Lisette Vegas
Urban Institute
Project Associate

Early lessons develop from the world’s first education development impact bond

August 16, 2018 - 4:45pm

In 2015, the India-based nonprofit Educate Girls launched the world’s first education Development Impact Bond (DIB). A DIB is similar to a social impact bond, or pay for success (PFS) project, as it utilizes a payment-for-results model. In partnership with the UBS Optimus Foundation and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, Educate Girls targeted increased school enrollment of marginalized children—especially girls—and measured children’s progress in literacy and attendance outcomes across 140 villages in Bhilwara, Rajasthan. While implementing the DIB, Educate Girls identified three major components of the project:  

Target population: young and adolescent girls

Though India has expressed its commitment to education, the country has the largest illiterate population in the world by population size, and approximately 3 million girls are without schooling. Before the DIB launched, Educate Girls conducted a door-to-door survey among 34,000 households, through which the nonprofit identified 837 out-of-school girls in the communities the DIB aimed to serve. While conducting the survey, they also found that Rajasthan in particular has very poor school access for girls; in many rural parts of Rajasthan, a girl is more than twice as likely to be out of school as compared with a boy, and only 50 percent of women can read or write. The DIB planned to serve 18,000 children, including 9,000 girls. 

Intervention: tailoring services to the community

After conducting the door-to-door surveys in the affected neighborhoods, Educate Girls was able to enroll 768 girls in school. Three times a week, an instructor would come to the children’s community to teach them English, Hindi, and mathematics through songs, games, and other methods, which dramatically improved the children’s reading and writing skills.

In part, the DIB has been successful because project partners realized the importance of managing data and using it to improve programs. From implementation, Educate Girls collected information on the children’s education level and developed a performance management system. This system allowed for program adjustments along the way, including developing a child-centric curriculum while also focusing on outreach for hard-to-enroll girls.

Outcomes: measuring results in two key areas

The first outcome, academic development, accounted for 20 percent of the outcome payment. The project partners measured students’ progress with the ASER test (a test used to gauge basic literacy and numeracy) in multiple randomized control trials. Administered at the beginning and end of the project to measure learning gains, the test measured three proficiencies: Hindi, English, and mathematics. By the final year, the learning levels of students in the program had improved by 79 percent—a drastic increase compared with kids in nearby schools, and 160 percent of the final learning target.

The second outcome was enrollment, which accounted for the remaining 80 percent of the outcome payment. Educate Girls used the survey conducted at the beginning of the DIB to determine the number of girls who remained enrolled in school by the end of the third year. At the conclusion of the program, 768 (or 92 percent) of the out-of-school girls that were initially identified in Rajasthan were enrolled in school; or 116 percent of the final target.  

DIB success stories like the Educate Girls project can generate conversation and increase global awareness for these payment-for-results models; now more than half a dozen DIBs are in the works.  PFS stakeholders can apply some of these key components to their own US-based projects.  

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