BusinessDay
NigeriaDecides2023

Explore innovative approaches to eradicate learning poverty – Expert

...calls for investments in foundational literacy, numeracy

To eradicate learning poverty, an expert has urged the country to explore innovative approaches while investing in foundational literacy and numeracy to increase learning.

The expert, a top employee of NewGlobe – an organisation already successful in local education transformation at scale, made the remarks during the just concluded 28th Nigerian Economic Summit (#NES28) in Abuja.

Omowale David-Ashiru, group managing director NewGlobe in a panel discussion on ‘Eradicating Learning Deprivation’ noted that learning deprivation or learning poverty is a global problem exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic in African countries like Nigeria where the combination of out-of-school children and the poor rate of learning for those in school gravely threaten the potential of future economic growth and social development.

She cited the June 2022 report by the World Bank, UNESCO, UNICEF, and FCDO which shed light on proven solutions, and prescribed focus areas for progress, while urging Nigeria to learn from the report’s findings.

According to her, it states that commitment to learning programs by governments and the composition of the programs: with emphasis on teacher training, improved instruction through structured pedagogy, and measurement of learning outcomes.

“There are existing examples of a holistic methodology already delivering value for Nigerian children in Edo, Lagos, and Kwara States,” she said in a statement.

There are three distinct examples in Nigeria running statewide intricate public school systems built upon four core aspects: A digital learning platform, adaptive instructional content, teacher training, and coaching, and 360-degree support.

Within this holistic system are many sets of practices, such as school management, learning and development, instructional guidance, and feedback. Schools in this system are being transformed using technology and data, every school is transparent and accessible to its political leaders; decisions and policies are data-based and children are learning at a speed not seen before in Nigeria.

This holistic learning methodology was the subject of a two-year study led by Michael Kremer, a 2019 Nobel Prize-winning professor.

The Kremer study finds that NewGlobe methods deliver unequivocal major learning gains across every academic year in NewGlobe-supported schools, compared with other schools.

Read also: NBS says 133 million Nigerians are poor

These are particularly large in the ‘key grades’ for Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN), primary classes one and two. Kremer and his co-authors found that students in early childhood years supported by NewGlobe received the equivalent of an additional year and a half of learning in two years.

Political leaders across the continent are coming to learn from Nigeria’s systems and then implementing them in their own countries. These examples are Edo State through the EdoBEST program covering > 1000 nursery, primary, and Junior Secondary schools, Lagos State through the EKOEXCEL program covering >1000 Nursery and primary schools and most recently Kwara State through the KwaraLEARN program covering more than >1500 public schools at the full implementation of the program.

Launched in 2018, the Edo Basic Education Sector Transformation (EdoBEST) programme is Edo State Government’s statewide education transformation program under Governor Godwin Obaseki. It was launched in response to deficiencies identified in the basic education system in Edo State Transformation (EdoBEST) program in Nigeria.

A study of EdoBEST indicated that pupils achieved the equivalent of 54percent more schooling in English and 71percent more schooling in math, learning in one term than what would have normally been learned in a year.

On a visit to Edo in October 2022, Martin De Simon an education specialist cum economist with the World Bank had this to say about EdoBEST “Definitely, many other states can learn from the experience of Edo and I do think that some of the interventions of EdoBEST are significant for the national level.”

“For example, you here have a strong focus on data and information systems and this is something that we are trying to support with the development of our Education Management Information System.”

“That is essential for any education system and all 36 states at the national level. So, there are certain things that we should be replicating and essentially scaled up and there are certain things that other states that are in similar situations can learn a lot of lessons from.”

In her closing remarks, David-Ashiru shared Kremer’s study learnings indicating Nigeria must invest beyond infrastructure alone, but also into foundational literacy and numeracy at basic education levels to eradicate learning poverty in Nigeria.

Also, in closing #NES28, Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, a professor and chief of staff to the President commended participants and endorsed the outcomes of the summit which include the need for restoration, increased funding, standardization and innovation in public education as a means to delivering economic stability for growth.

“This outcome among others will be contained in the NES28 ‘Green Book’ a compendium of summit recommendations which will be disseminated to Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) as well as other critical stakeholders to enable the implementation.”

The session at the #NES28 has delivered examples of an actionable framework for transformational leadership in education for Nigeria. We have a sustainable and inclusive solution to learning poverty, a necessary imperative for transforming Nigeria’s human capital into a national productive and innovative capacity that creates a secure collective future of prosperity for all and sustained economic development.

“Nigeria must as a matter of priority articulate a framework to harness foundational literacy and numeracy for 2023 and beyond. We have a chance to drive real change and deliver quality education for children in Nigeria.”

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