Learning at Scale: Call for Programs

On the first day of their job, ministers of education are never handed a step-by-step guide on how to improve learning for all children in their country. Ten years ago, governments in low- and middle-income countries may have struggled to find even one example of a large-scale education project with demonstrated success. Now, examples of small-scale successes are growing rapidly, but evidence is more limited on approaches that achieve learning at large scale, let alone across a national education system. And where such evidence exists, it is unlikely to translate into a how-to guide that would simplify the job of ministers of education and their technical staff.

We think that it’s time for a change. RTI International, in collaboration with CGD, is excited to share a new effort funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that aims to expand our collective knowledge about successful large-scale education programs. Through this work, we will examine how these programs have succeeded in improving learning outcomes, while identifying the key ingredients underpinning their success. We plan to use these findings to develop a guide and user-friendly tools for understanding essential elements of effective large-scale programs.

To achieve this goal, we will need your help. The Learning at Scale research team is seeking current programs that have demonstrated significant impact on learning outcomes and are operating at scale.

We are eager to identify—and study—the stories of highly successful, large-scale education programs in low- and middle-income countries.

We want to gather evidence on how and why programs working at scale have been successful, and what precisely should be recommended for policymakers, donors, and implementers working at meaningful scale. The Learning at Scale team will investigate the teaching methods and classroom processes that made these programs work. We will also investigate aspects of the education system—such as teacher support, district management, or national policies—that led to effective classroom teaching.

Using consistent methods across all selected programs, Learning at Scale will visit classrooms and describe the commonalities of effective classroom instruction. Through interviews, observations, and document analysis, we will extract information to describe what support systems teachers need to be successful and what systematic structures best support increased classroom effectiveness. We will also analyze the cost-effectiveness of different approaches of achieving learning at scale.

In summary, we plan to collect information from multiple programs, describe in detail how effective programs work, disseminate our findings back to the community, and encourage use of the evidence for decision making on how best to rapidly improve learning outcomes at scale.

How you can help

This research effort will draw on, and feed back into, your collective knowledge and expertise. Our request is: Please help us identify candidate programs to be part of the study.

We seek programs that:

  • Have improved classroom teachers’ effectiveness in literacy instruction, among other subjects
  • Are implemented by the public sector, private sector, or civil society in low- and middle-income countries
  • Are active through at least 2019
  • Have local demand
  • Operate in at least two administrative subdivisions
  • Have evidence of causal impact at scale OR evidence of causal impact of a pilot study that has been effectively scaled

We will need access to:

  • Program schools for classroom visits
  • Key personnel and stakeholders for interviews and observations
  • Existing reports for program details
  • Evaluation data for analyzing and comparing impact
  • Raw cost data for cost-effectiveness analyses

Please contact us at [email protected] if you know of programs that may meet these criteria. Also, please share this call for programs broadly and encourage others to be in touch. Your input will help to ensure that the included programs represent the broadest possible range of successful interventions around the globe. We welcome your support and feedback in order to build a base of evidence on what works at scale to improve learning outcomes.

For a list of funders for CGD’s education work, see


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.