Our response to The State of Learning Poverty Report

Learning Poverty. Even if you are unsure of the term and its meaning, those two words side by side look, at the very least, concerning. How would you define ‘learning poverty’?

The World Bank and UNESCO Institute of Statistics launched their learning poverty indicator in 2019, to highlight the global learning crisis. It measures the ‘share of children who cannot read a simple text with comprehension by the age of 10’. As the reports states, ‘Reading, together with writing, numeracy, and socioemotional skills, is a building block for all the other education outcomes that societies care about.’ The sobering fact is that even before the pandemic, the global learning poverty rate in lower- and middle-income countries was 57%, increasing significantly to 86% in sub-Saharan Africa. Progression against the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (Quality Education for All) had stalled between 2015 – 2019. The education crisis was real and desperate, and has been devastatingly deepened by the immense damage that school closures from Covid-19 have brought to children worldwide.

The State of Learning Poverty report, released in June 2022 and written by the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, FCDO, USAID and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, details the stark reality of global education today, through simulations that build on the most up-to-date data and evidence on learning and the impacts of the pandemic. It suggests global learning poverty in low- and middle-income countries has surged to an estimated 70 percent, and to 89% in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the report also identifies key areas where educational reform and action can make an immediate change to learning outcomes, and support those undeserved children with access to vastly improved and more effective education. Their RAPID framework for recovery and acceleration (recently created by UNICEF) considers the interventions that countries could consider and adapt to their context. The highlights are in the infographic below.

So where is the Commonwealth Education Trust’s role in this global effort to help children catch-up, or to ensure they even simply are being taught, and learning, all that they should? Our mission is simple: we invest in teachers. We do this through our Teach2030 Teacher Professional Development (TPD) programme of digital, contextualised courses, and wraparound services such as virtual workshops, rich social media channels full of videos and useful content, building our global connected community of teachers and more. Our products and services speak directly to ‘support teachers continuously: build practical pedagogical and digital skills’.

We already know that over 7,500 teachers have enrolled in Teach2030, with a course completion rate of 54% in 2022 – an astonishing statistic when you consider that most of our community live in lower-income countries, where both devices and data are comparably more expensive than in higher-income countries, and connectivity continues to be a major obstacle. We believe our programme and services support I = Increase the Efficiency of Instruction. To highlight the key information from the RAPID framework, it says, ‘Support teachers continuously: build practical pedagogical and digital skills.’

Teach2030 courses cover foundational teaching skills applicable for all teachers, all subjects, and all grades – whether working in Early Years or Secondary education. They cover topics such as including more practical active learning strategies in your teaching or going back to the basics of planning a good lesson. In addition, our course Becoming a Digital Learner: Using Your Smartphone, helps teachers understand what a powerful learning tool their device can be, and how to use it to complement and enhance their subject knowledge and classroom practice.

All content in Teach2030 courses is research-backed and evidence-based: learning materials, strategies, and techniques are all pedagogically sound, up-to-date and relevant for the teachers in our community who may be working in challenging settings with very large classes or few resources. Providing access for teachers to high-quality and contextualised digital TPD courses is more economical than taking the teachers to face-to-face training – which can be expensive, require travel, and is generally infrequent.

We have spent the last four years refining, honing, and improving our digital delivery model and platform, learning from our teachers and community, to ensure that everything we do, helps teachers to teach better. Our focus is to work with in-country partners, to provide acces and implementation support for our digital courses and blended learning approach. We are proud to have partnered with organisations in Zambia, Liberia, Ghana, Tanzania, South Africa, India, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and more.

To finish with a key message from the Learning Poverty report (p48), ‘There is an opportunity now to use learning recovery as a springboard for longer-term learning acceleration….reforms include, defining a clear path to ensuring a professionalized teaching career and ongoing teacher support.’

Please get in touch if you would like to become one of our new partners, or to support us with our mission to bring regular teacher professional development materials to millions of undeserved teachers worldwide.

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