Growing the evidence – Jacobs Foundation and Schools2030 partner to find ‘what works’ for quality learning across 1000 schools

Through a joint vision to demonstrate the agency of teachers as catalysts for positive change, the two organisations are set to embark on three years of school-led solutions and research

17 June 2021
By Sarah James

When Schools2030 was first conceived by the Aga Khan Foundation’s Global Education team, central to its vision was to establish a network of organisations, actors and stakeholders who could bring a unique set of skills, perspective and energy to the mandate of improving holistic learning outcomes for marginalised students.

With ambitions both to empower schools at the local level, as well as to adapt and scale education innovations globally and inform systems-change, Schools2030 absolutely requires such a network – by working in partnership with other experts, the programme will be able to deliver so much more than one organisation could do alone.

For this reason, a recent agreement to further Schools2030’s partnership with the Jacobs Foundation has been hugely welcomed by all involved. The Jacobs Foundation has been a fundamental partner of Schools2030 from its inception – the two are very much aligned in their approach to education systems change in that they are both in the business of generating evidence at school level that can drive action towards greater local and global impact. In their Strategy 2030, Jacobs Foundation states:

“We promote the generation and use of evidence, support policy innovation, ignite multi-stakeholder coalitions, and use catalytic investments to create positive impact.”

This approach shares many similarities to Schools2030’s six-step process – its model for educational change.

Schools2030’s Six-Step Process

Jacobs Foundation’s theory of change includes three programme portfolios to drive educational change – namely, Learning MindsLearning Schools and Learning Societies. Again, this echoes the vision at the heart of Schools2030’s work, which seeks to better equip schools to determine the nature of innovations needed to facilitate quality learning, whilst also building evidence to demonstrate ‘what works’ for contextually relevant challenges in the classroom that can inform local and global education policy.

Given this shared vision and methodology, the renewed three-year partnership between Schools2030 and Jacobs Foundation will build on both the shared achievements thus far (including the recently launched Schools2030 HCD Toolkit) as well as embark on some new initiatives together. The proposed activities will cover two related areas of focus with each advancing one of Schools2030’s and Jacobs Foundation’s strategic goals to support the delivery of SDG4 by 2030.

Supporting teachers to become education policy entrepreneurs

With support from Jacobs Foundation, Schools2030 is currently working to support teachers across 1000 schools (100 in each of the programme’s ten geographies) to design, create and test micro-improvements in their classroom contexts. This has, of course, included delivering the Toolkit, but there is much more to be done to support this core component of the Schools2030 vision.

“We promote the generation and use of evidence, support policy innovation, ignite multi-stakeholder coalitions, and use catalytic investments to create positive impact.”

Jacobs Foundation Strategy2030

Schools2030 will also work alongside the Jacobs Foundation to create and deliver a new ‘Teacher Solutions Bootcamp’ (TSB) package across the target schools. The TSBs are built on the prototype ‘Solutions Bootcamp’ package that was developed and deployed by AKF Innovation’s team across Central Asia in partnership with USAID during COVID-19. Lessons learned from these pilots with civil society and local government innovators will inform the design of Schools2030’s TSB package.

The ultimate aim is that the TSBs will be created and deployed as a new, cost-effective package that will enable any school educator or school leaders, anywhere, to effectively pitch their ideas for improving quality learning outcomes and environments to the global education community. Leveraging the innovation expertise of AKF’s Accelerate Impact programme, the TSBs will equip teachers with the knowledge, skills, and tools to best disseminate their solutions in a meaningful, compelling, and influential way so that schools themselves are seen the critical constituency in future education decision-making tables. Further, the TSBs will support more teachers from more parts of the world to learn more effectively together, to collaborate and to replicate evidence-led school practices across global contexts.

Schools2030 aims to put teachers and school communities in the driving seat of improvements to their classrooms and learning environments

This workstream closely aligns with the Jacobs Foundation’s Learning Schools portfolio, the broad aims of which focus on increasing the capacity of schools themselves to be able to generate “school-level rigorous scientific evidence” (Jacobs Foundation Strategy 2030), share and codify best practices in teaching and school management, and influence EdTech through school-led evidence.

Generating evidence to improve quality learning and contribute new knowledge to the global field of ‘Learning Variability’

Learning variability – the idea that students’ learning abilities and processes are naturally heterogenous as a result of their gender, ethnicity or other attributes of their background – is not a new area of education research, yet the Jacobs Foundation notes in its Strategy 2030 that “there is very little empirical evidence on how individualized learning and adaptive teaching can be implemented in schools, and under what conditions they are effective”. For the Jacobs Foundation and Schools2030, understanding how learning variability plays out in practice in different classrooms is vital to ensure education programming and policy are inclusive, gender-responsive and truly ‘leave no one behind’. Developing an evidence-base that can ensure that education policy and teaching methodologies take into account these differences will form the core of this workstream, which also aligns with and builds on JF’s Learning Minds portfolio.

Schools2030’s Theory of Change

The partnership between Schools2030 and Jacobs Foundation will see the latter organisation supporting Schools2030’s second Global Call for Research Proposals (CfP), which will award new grants of 150,000 USD each to three research partners (with a further commitment of six more over the subsequent two years). The first CfP took place in 2020, with research grants awarded to partners across East Africa, Central Asia and Pakistan, all seeking to answer the question “How and what are children learning through their participation in Schools2030?”. For these subsequent CfPs, Schools2030 will work with Jacobs Foundation and its network of research fellows and technical experts to identify key research questions that complement and respond to some of the research gaps emerging in Schools2030’s launch year – in particular related to learning variability.

Through these annual open CfPs, Schools2030’s will seek to build a multi-disciplinary action research community and make a significant contribution from underrepresented contexts in the field of learning variability research. The new rigorous data and evidence-base will not simply answer the question of ‘what works’, but rather ‘what works for whom’, ‘how’, and ‘why’ across Schools2030’s ten-country portfolio.

Growing the evidence, building the network

With a shared vision and a set of comprehensive activities and work-streams in place, the partnership between Schools2030 and Jacobs Foundation is set to challenge previous top-down education programming with new evidence supporting teacher and school agency. By helping teachers know how to best communicate and share their solutions within and beyond their communities of practice, Schools2030 aims to support the Jacobs Foundations’s vision of reaching 10% of the world’s schools by 2030. Further, the partnership expands a ground-breaking network of globally informed and locally rooted researchers that together will make a significant contribution to the field of learning variability over the next three years and beyond.

The following years will prove a crucial time in the life of Schools2030, as it seeks to grow both its evidence-base for quality learning and its network of key research players and education stakeholders. With a commitment to rigour, a deep understanding of local contexts, and a commitment to amplifying schools and teachers as catalysts for positive change, Schools2030 will be at the forefront of evidence-generation on “what works” to raise teaching and learning outcomes. For Schools2030, it is not a question of ‘can it be done’ but ‘where next’.

Schools2030 is a ten-year participatory learning improvement programme based in 1,000 government schools across ten countries. Schools2030 supports teachers and students to design and implement education micro-innovations. These low-cost and scaleable innovations will inform and transform education systems to improve holistic learning outcomes for the most marginalised learners worldwide. Join the movement on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

Headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland, the Jacobs Foundation is one of the world’s leading foundations in the field of child and youth development. Established by entrepreneur Klaus J. Jacobs and his family in 1989, the Foundation’s current endowment is valued at approximately CHF 7 billion. As an internationally active organization, the Jacobs Foundation commits an average annual budget of CHF 55 million to support research and programs in the fields of learning and child and youth development.