By Enoh Ugbona – Managing Director, EKOEXCEL
Reading transforms lives. It opens the door to the entire world of learning. No child will understand a math question unless they can read it. Reading improves language and is fundamental to a child’s entire future academic achievement.
But globally, reading is in crisis. According to World Bank Education, half of all children in low and middle income countries are in “Learning Poverty” – defined as a child not being able to read or understand a simple text by age 10. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is far worse – a catastrophic 90% of 10-year-olds cannot read at this basic level. And the impact of the covid pandemic is expected to push another 72 million children globally into Learning Poverty.
UN World Book and Copyright Day falls every year on April 23rd. It aims to foster and encourage a love of reading, through a love of books. At NewGlobe, we know that no child can love reading if they don’t know how to read. And we also know that reading begins with a book. That is why every book we help put into the hands of a child must be as good as it can possibly be. And that is why the journey of a book is so important.
The journey of every book for NewGlobe is a shared one, a partnership. In Liberia, where Bridge Liberia is the largest partner in the LEAP program of public school improvement, that means working closely with the national Ministry of Education. In Nigeria, where NewGlobe runs Bridge community schools and is the technical supporter for state education transformation programs, that means designing in step with State Universal Basic Education Boards (SUBEBs) such as in Lagos State, where we support the EKOEXCEL program.
Everywhere we support schools, we ensure all books are in line with the curriculum. In Kenya, the Government partnered with Bridge Kenya to roll out the new competency-based curriculum and every book used in a Bridge Kenya school is precisely aligned to support it. This fit is vital to ensure that what children learn from a book is what they are required to know and may be tested on in life-changing exams. Feedback from local teachers is essential, to gauge how current textbooks support classroom learning and to ensure that all new books handed to students align with the core competencies outlined in the curriculum.
Creating learning material of the highest quality possible is a time and labor-intensive process; meticulous attention to detail is required, to ensure that textbooks are locally owned, and that all content including images and language is inclusive and region specific.
For a child to engage meaningfully with a textbook, they must see themselves and their culture represented in it. This could be a simple thing like counting ‘cookies’ versus counting ‘biscuits’ depending on which word they might hear used in everyday life. But it could also be something much more profound – the effect of seeing a young woman doing a science experiment in an illustration, or a group of friends from different backgrounds and religions.
Such images are powerful. They affect not only the learning process, but also the way in which learners experience the world around them. It’s why all images are selected carefully, to make sure books containing pictures feature both girls and boys, that they are of the right age for class expected to use the book and that their dress is appropriate to the country or region.
As well as ensuring the journey of a book is always a local one, we also make sure that we add the benefit of 15 years’ of experience and expertise, as leaders in learning.
We know at NewGlobe that every book must be based on an absolutely accurate assessment of the learning levels of the children who will be using it.
That’s why for every program we support, we randomly select representative schools and then run numeracy and literacy tests. That way we can be sure that the decisions made about what language is used to introduce concepts or ideas is tailored to the needs and understanding of the children who will be using the book. For instance, it’s possible to describe the idea of “friction” simply or at a very high level. Testing helps ensure we pitch it just right.
NewGlobe also ensures that no book is created alone. Books which do not align with the entire teaching and learning experience may be of little use. So a crucial part of the journey for every book is its fit with every aspect – teacher training, classroom techniques, the whole system. It is a holistic approach which makes every book as useful as it can possibly be in supporting the learning of children.
The making of a book
After so much work, there is still no physical book. Only after the crucial steps of local ownership and educational expertise have been followed is a book ready to be produced.
Once a book is approved, it moves onto the manufacturing stage of the process. A manufacturing team takes the specifications of the book to printers. Examples of the specifications required are the number of pages, or page count, ink color and the type of binding needed. The printer awarded the book then receives the approved files, and the book is ready to be born.
Once the book is printed, local operations teams take-on two more processes, kitting and distribution. Kitting is the job of organizing books by school. Distribution is the delivery of those batches of books to the right schools.
Finally, a book arrives at school. But its journey is not quite over. The final stage of a book’s journey is to facilitate learning. Textbooks arrive in classrooms where they are used to teach or reinforce important curriculum concepts. Here they become an invaluable resource to improve learning outcomes for children.
Finally, a book has arrived in the most important hands of all; the hands of a child. One final step remains – to be sure that child is learning as well as possible, with the help of that book.
Every program and community NewGlobe supports uses real-time data gathering, in order to measure how well pupils are improving.
One example is the EKOEXCEL education program in Nigeria’s Lagos State, which is transforming learning outcomes for children in more than 1,000 primary schools.
A permanent member of the Lagos Education Board, Adebayo Adefuje spoke at a UN General Assembly event in 2021:
“We used the first 300 EKOEXCEL schools as a baseline and the results were staggering, even in the first eight weeks In terms of literacy, learning was three times faster and in numeracy two times faster than schools that were not in EKOEXCEL”
Governor Godwin Obaseki, the man behind the EdoBEST program in Edo State, spoke about the measured learning gains found after three years for 250,000 children.
“What has been achieved? We decided to review what these children are really learning. We used standard tests to examine fluency, literacy and numerical skills at every age. The outcomes, which are independently measured, showed that the children in EdoBEST now are learning at about 70% of the rate of their counterparts in Europe and Asia. That same review of the average situation in Nigerian schools measured them at about 30 percent. So while the average Nigerian is 30 percent, Edo State is at 70%.”
At NewGlobe, we work every day to make sure that the journey of each book is as good as it can possibly be. We harness the power of a book every day. But on UN World Book and Copyright Day we celebrate that journey even more. The journey of a book.