I'm Learning Summative Report
Background The foundation for the I’m Learning programme approach is the Quality Learning Environment (QLE) framework, developed by Save the Children for basic education and early childhood development programs. From 2013 to 2017, SCN implemented a pilot of I’m Learning in a total of 32 schools across three countries: Cambodia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe. Methodology By examining project documentation, longitudinal research carried out by each pilot country (in partnership with external academic partners), as well as project monitoring and evaluation data, and qualitative feedback from all project stakeholders this paper summarizes the total I’m Learning pilot project. Key Findings While the quantitative data presented by the research team is mixed in terms of impact, there are several important and encouraging findings. Importantly, through the interrelationship analysis presented by the research team, the project logic holds – that the Guiding Principles are associated with learning outcomes. While the longitudinal research exhibited positive outcomes in literacy, weaker results in numeracy, and little to no results in life skills, it did observe important impact on QLE indicators and this impact was increasing over the length of the project. This is especially important considering that the project sites often took at least a year or two to fully implement the project. Therefore, it is likely that I’m Learning’s impact would be seen over length of time that is greater than the length of the presented research. Ongoing longitudinal research in to learning outcomes is highly recommended. In addition to the overall examination of results, it is necessary to look at different types of schools. Each country in the I’m Learning pilot selected to intervene in a range of schools – those who performed decently well but clearly needed additional support and those that were extremely struggling (or even at the point of closing). The project was extremely effective at helping to raise the struggling schools to a point of functioning again. Thus, the project was quite effective at achieving Save the Children’s mandate to target the most marginalized students. Recommendations: Firstly, and most importantly, this project is successful in considering, enhancing, and establishing quality learning environments from the holistic perspective. The project examines root causes of poor enrolment, attendance, and performance – and works to address those causes. Most education initiatives right now are focused on learning outcomes, which is admirable given the global learning crisis, but often these initiatives are only targeting learning outcomes to the exclusion of more holistic programming. While the intent of the pilot project was to enhance learning outcomes, and there are initial indications of improvement in this area, there are certainly encouraging steps being taken to improve learning environments. In all three pilot countries there are nationwide early grade literacy initiatives. The teacher training colleges and departments in all three countries seemed inundated by teacher training initiatives. Given that most initiatives (both from international non-profits as well as MoE-driven) focus on literacy outcomes, there is an opportunity to build out the numeracy and life skills components of I’m Learning. By gathering robust evidence regarding these pieces now, Save the Children could have a strong influence on ministry policy in these two areas in coming years. Often a missing piece in the global and national literacy initiatives is the development of community support which not only encourages home support and involvement in school but also helps build the sustainability of the project. I’m Learning has done this in a unique way – by galvanizing support and aligning stakeholders to the QLE framework indicators. The success of this approach through I’m Learning is extremely encouraging – suggesting that communities do quite a lot to solve their own problems, if they are aligned to clear objectives. This could add a lot to the global development sector’s knowledge regarding how best to work with communities. Additionally, there is the potential for the project to truly revolutionize the most-deprived schools in the targeted countries. This works in two ways. In the three countries, the schools rely on parent levies to invest and improve the school. At times, enrolment is so low that funds are very limited for that investment. Save the Children can help bridge that gap, sparking school improvements and attracting more learners for enrolment. In other settings (such as Zimbabwe), the government requires the schools to reach a certain minimum standard before it’s formally recognized by the government and before it receives any support from the government. In this case, Save the Children can help schools achieve this minimum standard. Finally, it is important to recognize the role Save the Children plays in the schools and communities. Project stakeholders described the benefit of having Save the Children’s voice active in school and community conversations, as an ‘outside’ and often unbiased, civil society voice. In relations where there are assumptions and tensions, this external voice can be extremely beneficial to facilitate better relations between stakeholders.