One in four of the world’s school-aged children – 462 million – now live in countries affected by crisis. Of these, 75 million children aged 3-18 years, living in 35 crisis-affected countries, are in desperate need of educational support. Over half of the world’s refugees are children; 3.7 million refugee children are not receiving an education at all and refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school. Those children who are in education are not learning; the quality of education can be low, with an average of 70 pupils per teacher, who are often unqualified.
Globally the lack of access to quality education is fueling poverty, unemployment, under-age marriage and instability. Funding for Education in Emergencies (EiE) is less than 3% of all humanitarian aid; woefully inadequate to address the many challenges. Education systems designed to function during relative peace are ill-equipped to handle crises. The most vulnerable children are disproportionately excluded from schooling. Classrooms are inaccessible or dangerous, and where schooling is accessible it often lacks quality; teachers are under-qualified or absent and government education budgets are insufficient. Previous attempts to solve the problem defaulted to traditional measures like building schools and training teachers; this requires time, which children living in conflict cannot afford, and stability, which cannot be guaranteed.
Can’t Wait to Learn is a custom-made educative gaming technology solution, designed to tackle the specific challenges that children in different conflict settings experience. It responds to the findings highlighted reviews of education technology (EdTech) for learning in emergencies and displaced settings by being curriculum-based and contextually specific, as well as promoting active learning and adaptation to different learning levels. Taken to scale it has the potential to be widely adopted as an EdTech model to support children living in conflict and/or with limited access to education anywhere in the world, building on open-availability game development and technology investments which have created the foundation for scale, roll out and sustainability.
In the Can’t Wait to Learn model, children learn by playing educational games on tablet computers. The custom-made games include instruction, practice, and a learning management system. This means that Can't Wait to Learn can provide quality education to all children, no matter where they are. It can be delivered in places where there are no (or not enough) classrooms or teachers. And to both refugee and host community children, whether in formal schools or through catch-up learning programs within community centres.
Can't Wait to Learn is designed to be appropriate for both girl and boy children; the Sudan phase II research findings showed that the game is gender neutral and promotes a more gender balanced learning experience, which stimulates and holds the attention of boys and girls equally. Since it is designed to reach children where they are, Can't Wait to Learn can be taken to children who cannot access learning facilities for reasons of physical disability or discrimination. Children with disabilities participate in consultation workshops, and games are designed to reflect these groups of children as well where possible.
Observations and feedback show that teachers and facilitators – who play the games as part of training in order to grasp key concepts – are benefiting greatly from Can't Wait to Learn, indicating that it can have a very positive impact on teacher’s own understanding, and subsequently on quality of instruction.
Mission and Vision
Can't Wait to Learn has the potential to provide conflict-affected, over-aged and out of school children globally with access to quality learning opportunities through:
- Opening up education to all: By combining games and education, Can't Wait to Learn allows even children who have no previous education or might have limited reading or math capacity to participate, learn and improve.
- A delivery mechanism that works across resource-constrained environments: A built-in progress monitoring system and self-contained instructions help cope with a lack of infrastructure or the unavailability of trained teachers.
- Tackling drop out and repetition: Can't Wait to Learn’s digital gaming interface is adapted to context to support motivation and active, self-paced learning.
- Paving the way to age-appropriate education pathways: Can't Wait to Learn is designed to work with Ministry of Education (MoE) pathways to ensure ability to stream into formal or government-endorsed alternative education.
- Improved learning outcomes: research findings in Lebanon show that on average children improved their math mastery score by 7% within a short twelve-week period
Can't Wait to Learn is a set of offline self-paced serious game applications accessed on tablets that take children through Government-approved curriculum, providing them opportunity to work toward primary level. In this way, Can't Wait to Learn reinforces the education pipeline across informal and formal education, to decrease drop-out rates and encourage transition into formal primary education. The secret ingredient? Can't Wait to Learn’s unique co-creation process with targeted children culminates in the development of locally contextualized game content, including the design, characters, storyline and curriculum. Can't Wait to Learn offers a local interface that reflects children’s reality, which lowers the threshold for children to engage, particularly if new to technology.
Characters developed through the co-creation process guide children through the games, which allow them to learn at their own pace. Children discover how their skills are applicable in their own lives – and how they can improve the lives of people surrounding them. In one game, children own a shop that they can improve by doing mini-games. In another, children help people in their community to reach their goals – and to become a baker, doctor, teacher or another of more than twenty jobs. The educational games start simply. Children who already have some knowledge can quickly go through the games. After completing a series of exercises, the software automatically unlocks new exercises at a higher level, making it possible for children to progressively acquire new skills and competencies.
Can't Wait to Learn stands out from other well-known EdTech solutions in terms of a design that has proven to be effective in reaching children in multiple countries, with context and full curricula-specific digital game-based learning. We also know that world class educative gaming technology and research is not enough; rolling out quickly is vital to reaching vulnerable populations in time. Thanks to significant testing and refinement of Can't Wait to Learn processes in Sudan, Lebanon and Jordan, in Uganda the total time from country entry to ‘tablets in the hands of children’ has been just nine months (Aug 2017 - May 2018) – compared with 18 months for Jordan. This timeframe includes game build, teacher and IT training workshop, game installation, roll-out preparation (community sensitization, storage facility installation, solar panel installation), and roll out. We’re currently on track to reducing the time to child further to a target of six months, with the latest English reading game developed for Uganda taking just 13 weeks to manufacture.
Can't Wait to Learn also performs well compared to traditional education offerings. For example, in Sudan, Can't Wait to Learn out-performs the formal out-of-school curriculum approach. The first scaled trial in three states in Sudan found that Can't Wait to Learn was more effective for learning outcomes compared to traditional education using internationally recognized benchmarks like Early Grade Maths Assessment (EGMA). This evidence is further backed by the most recent research conducted in 2018; a quasi-experimental study for numeracy and literacy to evaluate the feasibility of using Can't Wait to Learn to teach Arabic as a second language, alongside the previously-developed numeracy component. Preliminary results show that for both Math and Literacy, children in Can't Wait to Learn and control groups improved between baseline and endline, however Can't Wait to Learn children improved significantly more. These findings are being finalized and will be shared in April 2019 with the EiE sector.
Planned Goals and Milestones
We anticipate that 300,000 children will benefit from Can't Wait to Learn, based on reaching 170,000 in existing countries by 2020, and a cumulative 300,000 children in existing and new countries by 2023.
We’ll achieve this through three phases of scale:
1) Children directly supported through grants awarded to and administered by War Child: expanding on success in existing countries by scaling up with new and current partners. In Sudan UNICEF is implementing Can't Wait to Learn – funded by War Child through grants from the Dutch National Postcode Lottery – and with their current reach and commitment to integrate Can't Wait to Learn into education approaches, reaching at least 125,000 children in the next three years is realistic. In other countries we’ll continue growth through partner networks.
2) Children funded through integration of Can't Wait to Learn in bilateral programs: for example, the Reaching All Children with Education II strategy in Lebanon features the use and regulation of ALP as an approach and stated pathway to formal education. We’ll seek adoption and adaption of Can't Wait to Learn as a recognized model, with the Can't Wait to Learn team providing the technology and implementation know-how.
3) Children reached by absorption of Can't Wait to Learn by Governments: capitalizing on strong MoE relationships leading to integration of Can't Wait to Learn in MoE strategic frameworks.
The target could also be surpassed, particularly with Can't Wait to Learn’s potential contribution to global public goods repositories and initiatives, allowing for global access and further adaption in new contexts by EiE actors.