Identifying, testing and scaling education programs in Sierra Leone

Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI)

At a glance

In Sierra Leone, only about 12 percent of children in grades 2 and 3 meet the expected levels of numeracy skills for their grade.1 With literacy and numeracy outcomes lagging, Sierra Leone's vision for a healthy, educated population able to support the country's wider economic development will remain out of reach for generations to come. But there are schools that are bucking the trend, helping children outperform their peers in reading and math. The Sierra Leone government has invited providers who are showing they can transform outcomes to join an experiment which will compare five different educational approaches with each other and with a set of control schools.

The partners

The Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) is a government department concerned with promoting the effective use of science, technology and innovation to deliver a national development plan (supporting human capital development) and to transform Sierra Leone into an innovation and entrepreneurship hub. DSTI is run by Sierra Leone’s Chief Innovation Officer and presidential advisor, David Sengeh, who has also recently been named Minister of Education.

The problem

Over the years, numerous interventions have been executed in the education sector in Sierra Leone by implementing partners, donors and government. But the education sector is still weak and more needs to be done to determine appropriate and impactful interventions that will deliver a substantive change in learning outcomes. Primary school students are failing to learn basic reading and math. According to the 2014 Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) conducted by Montrose, 97 percent of Sierra Leonean students score zero for reading comprehension in grade 2. By grade 4 (after investing in four years of education), 60 percent still score zero on the same reading comprehension assessment.2

The solution

The proposed project will use a data-driven approach to incubate approaches implemented by the following organizations in a nationally representative sample of government schools:

  • Rising Academy Network – existing UBS Optimus Foundation grantee already active in Liberia and Sierra Leone
  • EducAid – recently completed a three-year program in 100 schools in Sierra Leone funded by the EU
  • World Vision International – partnership with ProFuturo to deliver technology-assisted programs in 40 school
  • National Youth Awareness Forum – experience from running eight schools in Moyamba province and active in Sierra Leone for over a decade
  • Save the Children – using its embedded position within Pujehun province to deliver its Literacy Boost and Numeracy Boost programs

The educational outcomes of students in the incubation schools will be compared with those where there is no additional support. Data will be collected to develop hypotheses for further testing and to determine which interventions are most effective and in what circumstances.

The evidence

All five innovations have been implemented in parts of Sierra Leone and some in other countries with similar contexts and have had significant successes documented by rigorous evaluations.

The Impact

Overall 46,347 students will be reached directly or indirectly through identified innovations. Baseline and endline evaluations will cover: 

  • 340 schools 
  • 6,000 students

Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation and the implementing partners work towards SDGs: