing learning for all students, regardless of background and learning needs.

Luminos students in Konso, Ethiopia, enjoying their hot lunch. (Photo: Michael Stulman/Luminos Fund) 

3. Healthy Students

We recognize that good health supports students in having enjoyable and successful learning experiences. Health information is often limited in the communities where we work, so Luminos integrates some health education into our daily curriculum. Topics include common diseases, hygiene, nutrition, the human body, and substance abuse, among others. In places where there is significant food insecurity, Luminos also provides a free hot lunch to our students, helping them stay healthy, concentrate better on their lessons, and serving as an additional incentive for enrollment and attendance.

Through this three-fold approach, we prioritize our students’ safety and well-being, allowing them to fully engage in our classrooms and experience joyful learning firsthand.

“Placing student welfare at the center of everything we do is part of Luminos’ DNA,” Corina notes. “It is only after ensuring students feel safe and included that joyful learning can occur, allowing students to build foundational reading, writing, and math skills.”

To learn more about Luminos’ approach to making learning joyful in our classrooms, explore the full Joyful Learning element of the Luminos Method!

“Placing student welfare at the center of everything we do is part of Luminos’ DNA. It is only after ensuring students feel safe and included that joyful learning can occur, allowing students to build foundational reading, writing, and math skills.”

Corina Wornee, Luminos Global Safeguarding Lead and Liberia Senior Program Manager

Melvina, a Luminos student in Liberia, chants along with her peers during a lesson on child rights using an early version of “Your Promise.” (Photo: Mara Chan/Luminos Fund) 

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, 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.

Emmanuel: A Family Steps on the Path to Education in Liberia 

Emmanuel: A Family Steps on the Path to Education in Liberia 

On a bustling government school campus in Liberia, students on their lunch break fill the air with loud and lively conversation.

Tucked away from the midday sun under the cool shade of a corridor, a Luminos alum named Emmanuel shares his story. At 15 years old, Emmanuel has achieved something remarkable: he’s made it to the eighth grade after being out of school for nearly a decade. And he has no plans of stopping.

“I’d like to go and continue my education past high school — go to college, and get a degree in medicine,” he says.

These big dreams and achievements are possible because Emmanuel attended Luminos’ catch-up education program four years ago. Inside a joyful, interactive classroom, Emmanuel learned how to read, write, and do math for the first time.

“I’m proud to be in school and learning because they teach us, and we can learn, and then take it home to our parents.”

Emmanuel, Luminos alum

“I like school because education is a powerful tool and the key to everything,” he explains.

Emmanuel’s mother, Josephine, marveled at the pace at which he was learning.

“They were learning really fast,” she says. “And he’s still progressing. The program helped him a lot. I’m proud that he can read and write.”

Emmanuel and his fellow Luminos alum, Princess, stand with their former Luminos teacher, Varney.

Josephine, who had to drop out of school after first grade, saw the Luminos program as an opportunity to ensure Emmanuel’s future would be different from her own.

When Josephine learned about Luminos’ free catch-up education program, she knew it was a second chance to help her son learn, grow, and gain the tools he needed to succeed — and the first step for their family into the world of education.

In the Luminos classroom, Emmanuel discovered his passion for math, which quickly became his favorite subject.

“Everything in math is my favorite — subtraction, percentages, addition,” Emmanuel says.

When Emmanuel completed the Luminos program, he was equipped with strong foundational learning skills and transitioned into fourth grade at his local government school.

One of Emmanuel’s current teachers, Robert, was amazed at the differences between Luminos alumni like Emmanuel and other students. Luminos students were better behaved, able to concentrate for longer periods, could pronounce words correctly, and were much more likely to volunteer — especially to read in front of the class.

“They were learning really fast. And he’s still progressing. The program helped him a lot. I’m proud that he can read and write.”

Josephine, mother of Luminos alum Emmanuel

“Emmanuel is especially good at math,” Robert notes, observing that while other students will count using their fingers, Emmanuel is able to do mental math quickly. Robert says that, even during breaks, Emmanuel can often be found in the classroom running his friends through math problems on the blackboard.

“It helped me,” says Emmanuel of the Luminos program. “Before I didn’t know math, and now I know math and I’m on the Middle School Academic Team!” As a member of his school’s Academic Team, Emmanuel participates in quiz competitions where he excels at answering math questions.

“I’m proud to be in school and learning,” says Emmanuel, “because they teach us, and we can learn, and then take it home to our parents.”

In addition to bringing knowledge home to his family, Emmanuel dreams of improving his community.

“I want to see my community get better. I want to see water pumps and a market every day. I want to be a doctor because a doctor helps other people.”

Meet Emmanuel’s Former Luminos Teacher: Varney

Varney, now a supervisor of Luminos classrooms, was Emmanuel’s teacher in 2019 when Emmanuel attended the Luminos program.

“Emmanuel was very smart,” Varney recalls. Varney is not surprised by Emmanuel’s continued love of math, noting that Emmanuel helped as his teacher’s assistant in mathematics. Varney still comes to check on his former Luminos students on their government school campus.

Read this story and others from our various country programs in our 2022 Annual Report!

To learn more about our Liberia program, click here.

The Luminos Fund's 2022 Annual Report spread on a wooden table.

Photo credit for this story: Mara Chan

Cracking the Code: Phonics 101

Cracking the Code: Phonics 101

In Luminos classrooms, we use a systematic and explicit phonics-based approach to teach children to read. But what is phonics and why do we use it? 

Phonics is a step-by-step way of teaching children to decode and recognize new words rather than just memorizing words by sight. At the start of a systematic phonics approach, children are taught the simplest relationships between letters and their corresponding sounds, such as the letters b, a, and t. Then children can begin decoding simple words by identifying the individual sounds represented by each letter and blending them together to pronounce a word. For example, children that have already learned the sounds for the corresponding letters b, a, and t, will be able to decode the word “bat” and pronounce it (/b/ /a/ /t/). Lessons then gradually progress to cover more complex relationships between letters and sounds, enabling students to read a wide range of new words.

The reason we use phonics is simple: it is proven to be the best way to teach children how to read.[1]

Blending Sounds to Read Words

For more detailed information on phonics, visit this webpage to access the latest Luminos Method element: Phonics for First-Generation Readers >

“The reason we use phonics is simple: it is proven to be the best way to teach children how to read.”

While some children may be able to learn to read through a less structured approach, phonics is significantly more effective and inclusive. For example, research shows that phonics is particularly beneficial for children with learning differences such as dyslexia, and that it particularly benefits students from low-income backgrounds and those who do not speak the language of instruction as their first language.[2] For first-generation readers who are growing up in a home without books or parents who can read to them, phonics instruction is equipping them with the tools they need to become independent, confident readers.

What strikes many people when they first see phonics instruction is that it involves a lot of repetition. The debate on how to teach children is fueled by such judgments, with some arguing that this repetition stifles creativity, but this is misguided. It is precisely because we want children to develop critical thinking skills and creativity that phonics approaches are so effective. Learning to read with phonics means that the process of decoding words becomes completely automatic, and children can focus on higher-order skills like comprehension, fluency, and yes, critical thinking and creativity.

Learn more about phonics in the Phonics for First-Generation Readers element of the Luminos Method ↓

A useful analogy, for those of us who perhaps cannot remember learning to read, is to think about how you learned to type.

“I learned in my early 20s using the Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing program,” shares Dr. Kirsty Newman, Vice President of Programs at Luminos. “It involved a lot of repetition, but now that I have developed the skills, I can type without even having to use my thinking brain at all – it feels completely automatic. This means that my conscious brain can be fully utilized to create and problem-solve.”

Teaching literacy with phonics enables a similar phenomenon for reading – children learn how to decode text automatically, leaving them with plenty of brain power left over for analysis, problem-solving, and so forth. Thus, the old adage really comes true – “first, you learn to read and then you read to learn.”

The Impact of Phonics in Liberia

In 2016, the Luminos Fund expanded our accelerated learning program from Ethiopia to Liberia. Liberia had one of the highest rates of out-of-school children in the world and our top priority was improving students’ reading skills. We began using an approach that has worked well in Ethiopia, supplementing the government curriculum with games and activities that encouraged student participation and joyful learning.

However, we soon found that students were not learning as expected; although they were engaged and having fun, they still were unable to read even simple words. With only 10 months in our program, we urgently needed to find a solution that would equip children with the necessary literacy and numeracy skills to be successful in government schools. After a deeper analysis of the government curriculum and a review of alternative approaches being used in the country, we decided to implement a phonics-based program created by a local non-governmental organization (NGO).

The impact of the new materials and methods was clear; students were soon reading with a level of fluency we had not seen before. Recent project evaluations continue to demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach: our students in Liberia typically start the program able to identify just a few letters of the alphabet, and after 10 months they can graduate reading at an average of 39 words per minute. By learning quickly and frequently experiencing success, students grow their self-belief, propelling them on their learning journey. 

“At first it was a bit difficult, as it was a new way of teaching for our teachers, but they soon saw the progress that students were making. That was very motivating for them, they could see that children were actually reading for themselves.”

Alphanso G. Menyon, Liberia Program Coordinator, Luminos Fund

Learn more about our work in Liberia here.

Additional Resources and Reading on Phonics:

Washington Post: “Cut the politics. Phonics is the best way to teach reading.”

Reading Rockets: “Reading 101: A Guide to Teaching Reading and Writing.”

National Literacy Trust: “What is Phonics?”

Northern Illinois University. College of Education: “Raising Readers: Tips for Parents.”

References:

[1] The National Reading Panel’s meta-analysis of literacy research, published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD] (2000), found “solid support for the conclusion that systematic phonics instruction makes a bigger contribution to children’s growth in reading than alternative programs providing unsystematic or no phonics instruction.” Shanahan and August (2006) found that the research on second language learners also demonstrated the importance of a phonics-based approach.

[2] August D. & Shanahan T. (2006); NICHD, 2000; Machin, S., McNally, S. & Viarengo, M. (2018) Changing how literacy is taught: evidence on synthetic phonics. American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 10(2), 217–241.

Luminos Liberia Students Make Substantial Literacy Gains in 2021-22

Luminos Liberia Students Make Substantial Literacy Gains in 2021-22

Read the full report summary ↑

In 2016, the Luminos Fund launched its accelerated, catch-up learning program in Liberia to help address the country’s urgent education needs – including one of the world’s highest recorded rates of out-of-school children. To date, Luminos has helped 12,650 Liberian children catch up on learning and reintegrate into local government schools. In addition, Luminos has trained 497 young adults on our pedagogy and model, and supported them to deliver the catch-up program in classrooms.

During the 2021-22 school year, the Luminos program increased children’s oral reading fluency (ORF) by 28 correct words per minute (CWPM), with girls progressing 3 CWPM more than boys. Students also made substantial gains in numeracy, with a 28 percentage point improvement in addition and a 20 percentage point improvement in subtraction. Our latest report, “Liberia 2021-22 Endline Evaluation Report,” summarizes results from the 2021-22 Luminos program endline evaluation conducted by Q&A Services. [1]

In 2021-22, the Luminos program ran for 9 months—from November to August— in line with the Ministry of Education’s 2021-22 official academic calendar; this calendar was shifted slightly compared to a standard, September – June calendar due to COVID-19. Luminos students attended class for 7 hours per day from Monday to Friday, with approximately 5 hours per day devoted to reading and 2 hours to numeracy.

Luminos supported 3,150 out-of-school students across 105 classes and five counties (Bomi, Bong, Grand Cape Mount, Margibi, and Montserrado) in Liberia. Every year, Luminos works closely with a small group of community-based partners, each of which manages a cluster of classrooms, to deliver the program.

The results of the evaluation show that the Luminos Fund’s Liberia program positively impacted student reading and math outcomes across all EGRA and EGMA subtasks in the 2021-22 school year. 

Evaluation Overview

The evaluation aimed to demonstrate the impact of the Luminos Liberia program on student literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional outcomes during the 36-week 2021-22 program. Q&A Services assessed the literacy and numeracy levels of a random sample of students across all Luminos classes in the first two weeks of the program (baseline) and again in the final week of the program (endline). The RTI/USAID-developed Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) and Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA) tools, adapted for Liberia, were used at both baseline and endline to assess students on a variety of early grade reading and math skills. A socio-emotional learning (SEL) assessment was also conducted with a subset of the student sample using the International Social Emotional Learning Assessment (ISELA) tool. For more details on the evaluation and methods used, please see the full report summary.

Overall Results

The results of the evaluation show that the Luminos program positively impacted student achievement in both reading and math.

Literacy

On reading, students showed improvement across every EGRA subtask, including an improvement of 50 percentage points on letter identification, 46 percentage points on oral reading fluency (ORF) of Grade 2 level text, 39 percentage points on familiar words, and 33 percentage points on reading comprehension. For ORF, students could read 29 CWPM at endline, compared to 1 CWPM at baseline, an improvement of 28 CWPM.

Numeracy

On numeracy, students again showed improvement across every single EGMA subtask, including an improvement of 35 percentage points on number identification, 33 percentage points on number discrimination, 28 percentage points on addition, 20 percentage points on subtraction, and 22 percentage points on word problems. While the program impacted student achievement on mathematics, improvement was less significant than for literacy. This makes sense given that 5 hours of the Luminos school day (approximately 70% of instructional time) is devoted to literacy and 2 hours each day (30% of instructional time) is devoted to numeracy.

Conclusion

The results of the evaluation show that the Luminos Fund’s Liberia program positively impacted student reading and math outcomes across all EGRA and EGMA subtasks in the 2021-22 school year. Results show that the average student improved by 28 CWPM within the 9-month program, with girls improving 3 CWPM more than boys. These results are incredibly impressive given the short (9-month) timeframe for the Luminos program. Results for the SEL assessment show improvement on self-concept, particularly for girls, suggesting possible impact of the Luminos program on broader student development; however, further research is required. When compared with similar programs in Liberia and globally, year on year the Luminos program is showing strong learning outcomes, particularly on literacy.

To read the full report summary, including additional background on our Liberia program and a more detailed overview of the evaluation and methods used, click here.

References:

  1. Simpson, A. “Luminos Fund Endline Evaluation 2021-22, Liberia,” Q&A Services, December 2022.

71 Commercial Street, #232 | Boston, MA 02109 |  USA
+1 781 333 8317   info@luminosfund.org

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

Privacy Policy

We use cookies in order to give you the best possible experience on our website. By continuing to use this site, you agree to our use of cookies.
Accept
Reject