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The Gates Foundation's Education Plans Go International

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The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced a $68 million commitment to expand its education grantmaking abroad.

The foundation is well known for its global development work, particularly its efforts to combat malaria and infectious disease. But its education grantmkaking has been mostly focused on the United States—where it has not always been well received.

Girindre Beeharry, the foundation's director of global education learning strategy, announced the strategy in a post on the foundation's website. In the post,  Beeharry writes that, while 90 percent of primary-age students around the world today attend school, including many more girls than ever, quality remains an ongoing challenge.

To find out how the foundation could help, he and others from the foundation spoke to teachers, academics, government officials, and parents in several countries, including Ethiopia,  India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Uganda.

Beeharry hints that the decision to embark on this listening tour came at least partly from lessons learned from the foundation's K-12 work in the United States. 

"We have learned that improving education is incredibly difficult and complex," he writes. "We also know that schools in the United States and ones in low- and lower-middle-income countries face fundamentally different challenges that require unique solutions. We set out to learn more, and to determine how we could make a meaningful difference globally." 

The funding announcement doesn't specify exactly what kinds of grants the foundation will make—but does say that it wants to "deepen the evidence and develop tools and approaches, with an emphasis on foundational learning —such as reading and mathematics in primary grades."

It also spells out four pillars for the grants. 

  • Make data about learning outcomes comparable across countries;
  • Diagnose the root cause of poor performance;
  • Identify strategies to improve teaching and classroom practice
  • Understand the access barriers that prevent girls from completing secondary education.

Gates recently announced a change in strategy to its U.S. education programming, with a heavier focus on improvement replacing its former emphasis on teacher performance.

The philanthropy also supports coverage of continuous improvement strategies in Education Week, which retains full editorial control over the articles.

Photo: Microsoft founder Bill Gates, pictured in 2017. —AP-File/Julio Cortez

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