Learning by experimentation was the theme at the Education Innovation Summit hosted by the Human Capital Development (HCD) Incubator in Freetown, Sierra Leone last week. President Julius Maada Bio launched the HCD in 2018 as an Innovation in Government Incubator to test, seed, and scale innovations related to health, agriculture, and education.
The Incubator hosted education partners, Save the Children-SL, Rising Academy Networks, EducAid, National Youth Awareness Forum Sierra Leone (NYAFSL), and World Vision SL to exchange ideas, best practices, and innovations in education service delivery. Their winning ideas are currently being implemented in 170 schools and communities in Phase One of the Education Innovation Challenge.
The leaderships of the Directorate of Science, Technology, & Innovation, the Ministry of Basic Senior Secondary School Education (MBSSE), and the Teaching Service Commission jointly co-chaired the event.
The Minister of MBSSE, Dr. David Sengeh, said that access to quality education in Sierra Leone has always been unequal; rural communities have had less than the Western Areas, and girls and women less than their male counterparts. He said that making education inclusive was a guiding principle for the Free Quality School Education Program. He also announced that the Education Innovation Challenge was to receive additional donor funding that would extend the pilot phase.
The Chairperson of the Teaching Service Commission, Dr. Staneala Beckley, said that the Summit’s purpose was to assess the pilot’s impact on learning outcomes for children. She said that the challenges and lessons gleaned from this phase would inform the pilot.
Two representatives from the HCD and DSTI; Benjamin Davies and Foday N. Kamara, presented the EIC baseline findings—data collected from a random sample of ~10,000 students whose literacy and numeracy levels were evaluated by researchers before the pilot.
Wilsona Jalloh of the HCD Incubator gave a summary of The Challenge so far and reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to data collection. She said that the findings drive decision-making—not just the pilot design but education policy. The pilot’s singular focus is to improve learning outcomes for all of the children in Sierra Leone. The HCD will conduct an end-line study and review the 2020 National Primary School Examination results to learn more about the interventions’ impact.
There was a breakout session for the various EIC implementing organizations. They brainstormed in smaller groups with DSTI, HCD, and other education stakeholders to understand what worked, the challenges, and outstanding questions.
The EIC Summit closed with a recommitment of Government to the partners who will continue these innovations in education service delivery.