Speed School class in session in Shabedino December 1, 2011.
The month of record

Study : Africa can recoup over half of pandemic education-related GDP losses by using evidence-based ‘accelerated learning’ to help children catch-up

Global study realized by the NGO Education.org highlights key lessons from a decade of accelerated learning across Africa condensing three school years into one for out-of-school children affected by extreme poverty, conflict, and Ebola. Foundation says Africa can lead world in learning recovery, launches evidence-based guide for education leaders to design post-COVID catch-up learning plans.

By the editorial staff

African countries could recover over half of the pandemic-related GDP losses caused by the lost earnings from a generation of children whose education has been interrupted, if countries adopt evidence-based ‘accelerated education’ approaches to help children catch up on lost learning, an educational foundation conclude.


It is estimated that full and partial school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will cost Africa US$28 billion in lost GDP. Children across Africa have lost on average 34 weeks of learning since 2020, this on top of the 105 million children and youth out of school before the pandemic – the
highest rates globally.


Education.org, a non-profit initiative to bring the world’s best available evidence into the hands of education leaders, calculates that African countries could recover US$18 billion a year if they apply the best accelerated education interventions to recover lost learning and reach children who were out of school even before the pandemic. This GDP recovery figure builds on McKinsey estimates of earning losses, combined with the foundation’s analysis of accelerated education programmes (AEPs), largely drawn from African countries.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the worst education crisis in history – with huge implications for the futures of an entire generation of children – the good news is that Africa can lead the world with solutions drawn from a decade of accelerated education work with children missing school due to extreme poverty, conflict, refugee crises and health challenges like the Ebola epidemic”


Dr Randa Grob-Zakhary, Founder and CEO of Education.org said: “While the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the worst education crisis in history – with huge implications for the futures of an entire generation of children – the good news is that Africa can lead the world with solutions drawn from a
decade of accelerated education work with children missing school due to extreme poverty, conflict, refugee crises and health challenges like the Ebola epidemic.”


Education.org has packaged a wide range of evidence, much of it previously unpublished, into an Evidence Synthesis and a High-Level Policy Guidance Document, outlining the steps education leaders can take to strengthen accelerated learning in their countries. This research illustrates how the best AEPs can condense three grades of primary school into one school year, cutting the overall length of instruction by two-thirds. AEPs have successfully supported students’ transition into the formal education system by compressing the curriculum to focus on the essentials of literacy and numeracy, while recruiting and training educators to teach in a more childfocused, activity-based way and supporting students’ wider wellbeing.

Ethiopia’s Speed Schools, a pioneering example of the accelerated learning approach

Ethiopia’s Speed Schools are highlighted as a pioneering example of the accelerated learning approach. Over the past decade, they have supported more than 250,000 out-of-school 9-14-yearolds to learn, transitioning 95 per cent into formal schooling, with higher-than-average results. These
Speed Schools are so successful they have been adopted by the Ethiopian Government, with a dedicated Speed School Unit, and the model has spread elsewhere.


Accelerated education has often been used in emergency contexts such as South Sudan where half of all primary-aged children are out of school as a result of the civil war. It is now being piloted in a scheme to help practicing teachers there to attain their secondary education. Research from Liberia, Northern Nigeria, and Sierra Leone demonstrates the value of AEPs in supporting education systems in countries affected by war, the Ebola epidemic, and related crises of teenage pregnancies. In Kenya and Uganda, they have provided vital support to vulnerable refugee children.


On the sidelines of the September 16-19 UN Summit on Education Transformation, which was to address “the profound structural flaws of education systems worldwide,” Dr GrobZakhary said the successes of accelerated education offered a vision for how leaders could rethink their education systems. “This research demonstrates to leaders that concrete action is possible, to support catch-up learning strategies post-pandemic and to transform African education systems, she said. In the successes of accelerated education programmes across Africa and beyond – in their pragmatism, their child-centred approach to learning and the support they give to teachers and communities – we believe lie some of the answers for how to reimagine education systems from the bottom up.”

To read Education.org’s research : www.education.org/accelerated-learning

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