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Speed School Program Recognized With Two Innovation Awards

Speed School Program Recognized With Two Innovation Awards

The Program’s Comprehensive Model Has Helped Over 100,000 Children Receive a Second Chance at an Education

November 13, 2017 — The Speed School program was recognized by two organizations for the innovative way in which it provides children with a second chance at formal education. Speed School was one of the six winners of the 2017 World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) Awards, which recognizes creative approaches to crucial education challenges. Speed School was also selected as a Global 100 winner by HundrED, an organization that seeks and shares inspiring innovations in K12 education worldwide.

The Speed School accelerated learning model delivers the first three years of a national curriculum in just 10 months to out-of-school children aged 9 to 14. With classrooms limited to 25 students, children learn through child-centered, activity-based pedagogy. The learning and skills fostered through Speed School prepares children to join government schools at the 4th-grade level. The program also works with mothers to address the root causes that prevent children from completing their schooling, such as poverty.

Speed School is an initiative of the Luminos Fund, a private donor philanthropic fund dedicated to ensuring children denied the chance to learn by conflict, poverty, or discrimination get access to quality education. The Luminos Fund engages Geneva Global to design and run Speed Schools in various countries.

“We really take second chances for granted,” said Caitlin Baron, Luminos Fund CEO. “In the developing world, people don’t have that luxury. The power of the Speed Schools’ accelerated learning program is that it provides that second chance.”

In Ethiopia, more than 120,000 children have been enrolled in over 5,000 Speed School classrooms since 2011. Over 95 percent of those children transitioned into government schools of whom 83 percent are still pursuing their formal studies.

The University of Sussex—which has been independently evaluating the program since 2011—found that after just one year of intensive study, Speed School graduates generally score above their peers who have studied for three years in their local public schools.

This finding, along with the program’s impact and scalability, was among the successes highlighted by HundrED, which noted that “the innovative pedagogical approach of Speed Schools supports children to make rapid progress and enables them not just catch up with their government school peers but actually overtake them when they return to mainstream education.”

Based on these proven results, government officials at all levels have been exploring how to replicate Speed School’s pedagogy and results within the formal education system.

“The Speed School model proves that with modest resources, kids in the most marginalized settings can receive an education that gives them solid prospects for a fulfilling future,” said Dr. Joshua Muskin, Geneva Global’s Senior Director of Programs and Education Team Leader.

The Speed School program was inspired from a collaboration between Strømme FoundationLegatum Foundation, and Geneva Global that ran in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso from 2007-2009.

About the Luminos Fund

The Luminos Fund is dedicated to creating education innovations to unlock the light within every child. Around the world, there are 250 million children who never manage to learn how to read and write — 120 million of them don’t even get the chance to try as they are denied the opportunity to go to school. Beginning in the Sahel in Africa, through the refugee crises in the Middle East, and into South Asia, we work to ensure children denied the chance to learn by poverty, conflict, or discrimination get access to the quality education they deserve.

By developing and scaling innovative approaches to learning for the most vulnerable children, we’re able to work at the margins of the education system, in a space where we can create real change. As we scale pioneering, new approaches to bring quality education to children in the greatest need, we work together with local governments to drive systems-level change.

About Geneva Global

Geneva Global is a philanthropic consulting company that fuses art and science to deliver performance philanthropy for its clients. The company provides a full range of advice and services to help individuals, foundations, corporations, and nonprofits in their philanthropy and social change initiatives. On behalf of its clients, Geneva Global’s work has directly benefited more than 100 million people through 2,000 projects in over 100 countries, and influenced over $1 billion in giving. Geneva Global runs Speed School programs for a number of clients, including the Luminos Fund.

HundrED 100 Global Education Innovations

HundrED 100 Global Education Innovations

HundrED has been searching the world for 100 of the most inspiring innovations in education currently being employed in 2017, and selected the Luminos Fund’s Speed School program as one of their honorees. The announcement was made this week at the HundrED Innovation Summit in Helsinki, where CEO Caitlin Baron presented the program alongside other innovators.

Innovations were selected through HundrED’s own in-house research team, as well as through their advisory boards made up of experts in education. Student advisory boards were also consulted in order to make sure young people had their voices heard too. Educational practices had to meet the criteria of being innovative, impactful, and scalable. To make sure HundrED’s findings are correct, the research team focused on finding out whether innovations produced tangible results, whether they addressed a need in an innovative and meaningful way, and whether the idea could grow to help others elsewhere in the world.

HundrED packages their findings in a way that makes it easier for teachers, students, parents, policymakers and thought leaders to find out about the latest developments in education, and to make it as easy as possible to implement similar ideas wherever they are in the world. HundrED will continue to research into innovations in education and will continually update their findings.

The core goal of HundrED is to help good practices in education spread, as education is the key to a happy and healthy future. HundrED hopes to inspire people in education all over the world to improve education where they are. HundrED’s findings are always shared with the world for free.

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2017 WISE Award Winner: The Speed School Program

2017 WISE Award Winner: The Speed School Program

The WISE Awards Recognizes Projects for Innovative Solutions to Urgent Education Challenges

The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), an international initiative for innovation and collaboration in education, today announced the Luminos Fund’s Speed School project as a winner of its 2017 WISE Awards, which recognize and promote innovative education initiatives around the world.

Based in Boston, the Speed School project is an intensive, child-centered program run by the Luminos Fund to enable out-of-school children to catch up to their grade level at government schools.

It is among six WISE Awards winners this year, selected by a panel of experts from a group of 15 finalists. Other winners include Colorado-based PhET Interactive Simulations, the engineering college 42 (with a presence in France and California), Lights to Learn (Spain/Latin America), The Learner Guide Program (Tanzania/UK) and Ubongo Edutainment (Tanzania).

Stavros N. Yiannouka, CEO of WISE, remarked: “From rural Tanzania and South America to Silicon Valley and Paris, our six WISE Awards winners reflect the wide range of what can be achieved in advancing education ­–whatever the social or geographical context– when there is a creative solution and a determination to see it through. We look forward to showcasing our winners and runners-up at the WISE Summit in Doha in November, and to supporting their progress as they grow.”

Caitlin Baron, CEO of the Luminos Fund, which runs the Speed School, said of winning the award: “This award will be invaluable in advancing our mission as the R&D lab for innovative ways to reach the last 10 percent of children around the world who are still denied the chance to go to school.”

To be selected, the winning projects were required to show success and innovation, demonstrating a transformative impact on individuals, communities and society. They must be financially stable, have a clear development plan and be scalable and replicable. The judging process as well as on-site due diligence was overseen by independent education consultants from Parthenon-EY.

The six WISE Awards winners as well as the runners-up will be celebrated at the eighth World Innovation Summit for Education, November 14-16, 2017, in Doha, Qatar. The application process for the 2018 WISE Awards will be launched at this year’s summit.

In addition to publicity and networking opportunities, each winning project receives $20,000 (US).

For further information, visit

Learning through Play

Learning through Play

Brightly colored posters, hand-drawn by young students, adorn the classroom walls. Desks are clustered together throughout the classroom; the teacher weaves her way between students while they mold the letters of the alphabet from clay. A group of children crowd around a table, creating a song using the three letter words they just learned, while another group across the room is busy making flashcards to review their vocabulary. Laughter and voices drift in through the window as children outside jump rope to practice their multiplication tables

This scene is taking place in classrooms in rural Ethiopia where the traditional chalk-and-talk style of teaching is being replaced with something new. Those hand-drawn posters are hung from the mud walls and thatched roof of a one-room classroom; the children writing songs are learning English, Amharic, and a third local language. This is Speed School.

A typical Speed School classroom in Ethiopia. Students sit in groups so they can interact with their peers, and colorful posters on the walls and hung from the ceiling help make Speed School a warm, engaging learning environment.

The Speed School classroom promotes child-centric learning where the students dictate the speed at which the curriculum is covered. Teachers undergo training to present core concepts through a variety of play- and activity-based methods, including singing, role playing, crafts and visuals made from locally available materials, and the Think-Pair-Share approach in which students engage in peer-to-peer learning. The repetition of concepts is designed to reinforce learning and to reach children with different learning styles; to that effect, the teacher cannot move ahead with the class until all children have grasped the core concepts. This underpins one of the key principles of the model and of our thinking: every child can learn.

Angel, age 9, throws a ball to her classmate as they practice counting up by 5’s. Play is an essential part of learning, and the Speed School program brings playful learning to remote communities in Liberia.

The Centre for International Education at the University of Sussex, our evaluation partner in Ethiopia, describes Speed School classrooms as a place where children not only become functionally literate and numerate but also “learn how to learn” which instills in our children a quest for lifelong learning. In a 2016 review of the Speed School pedagogy, evaluators wrote, “The Speed School approach…questions assumptions prevalent amongst people all over the world about who can and who cannot learn. The teachers…seemed convinced that all the children could and would learn what was necessary to succeed within the curriculum. It is clear that the Speed School Program in its training had been successful in getting teachers and students to re-conceptualize who can learn and why.”

In 2017, Dr. Susan Rauchwerk, Associate Professor at Lesley University, authored a full analysis of the elements of play in the Speed School pedagogy and their positive impact on students’ learning, drawing from a broader program evaluation conducted by the University of Sussex. Published in the International Journal of Learning, Teaching and Educational Research, the article states, “In Speed Schools, play is a platform for communication between teachers and students where teachers actively draw upon students’ life experiences and promote an environment where students feel safe and supported, ultimately leading to positive student outcomes. Play provides a pedagogical framework that shapes both the social structure and content delivery within the Speed School classroom. Classrooms are interactive, and learning is a process rather than an outcome.” The online version of Dr. Rauchwerk’s article is available on the IJLTER website, and a PDF version is available on our website.The Speed School program demonstrates how the integration of play- and activity-based learning into severely under-resourced contexts helps children develop both cognitive and non-cognitive skills that prepare them for lifelong learning. According to one of our young, female students:

“We were learning like playing and the things we learned as play have remained inside us like heritage.”

The Luminos Fund strives to unlock the light in every child through education. Here Speed School students in Liberia practice counting using rocks collected from the surrounding area.