While global access to schooling in Africa has increased at historic rates, its quality has not. In too many school systems around the world, students spend years in classrooms, yet fail to learn basic literacy and numeracy or the competencies and mindsets required to thrive. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 90% of children who are in school are not learning. The landscape has seen a rise in private education and affordable private schools. It is estimated that 20% of African students attend private schools today — and these numbers are quickly growing and much higher in urban areas where more than half of primary school students in Nairobi attend affordable private schools.
Furthermore, with the youngest and fastest growing population of any continent, Africa will soon have the largest workforce in the world with over 1 billion people requiring employment. And yet, there is an increasing mismatch between the skills required and the skills taught in school, creating a youth population characterized by unemployment and underemployment. Currently, over 90 million teenagers are struggling in low-paid, informal sector jobs, with limited prospect of upward economic mobility.
Our strategy in Africa is continent-wide, with a particular emphasis on Kenya and South Africa, and focused on opportunities to increase the quality and applicability of learning to foundational life skills and employer demands.
Access to primary schools across Latin America has increased but it has not improved learning outcomes — and like elsewhere around the world, the situation has been exacerbated by teachers who are lacking the access, tools and resources that will enable their students to succeed. Teachers often have not had the opportunity and training to master the content they are expected to be teaching. Plus, they also face large, overcrowded classrooms with students that can be as many as three to four years behind grade level.
Within Latin America, we are primarily focused in Brazil, where the government has taken one important step to address learning outcomes by enacting the first set of national educational and curriculum standards to be implemented across all Brazilian schools in 2020. This important policy reform may spark innovation in school systems and classrooms that empower teachers and students to meet these standards of proficiency for the first time.
Another challenge across Latin America, including in Brazil, is the low post-secondary enrollment rates. The deficiencies and inequalities in quality education have led to 40% of the youth in Latin America between 18-24 and only 10% of the youth from low to middle income families pursuing tertiary education, and only half of them graduating. As a result, across the region, more than 22 million young people do not study or work. Women represent a majority of this group, accounting for almost 75% of Latin America’s idle youth. Of youth who do work, 50% do so in informal conditions with no clear path for economic security or mobility.
In the US, the number one determinant of a child’s educational outcomes is parent wealth. This highlights the importance of family environment in a child’s learning journey and the profound economic inequities underpinning education attainment.
Those inequities start early. One third of children in the US overall and more than 50% of children from lower income backgrounds are not fully ready when they enter kindergarten. Research is clear that children who start behind most often stay behind throughout their schooling. Children who enter kindergarten not fully prepared are 25% more likely to drop out of high school, 60% more likely to skip college, and 70% more likely to be arrested for a violent crime.
Those inequities are compounded by intergenerational factors. Nearly a quarter of today’s college students are raising children. And, these student parents have one of the lowest likelihoods to achieve postsecondary success, dropping out 10x more than traditional students due to higher costs, less flexibility and a lower sense of belonging–despite reaching higher GPAs on average. Yet, postsecondary success remains one of the clearest paths to increase economic mobility and impact on children’s education outcomes.
Within the US, we focus on a “whole family” two-generation approach, seeking to drive Littlest Learners’ and Adult Learners’ educational success, economic mobility, and overall family well-being.
Imaginable Futures partners with Omidyar Network India on education investments within India and continually collaborates with them on activities and opportunities.