R4D is working with four Partnership Schools for Liberia operators to rapidly test initiatives to increase teacher capacity.
Learning outcomes in Liberia are among the lowest in the world. Recent estimates suggest that more than 20% of individuals 15-24 years of age cannot read one sentence, only 20% of children who enter the first grade will finish the 12th grade, and in 2013, all 25,000 candidates for college entrance failed the Liberian entrance exam for higher education. Student performance in the core subjects of literacy and numeracy declines in later years of primary school, particularly grades three through six, suggesting students are not learning in earlier grades, being advanced without mastering content, and, therefore, entering later grades without adequate knowledge of basic material.
In 2016, the Ministry of Education of Liberia took the bold step of launching Partnership Schools for Liberia (PSL) (currently LEAP), a public private partnership for education that aims to dramatically improve learning outcomes for children. In the first year of implementation, 93 primary schools were managed by eight PSL operators, and the recently released Year 1 results indicate some successes in student learning outcomes.
R4D sees an opportunity to build on the foundational work of Year 1 (e.g., improved student and teacher attendance, improved administrative capacity, etc.), by focusing in Year 2 and 3 on improving teacher capacity by piloting evidence-based strategies in the PSL context and by iterating and learning from our data throughout the pilot to improve the interventions.
Since April 2017, R4D’s Evaluation and Adaptive Learning (E&AL) team has collaborated with four PSL(LEAP) operators to develop potential strategies to improve literacy and numeracy. PSL operators in Liberia consistently face difficulties in adequately reaching students of varying ages and ability levels within classrooms, and explained that this issue is exacerbated by contextual challenges including low attendance and high dropout rates, particularly among girls.
After completing Theory of Change workshops with the four PSL operators, we identified teacher coaching and differentiated instruction as two interventions that could be implemented by the operators and have potential to improve teacher capcity. These were sourced from the R4D Education team’s Early Learning Toolkit of evidence-based interventions and actionable resources to assist those working to improve quality in early childhood development programs and learning at the primary level.
In September 2017, our team lean tested multiple iterations of these interventions and learned about what worked well (and what didn’t) from teachers, students, school management, and operator leadership, as well as through our own observations of opportunities and constraints what actually works in selected PSL schools. Outcomes from this lean test will inform the design of a feedback experiment that will aim to improve teacher capacity in 2018. Finally, the team will disseminate these learnings to the remaining operators, and to the Liberian Ministry of Education.