In 2022, when Luminos launched our catch-up education program in Ghana, we drew on our experience working in multiple countries, reaching thousands of out-of-school children aged 8-14. In just one school year, Luminos students progress from not recognizing letters of the alphabet to reading short stories. Luminos prides itself on delivering these impressive learning gains through our methodology, also known as the Luminos Method. Everywhere we operate, about 70% of our program model is the same, while a key 30% is customized to the local context in partnership with community-based organizations and ministries of education.
A test-learn-adapt approach is central to our success, and our program in Ghana, where we have reached 3,500 out-of-school children to date, provides an excellent example of how we put this philosophy into practice.
Testing: Implementing the CBE Curriculum
Luminos collaborated with community-based organizations and the Ministry of Education to implement a 10-month accelerated learning program utilizing the government’s national Complementary Basic Education (CBE) curriculum. The CBE curriculum is widely respected as one of the most effective accelerated learning programs for out-of-school children. We recognized the value of this curriculum and decided to test its effectiveness in the Ashanti region where nearly 23,000 primary-school-aged children are out of school (Ghana 2021 Census).
Learning: Enhancing the Program for Better Outcomes
During Year 1 of the program, we made several enhancements to the CBE curriculum to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children we serve. These enhancements included weekly classroom monitoring and teacher coaching, weekly student assessments, monthly engagements with parents, and more. In the months following our program launch, we collected regular, real-time internal and external program data on student learning. From this data, we were able to triangulate the results and discovered two key findings.
A monthly parent engagement meeting. (Photo by Obeng Baah for the Luminos Fund)
Adapting: Making Program Improvements Based on Findings
First, we found that the CBE curriculum did not provide a solid foundation in the basics of phonics in the early weeks, resulting in some children being left behind in reading. We also discovered that despite Ghana’s mother tongue education policy, many children in our classrooms did not speak the language of instruction (Asante Twi).
With these findings in mind, we adapted the program to better meet the needs of the children by increasing the amount of time spent on phonics instruction and providing additional support to children who were struggling with the language of instruction. By making these program improvements, we were able to ensure that all children had a solid foundation in phonics and were better able to engage with the curriculum. Luminos is now rolling out this updated version of our program to 2,000 out-of-school children during Year 2.
Spotlight on Teacher Training
Another example of our test-learn-adapt approach in Ghana can be found in our teacher training. A core part of the Luminos program is hiring and training community teachers for our classrooms. Community teachers are high-potential young adults who come from the same communities as our students and have, at minimum, a high school diploma.
From classroom observation and data analysis throughout Year 1 in Ghana, we identified three crucial areas that required more attention in Year 2’s teacher training: practical training, closer government partnership, and modeling the teaching we wanted to see.
Incorporating generous time for practice teaching was key to building teacher confidence in delivering phonics instruction and reading aloud in Twi, a language many of our community teachers were not native speakers of. Through frequent small group practice sessions and live feedback, teachers became more comfortable with the enhanced curriculum and activity-based learning.
Closer government partnership:
As we continued to build on the foundation of Ghana’s CBE curriculum, it was important to deepen our partnership with the government. This enabled government education officials to offer their language expertise, deep understanding of CBE, and contextual knowledge of working in rural communities during the Training of Trainers session while we shared our new teaching and learning approaches. Partnering more closely with the government also meant they could help bring teachers onboard with curriculum enhancements, having become convinced of their value.
Modeling the teaching:
It is hard to do something you have never seen. To demonstrate the teaching we expect in our classrooms, we actively modeled it during our teacher training. By showing teachers that learning can be fun and joyful through group work, activity-based learning, energizer activities, and effective classroom management techniques, we inspired them to replicate these techniques in their own classrooms.
In recent classroom observations, we already see the positive impact of these adaptations: teachers are making learning fun by applying the techniques they practiced. Most importantly, we are seeing students learn the phonics foundations they need to become great readers.
Continuous Iteration for Better Learning Outcomes
The core features of the Luminos Method, such as using phonics to build literacy, providing strong support for teachers, and creating a safe and joyful learning environment, can be found across our country programs. However, our work also demonstrates that success does not come from perfecting a single model that can be replicated unchanged in every context. Instead, we embrace a test-learn-adapt approach, working closely with government and community-based organization partners in each program country to develop a program that fits the local context, gathering data from day one to inform ongoing program improvements.
By utilizing a data-driven approach and optimizing our methodology to ensure children reach the key threshold of literacy, we develop a model that draws on global evidence and is adapted to the unique needs of each community. Furthermore, our way of working gradually builds the capacity and political will of stakeholders throughout the system, from teachers to politicians, setting up the conditions for future scaling and sustained impact.
At Luminos, we are committed to continuously testing, learning, and adapting our approach to achieve the best possible learning outcomes for the children we serve. We believe that our iterative approach is key to our success in delivering impressive learning gains and creating sustainable impact in the communities where we work.