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 three 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. 
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
(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.