The menu includes interventions that improve education outcomes for the most marginalized students and for students at scale, which means schooling and learning for all.
The menu focuses on identifying the evidence-based approaches that are cost-effective in improving learning in basic education, measured in terms of core cognitive skills (typically literacy and numeracy). In cases where impacts on cognitive skills are often not measured, such as early childhood development, we have relied on proxies such as effects on school readiness.
Given the scale of the learning crisis, and UNICEF's in-depth collaboration with governments around the world, we prioritize approaches that have been tested at a large scale, and/or have the potential to scale.
To address the learning crisis, a suite of reforms will be needed to achieve long-term system strengthening. The approaches outlined in this menu are only a part of this system-wide reform, rather than any one approach being a silver bullet. Many of these approaches can be combined to achieve greater impacts and have complementarities.
Of note, while long-term reform is the ultimate goal, individual approaches can still close substantial learning gaps on their own, and in the process, catalyze long-term systems change.
Shifting current spending versus allocating new spending
Even small changes to "business as usual" approaches in education can be more cost-effective than adopting entirely new approaches. Many education systems have large line-items and expenditures on approaches reviewed in this evidence menu. Rather than allocating new funding, simply shifting current spending towards more evidence-based approaches could achieve substantial learning progress.
State of the Evidence
This menu reflects the current state of the evidence reviewed across multiple disciplines, though largely draws on education and economics. Over time, as more studies become available, the evidence may evolve.
Explore the Evidence Menu
To use the Evidence Menu, first select from the drop-down "Barrier" menu the barrier to learning you hope to overcome with a programme.
You may also add other filters (domain focus, cost effectiveness, evidence strength, action takeaway). After selecting an option from a drop-down, if you wish to explore another option you must unselect the original option and then click on the other option.
Click on "Terms and Definitions" below to find out more about the filter categories.
If you prefer using an offline version of the Evidence Menu, please click on this link, which has instructions on how to use the document offline or without internet access.
Evidence strength: The menu includes the following categories to capture effectiveness and level of evidence: "Strong evidence of effectiveness" indicates a lot of evidence exists and the approach is typically effective; "Promising evidence but some uncertainty" indicates there is high potential, with perhaps a few studies showing strong effects, but other studies showing minimal effects, hence there is uncertainty, either since the intervention is highly contextual or varies due to difficulty in implementation, among other factors; "Strong evidence of ineffectiveness" indicates there is a lot of evidence and the approach is typically ineffective; and "More evidence is needed" indicates an important topic which is of central importance or a core component of many education systems, yet there is minimal evidence or mixed evidence to date.
Cost-effectiveness: This dimension combines effectiveness information with cost data, either directly from a given set of studies or estimated due to the nature of the intervention. For example, information interventions are known to be typically very cheap. We include multiple categories: "high" which indicates a program that is highly effective and relatively cheap, such as "teaching at the right level", or moderately effective but very cheap, such as information interventions; "medium" indicates a program that is highly effective but expensive or somewhat effective and cheap, or may indicate high variation in cost-effectiveness among the programs included in the category; "low" indicates a program that is somewhat effective and expensive; "unknown" indicates a category with few costed impact evaluations to date.
Evidence to action takeaway: The evidence to action takeaway categories include: (a) pilot/scale (b) test/research. Approaches that have evidence of high and consistent effectiveness are recommended for direct action through pilots to demonstrate local proof of concept and generate momentum in-country; scale-up is recommended especially if an existing country effort is operational and ready for scale. For approaches with limited evidence, mixed evidence, or high variation in effectiveness in the literature, more evidence generation is recommended to close evidence gaps. These takeaways are meant to only be a guide rather than a definitive recommendation. In some cases, even effective and well-studied interventions might benefit from further research, for example, to test scale pathways or to optimise programs for cost-effectiveness.