The world is witnessing a global education crisis – with more than 10 million children feared to never return to school. Can education technology offer a way forward? “It’s possible if we can bridge the missing link,” says Judith Flick, War Child’s director of an award-winning online learning program.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic forced hundreds of schools to close – some permanently – the race to find alternative education solutions is on. From bright young start-ups to forward-thinking nonprofits, a variety of EdTech programs have sprung up. Yet many faced the same pitfalls as they tried to scale their innovation.
“When War Child started developing Can’t Wait to Learn, we were making certain assumptions,” says Judith Flick, tablet-based e-learning innovation manager, Can’t Wait to Learn. “These assumptions influenced the early iterations of the program.”
One hypothesis was that external agencies would adopt Can’t Wait to Learn after proof of concept, creating a ripple effect across the organization and country and reducing costs at scale. War Child also assumed that Ministries of Education would be eager to adopt and roll out the program because it would be so closely aligned with their curriculum.
Bringing an EdTech program to life
With and through its network of partners, War Child has begun rolling out the program in conflict-affected countries, including Uganda, Jordan, Lebanon and South Sudan.
Based on a “game world” co-created with children, Can’t Wait to Learn quickly turned heads. And not just for kids who avidly follow creative reading and math games, but also for teachers who — understaffed and overworked — might suddenly be imparting their words of wisdom through a screen on a tablet.
Overcoming a host of challenges ranging from damaged infrastructure to nationwide lockdowns and connectivity issues, by the end of 2021, Can’t Wait to Learn had managed to reach some 24,591 children with a quality education.
When War Child began testing the program, the organization also made sure to track their progress – building a solid base of evidence to demonstrate its positive impact on children as well as good value for money.
The response from major NGOs, UN agencies and national ministries of education has been unanimous – helping War Child embed Can’t Wait to Learn deeper into communities and develop new games in new languages.
Among several highlights, War Child has been recognized by the UNHCR-led Humanitarian Education Accelerator (HEA), which selected Can’t Wait to Learn from a pool of five as the only innovation that can be put to use. ladder.
It is thanks to their support and their investment that War Child was able to identify its place in the “missing link” and begin to find its way…
The first bumps in the road
Despite the positive impact of the programs and the strong support from the sector, the number of children reached was not what War Child had hoped for – especially compared to the nearly 260 million children worldwide who have not currently no access to education.
Funds needed to continue implementation stagnated and partners, although willing, were unable to secure substantial funding for scale-up. Therefore, the development of new games stopped. Meanwhile, the pandemic has revealed the need for drastic program adjustments.
“While we reacted quickly and responded to the demand for digital education, we ran into software limitations and a slow supply chain,” says Merel Sas, design lead for Can’t Wait to Learn. . “The hard truth – we weren’t quite ready for scaling after all.”
Forward and upward
Through discussions with the industry, War Child quickly discovered that this blind spot was extremely common. Yes, War Child needed to pause and assess and yes, the organization needed to fundamentally re-evaluate its strategy – involving a number of difficult “trade-offs” – but ultimately it was just another phase of his journey.
“Up to phase two (scale-up), the focus is on getting the intervention right and proving it works,” says Judith. “From the third stage (scaling), success is measured against what the end user wants – this requires a marketing approach.”
And who is the end user? Communities, implementing partners or children? Judith: “Of course, the children are the most important, but all three must be taken into consideration during a market study. Ongoing communication and feedback is the only way to ensure quality, build relationships and create the right product.
For more information on how War Child is bringing Can’t Wait to Learn to scale, read this article. Join a workshop on the topic or sign up for the newsletter via firstname.lastname@example.org