Scaling Learning Opportunities for Girls and Boys around the World

July 24, 2014
©Brookings Institution/2014

©Brookings Institution/2014

By Jenny Perlman Robinson and Jenny Alexander, The Brookings Institution

Recently, we have seen considerable international attention around girls’ education—perhaps as a response to the atrocities of the kidnapped school girls in northern Nigeria, in preparation for the world’s next global development agenda or as a result of new evidence emerging around educating girls.

In the past few weeks alone, several events and activities have been held with all or some components focusing on girls’ education. The Center for Universal Education organized an event in Washington, D.C. around “second generation issues for girls’ education”; the Global Partnership for Education held their second replenishment meeting where girls’ education was a priority and highlighted through a call for action and side event entitled ‘Girls’ Education: Moving Beyond Access’; the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Let Girls Learn initiative has gained support from celebrities and athletes to promote new programs to support education and safe learning for girls; and, Dr. Jill Biden demonstrated her engagement during a recent trip to Africa focusing on girls’ education in the region.

Now the question is, how can we channel this international attention into concrete changes in girls’ lives? Despite a growing evidence base, there is a lot more we need to learn about what is working to get more girls into school and how to continue to reach girls who haven’t yet had these opportunities. In 44 countries, there is at least a 50-year gap between all the richest boys completing lower secondary school and all the poorest girls. How can we reach girls in rural or marginalized communities who still are not in school and learning? How can we expand, adapt or replicate successful programs to reach many more girls and do so sustainably? Who needs to participate in these efforts and what further information and resources are still needed to bring effective programs to scale?

To address these questions around scaling up learning, particularly with a focus on girls and marginalized communities, the Center for Universal Education at Brookings has launched a new project called Millions Learning.

Nominate Cases that Improve Learning for Millions of Girls and Boys
Millions Learning seeks to understand how effective learning can be achieved at scale. The project will look at evidence from programs and policies that have successfully gotten girls and boys in school and learning as well as interventions that have failed to have any impact once taken to scale. Through Millions Learning, the Center for Universal Education will explore why learning interventions may work in some locations and not in others, and draw lessons that can be considered in a wide variety of contexts around the world.

Challenges with scale are not new and there is not one path to scale. With Millions Learning, however, we are particularly interested in understanding how key factors can influence the successful scaling up of learning. We will explore in-depth the role of four factors in particular: finance, partnerships, data and technology. In addition to understanding the interplay between factors that contribute to successful scaling, we also want to understand the reasons behind the failures as well.

As part of this process, we have issued a global call for case studies to identify programs and policies from early childhood development through post-primary education that have contributed to large-scale learning gains for girls and boys. In exploring these cases, the aim is to draw evidence not only from well-known cases but also to hear from local, less well-known examples of where learning has improved, particularly among marginalized communities such as poor girls living in rural areas. Through these cases, we plan to document and learn from a spectrum of experiences to inform our analysis and recommendations.

By September 2015, we plan to release our findings. We will summarize examples of where we have seen large-scale gains in learning and lay out some of the cross-cutting themes and principles of success or failure.

The individual, social and economic gains from girls’ education are well-documented and celebrated. The challenge from here is how to reach millions of more girls with quality and safe learning opportunities. In collaboration with UNGEI and many other global partners, Millions Learning hopes to contribute to this effort through sharing lessons about education programs and policies that have had a large-scale, transformative impact on girls and boys around the world.

To nominate a case study for Millions Learning, please visit:

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