The world is facing an urgent learning crisis. The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity (the Education Commission) predicts that, by 2030, 825 million children in low- and middle-income countries—half of today’s youth generation—will reach adulthood without the skills they need to thrive in work and life. More worrisome still, it will take approximately 100 years for the most marginalized youth to achieve the learning levels that the wealthiest enjoy today. Confronted with these pervasive and persistent inequalities, we must make room for bold new approaches that have the potential to deliver quality learning for all children and youth, not in a century, but today. In Can We Leapfrog? The Potential of Education Innovations to Rapidly Accelerate Progress, researchers from the Center for Universal Education chart a new path forward in global education by examining the possibility of using innovations to leapfrog—rapidly accelerating educational progress to ensure that all young people develop the skills they need to thrive in a fast-changing world.
Why Do We Need to Leapfrog?
The report’s first section lays out the case for leapfrogging. It argues that there are two main global education challenges: skills inequality and skills uncertainty. First, in most countries around the world, schools serve some children well and some very poorly. This inequality in how formal education systems develop children’s skills and abilities is found both within countries, between wealthy and poor children, and between countries, between the developed world’s high-income countries and the developing world’s low-income countries. What is more worrisome is that, with the current pace of change, it will take decades and centuries—what we call the “100-year gap”—for poor children to catch up with today’s educational levels of wealthy children. Second, this 100-year gap only becomes more daunting when you realize that it is between what we consider to be a good and bad education today, and that it does not even take into account the type of education children will need for the future. Fast-paced social and economic change means that it is not clear exactly what skills children will need to thrive in the future world of work and to be constructive citizens. But we do know that children will need to be well equipped to face uncertainty and to, among other things, work collaboratively with others to solve problems, something on which the average school does not focus.