Educate!’s Approach Helping to “Leapfrog” Inequality by Accelerating Progress in Education

“In an age of rising inequality, getting a good education increasingly separates the haves from the have nots.” - Winthrop, Brookings, 2018

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“Experts predict that, by 2030, 825 million children in low- and middle-income countries—half of today’s youth generation—will reach adulthood without the skills they need to thrive in work and life.” - Winthrop, Brookings, 2018

In a new book, researchers from the Center for Universal Education at Brookings Institution set out to identify inspiring initiatives and education innovation from around the world who are  challenging persistent inequality and accelerating progress in education. Can We Leapfrog? examines a diverse community of education innovations, evaluating their potential to “leapfrog” —  to rapidly excel education and “harness” innovation to ensure that all learners are equipped with the competencies needed for a successful life.

To study the community of education innovations, researchers employed lists from 15 organizations — called “Innovation Spotters”— that locate, highlight, and support education innovations around the globe. The researchers then compiled a comprehensive catalog of initiatives across both developed and developing nations. Of the 3,000 initiatives identified, only 207 innovations were identified on more than one spotter list, and Educate! was one of “only a handful” of organizations that appeared on more than three of the lists.

Winthrop, 2018, p. 96

Winthrop, 2018, p. 96


Educate!’s Solution Addresses Key Gaps Critical to Leapfrogging

Overall, the cataloging exercise provided a diversified snapshot of the education innovation community. It examined how initiatives are implemented, financed, evaluated, and how they specifically support the potential to “leapfrog” inequality. Along with the promising initiatives presented, the report also unearthed key gaps that hinder an innovation’s ability to rapidly excel global education. One of the most prominent gaps identified was scale. With only 12% of innovations being implemented by governments and one third collecting effectiveness data, researchers state that these “islands of innovation” will not provide the reach needed to actively ensure all youth receive a quality education. Additionally, without effectiveness data, innovations lack a foundational element necessary to building strong government partnerships that could reach youth on a larger scale.

Educate!’s unique approach, which leverages the existing infrastructure of secondary education in order to sustainably impact youth at scale, effectively addresses this critical gap. Educate! partners with governments throughout East Africa and engages with national education systems  to integrate aspects of our model and support reforms to curriculum, exams, and teacher training, so that the innovations we make today can help generations of students to come.

Another contribution Educate! is making to  “leapfrogging” comes from rigorously evaluating our impact . Our focus on monitoring and evaluation has allowed us to form critical partnerships and opened  channels to integrate our evidence-based solution into education systems nationally. By working both at the policy level and at the school level, Educate! is able to scale sustainably, reaching large numbers of youth while maintaining impact.  

At the current pace of change, researchers predict it will take 100 years for youth in poor countries to achieve the education levels of those in wealthier nations. Leapfrogging in education offers a promising pathway to accelerate progress, ensuring that all youth receive a quality education.