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BRIEF March 23, 2020

Call for proposals 5: Can technology accelerate learning and skills?

The Strategic Impact Evaluation Fund (SIEF) is pleased to announce its fifth call for proposals: Can technology accelerate learning and skills?

Around the world, there is a learning crisis that starts early in life and continues throughout a child’s educational experience in school. Low levels of learning in school translate into low levels of skills in labor markets, and this is often identified as a barrier to unlocking a country’s growth potential. Accelerating learning and skill development in these contexts likely requires a change in strategy. In addition, current global challenges, such as the Syrian and Rohingya refugee crises and the global Covid-19 pandemic, have created populations who either cannot access standard learning opportunities or require different modes of learning. Even in the absence of these shocks, populations with disabilities, children younger than school-age, and adult learners often cannot benefit from the services that education systems typically offer. In many countries, girls of all ages face similar forms of exclusion.

Through this call, SIEF aims to fund experimental and quasi-experimental evaluations that examine the extent to which technology can accelerate learning and skills for both children and adults in low- and middle-income countries who are currently not learning adequately with their current set of services. As maintaining implementation fidelity is not easy in many low- and middle-income countries, experiments that help uncover which implementation approaches promote sustained use of these technologies will also be a priority. As in SIEF’s previous call on nimble evaluations, researchers can also propose evaluation designs for specific questions coming from operational teams in the World Bank and DFID.

We are living through unprecedented circumstances, and this call for proposals will therefore be split into two different funding windows. First, there will be an emergency window focused on school closures resulting from the current Covid-19 global pandemic that, at the time of writing, has led more than 150 countries to close their schools, affecting more than 1.5 billion children worldwide. This window will have earlier deadlines and an expedited screening process, as it is intended to generate experimental and quasi-experimental evidence that would be immediately useful for countries’ education systems as they deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. Second, there will be a more general window for the use of digital technologies to address learning and skill deficits more broadly and for any longer-term responses to the pandemic.

We encourage you to apply and pass this announcement to others who might be interested, particularly those who can quickly generate useful and actionable information on how we can help children, parents, and educators deal with the Covid-19 crisis around the world.

For any questions that are not answered in the call for proposals, please send an email with “SIEF Call 5 query” in the subject line to