Luminos Welcomes New Members to Board of Directors and Advisory Board

Luminos Welcomes New Members to Board of Directors and Advisory Board

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

January 17, 2023 

Boston, Massachusetts – The Luminos Fund, an international nonprofit bringing education opportunities to the world’s most vulnerable children, is delighted to welcome two new board members who will help shape and scale the organization’s mission to ensure all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning. Dr. Kwame Akyeampong has been appointed to the Luminos Board of Directors, and Dr. Aleesha Taylor is joining the Advisory Board. 

“We are thrilled to expand our boards with two new members who will bring valuable expertise and insights to our work,” said Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund. “Kwame and Aleesha have an enormous amount of experience that will help our programs have an even deeper and more meaningful impact on the lives of the most vulnerable out-of-school children, and I truly look forward to their partnership as our journey continues.” 

Kwame is Professor of International Education and Development at the Open University. He has over 25 years’ experience in education program evaluation, teacher education policy, education access, and equity with a focus on disadvantaged and marginalized groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. Kwame played a leading role in a longitudinal study of the Luminos flagship program in Ethiopia, and served on the Luminos Advisory Board from 2021-2022. 

“According to Sustainable Development Goal 4, we have just about seven years to ensure that all children have access to quality education and prevent the current learning crisis from deepening. However, this goal will not be achieved without paying more attention to the educational needs of out-of-school children. This is why I am particularly excited to be joining the Board at a time when Luminos is expanding its efforts to tackle this challenge,” said Kwame.   

He added, “I look forward to working with my fellow Board members to support Luminos as it continues to extend a second chance for out-of-school children to achieve their educational ambitions. Together we can make this happen.”

Dr. Kwame Akyeampong

Dr. Aleesha Taylor

Aleesha is the Principal of Herald Advisors, a consulting firm she founded to support leaders and organizations to thrive in the intersections of philanthropy, education, and international development. Aleesha previously served as the Deputy Director of the Open Society Foundations’ education program, where she managed a team across five countries to implement a global grant making portfolio that sought to strengthen education systems and civil society. 

Aleesha said, “Joining the Luminos Advisory Board is an exciting way to begin 2023!  Supporting an organization that effectively partners with governments to deliver and scale life-changing learning opportunities for vulnerable children is an opportunity that I do not take lightly. Luminos has created a model that enables education systems to fulfill national and global commitments. I’m grateful for the opportunity to support its continued growth.” 

To learn more about the Luminos boards and read member biographies, click here. 

Reading Wars Won’t Fix the Learning Crisis

Reading Wars Won’t Fix the Learning Crisis

By: Kirsty Newman, PhD, Vice President of Programs 

Luminos is thrilled to welcome Kirsty Newman, PhD, joining the team as Vice President of Programs. In this new role, Kirsty oversees the global programs team to support joyful, foundational learning for children at the margins. Before joining Luminos, Kirsty held senior leadership roles in various bilateral, multi-lateral, and non-governmental development organizations, focusing on education and evidence-informed policy making.

In a new podcast series from American Public Media Reports, Sold a Story: How Teaching Kids to Read Went So Wrong, journalist Emily Hanford highlights one of the longest-running education debates in the U.S. – how do we teach children how to read? 

While this might seem relevant only to education experts in the U.S., there are similarly fierce battles in the global education space, and we can all draw important lessons for education policies and practices. 

Worldwide, most children are not learning to read by age ten. In low-income countries, the proportion of kids who can’t read by the time they are 10 reaches 90%, and most children who cannot read by age ten never become fully literate.  

It is hard to overstate the impact of this learning crisis; every one of the Sustainable Development Goals will be challenging, if not impossible, to achieve if most young people are not even learning to read.  

The learning crisis has resulted from a long track record of underinvestment in education systems along with a tendency to focus more on school attendance than actual learning outcomes. As a result, poor-quality education has become self-perpetuating, with poorly-educated and often untrained teachers unable to provide high-quality teaching to their students.  

The podcast describes how many U.S. education experts position themselves in one of two opposing camps: those who believe in the “science of reading” and those who support “balanced literacy.” The first emphasizes the importance of teaching literacy through a gradual approach starting with letter recognition and then building up to the ability to read whole words and sentences. The other approach relies more on a child’s experience and context to understand texts. 

As set out in the podcast, there is clear evidence that phonics-based approaches are superior in enabling children to become fluent readers. It is necessary that the skills in decoding words become automatic so that cognitive capacity can be used for higher-order skills such as understanding, analyzing, and inferring. However, what shines through in the podcast is that people on both sides of the so-called reading wars have remarkably similar end goals.   

At Luminos, we have found that in education policy debates, it can be incredibly helpful to acknowledge this shared intent. Most people who work in this sector are passionate advocates for children. They want them to be safe from harm, to have the opportunity to experience the joy of learning, and to develop the skills they need to thrive.  

The great news is that Luminos has a track record demonstrating that it is possible to deliver all these things, even in low-resource settings. Our programs: 

  • Prioritize the safety and well-being of children, 
  • Draw on the science of teaching and iterate continually to achieve tangible impacts on foundational learning (particularly literacy and numeracy), and, 
  • Incorporate teaching approaches that are engaging and joyful. 

A Luminos student in Ethiopia completes a writing assignment. (Photo: Mekbib Tadesse for the Luminos Fund)

Our experience at Luminos proves that it is possible to focus on building foundational skills (particularly literacy and numeracy) in a way that also builds the foundations for broader skills, such as critical thinking and socio-emotional learning.  

We have an intensive, child-centered approach that has reached more than 172,957 children in Ethiopia, Ghana, Lebanon, Liberia, and The Gambia. Research shows Luminos students go on to complete primary school at twice the rate of their peers, consistently outperform peers by an average of 10% in English and Math, are happier and more confident, and have higher aspirations for their future. Children are achieving remarkable progress in learning to read, write, and do math during our one-year program. 

Debate and discussion are crucial, but the more we can work together to advance proven strategies for teaching reading skills, the more likely we are to overcome the learning crisis.

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. Student improvement in reading was statistically significant. 

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, with a statistically significant impact on the former.

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. Student improvement in reading was statistically significant. 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.

The Power of Self-Belief to Accelerate Foundational Learning: Watch the Webinar

The Power of Self-Belief to Accelerate Foundational Learning: Watch the Webinar

Children everywhere learn best when they are happy, but for children who have fallen behind, how do you help them become confident, successful, life-long learners? Watch our webinar below to find the answers, as we dive into the Identity & Self-Belief element of the Luminos Method.

Our speakers discuss how children form beliefs about their own abilities, how this affects their development in school, and strategies to help students build their confidence.

Speakers:

Caitlin Baron

Caitlin Baron

CEO, Luminos Fund

“Part of our work is telling our children they can be successful, telling our teachers that every child can succeed, but actually, an equal part of our work is actually showing them that they can.”

Caitlin Baron, CEO, Luminos Fund

Dr. Alex Eble

Dr. Alex Eble

Assistant Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

“The emphasis on confidence building is important because in life, as in school, we come upon challenges, and so bumping up against challenges is a key place in which we need to emphasize the importance of persistence, the importance of identity, the importance that I belong.”

Alex Eble, Assistant Professor of Economics and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

Emily Joof

Emily Joof

Associate Director of Programs, Luminos Fund; published children’s book author

“Being an out-of-school child means that you likely have not been successful in the classroom, that you possibly do not think of yourself as an individual with potential, with something to give, with the ability to grow… I think we do a lot to empower the child and build that sense of self-belief and self-esteem.”

Emily Joof, Associate Director of Programs, Luminos Fund

This is the first in a series of webinars where we will explore key elements of the Luminos Method. Follow us on social media and subscribe to our Spotlight newsletter to stay updated on details of our next event!

“We are ensuring that learning is fun, that learning is relevant, and most importantly, that a child who opens the pages will see words, places, contexts, ideas that are familiar to themselves. And all those we know are stepping stones to ensure that a child builds their sense of identity and self-belief.”

Emily Joof, Associate Director of Programs, Luminos Fund

Teachers Transforming Education: Five Key Learnings from Luminos’ Event

Teachers Transforming Education: Five Key Learnings from Luminos’ Event

The Luminos Fund’s sixth annual U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) week luncheon event, “Teachers Leading in a Post-COVID World,” discussed innovative strategies to tackle the global teacher shortage and ensure teachers have the tools and training they need to help children become successful learners in a post-COVID world.

The panel discussion, moderated by Luminos CEO, Caitlin Baron, included:

  • Dr. Andrew Cunningham, Aga Khan Foundation
  • Dr. Asyia Kazmi, OBE, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
  • Dr. Vongai Nyahunzvi, Teach for All

The event also marked the launch of the Luminos Method – a new series of resources that combine the latest research with key practices and data from our work. The first three elements of the Luminos Method are available in interactive web and PDF formats, including Community Teachers, Teacher-Led Assessment, and Identify and Self-Belief.

Against this backdrop, each panelist shared important insights on how teachers can be empowered to create an environment of transformational learning. Of the many valuable lessons they shared, here are five that stood out:

1) We need to think differently about who can be a teacher, how we train them, and how we support them.

“Teachers need ongoing support. It’s a contact sport. It’s a team sport. You cannot tell the teacher at the beginning of the year, ‘This is what you need to do for the rest of the year,’ and walk away.”

Dr. Asyia Kazmi, OBE, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The world is facing a global teacher shortage, with UNESCO estimating that almost 69 million teachers need to be recruited to achieve universal education by 2030. The Community Teachers element of the Luminos Method is our response to this global challenge.

Our experience shows that motivated people recruited from the same communities as our students can become great teachers for the early grades, provided they have quality training, practical written guidance, and ongoing in-classroom support.

With a supportive environment, we believe community teachers can play a critical role in reaching the most vulnerable children and enabling them to catch up with their peers.

2) Teachers can build a child’s confidence (and change their life).

“I could have been a number.” – Dr. Vongai Nyahunzvi, Teach for All

Instead, Dr. Nyahunzvi’s teacher said three powerful words that changed her life: “You are enough.”

“I remember in that moment… she built something inside of me to a point that I became the first generation [in my family] to attain levels of education beyond grade seven,” said Dr. Nyahunzvi.

How can we help students change their perceptions of themselves, build their confidence, and enable students to see themselves as successful learners, well-equipped to return to government schools? How do we ensure our teachers are building our students’ sense of self-belief and sending a clear message that all children can learn?

The Identity & Self-Belief element of the Luminos Method describes how we address these challenges by building self-belief among our students,

which in turn supports further successes in a virtuous circle that can continue throughout the students’ school career and beyond.

3) Assessment is essential.

“When I heard about Luminos and what you are able to do in nine months–that perhaps the public systems are not able to do in three years—I remember saying, ‘I bet you they have a really strong assessment-informed instruction principle.’ That means they’re using assessment information to understand where children are. They are then supporting the teachers to say, ‘Where do they need to be and how we can help you get there?’”

Dr. Asyia Kazmi, OBE, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Luminos views regular assessment as an essential component of education that is truly learner-centered and based on individual needs. The Teacher-Led Assessment element of the Luminos Method highlights strategies to empower teachers to track their students’ progress using a mix of weekly assessments and informal techniques. Equipping teachers with simple assessment tools, along with the appropriate coaching and support, is essential to keep students’ learning on track.

4) We must value and respect local cultures and communities.

While teachers should have access to detailed lesson plans and curriculum, we also believe there should be flexibility for teachers to utilize their expertise and knowledge of the local culture and context. For example, at Luminos, reading materials, songs, games, and role-play are relevant to the children’s mother tongue and culture. Family members and other community figures participate in students’ learning as well.

Learn more about ways Luminos works to ensure students feel their culture and identity is valued in the Identity & Self-Belief element of the Luminos Method.

“When you think about what assets this community has—you think, there’s wisdom in the grandparents—and then by involving them in the schools, in the academic, it helps the kids learn and build from what they know.”

Dr. Vongai Nyahunzvi, Teach for All

5) All children can learn.

“With the right skills and support, anyone can be anything.”

Dr. Vongai Nyahunzvi, Teach for All

All children should have equal access to joyful, foundational learning, especially those shut out of education by crisis, poverty, or discrimination. When given a second chance at education, children can learn, thrive, and succeed throughout their lives.

Yet 70% of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read a simple story. As a sector, we desperately need to extend our reach and provide quality education to the most vulnerable communities around the world. By sharing the Luminos Method, we move closer to making this possibility a reality. 

Unlocking the Light

The Luminos UNGA week event highlights that by providing teachers with simple, but effective tools, training, and support, teachers can be empowered to truly unlock the light of learning in children.

“Teachers can own, lead, and inspire change.”

Dr. Andrew Cunningham, Aga Khan Foundation

BBC News Features the Luminos Fund in Ethiopia

BBC News Features the Luminos Fund in Ethiopia

BBC News Africa featured the Luminos Fund’s program in Ethiopia, highlighting how we address challenges of child labor by ensuring all children have equal access to joyful, foundational learning. Watch the segment to see inside our classrooms and hear from Dr. Alemayehu Hailu Gebre, Ethiopia Country Director & Regional Strategic Advisor for the Luminos Fund.

A summary of their report was also shared on the BBC News Africa Facebook page.

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+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).

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