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Lively Minds

  • LocationGhana
  • SectorEducation
  • Type of investmentGrant
  • Project stageScale

GIF’s grant to Lively Minds will improve the quality of life for children in four of the poorest regions in Ghana by supporting the Government of Ghana to adopt the Lively Minds programme. The programme integrates play schemes delivered by parents to existing kindergarten services which has been shown to improve children’s learning and boost parental engagement in early childhood education. An initial grant of $1.3 million was awarded to Lively Minds in 2017 to enable it to test its model of high-quality educational play schemes in kindergartens using local resources and volunteers from the community, complemented by a $785,000 grant to the Institute of Fiscal Studies to carry out a randomised control trial. This was followed by a $2.7 million grant in 2020 to support Lively Minds’ partnership with the Ghanaian Education Service to scale the innovation to 1,600 kindergarten schools in 24 districts; and delver the Likely Minds Together radio programme, which aimed to reach to reach poor households and focused on parenting guidance and advice on positive play.

Lively Minds

The development problem.

250 million children in developing countries currently fail to reach their full potential in terms of cognitive development. Although Ghana has made great strides in early childhood care and education (ECCE) in comparison with other African countries, average class sizes exceed 50 and 50% of children in primary 2 are unable to read a single word. The Ghana Demographic and Health Survey found that for every 100 children who entered kindergarten, only 16 transitioned to senior high school. Prior research suggests that encouraging psychosocial stimulation at an early age can generate long-lasting improvements in children’s outcomes. The challenge is to set up models of parental engagement and early education services that can operate cost-effectively at large scale.

The innovation.

Lively Minds has replicated and adapted to Ghana an innovative model of improving ECCE by setting up community-run educational play schemes in kindergartens. These schemes are run by members of the local community and give kindergarten children access to age-appropriate and interactive games that are designed to improve cognitive skills, school preparedness, and health of children. The community volunteers also receive important parenting advice and instruction. A randomised control trial concluded in 2019 demonstrated significant positive impacts on school readiness and a reduction in behavioural problems.

GIF’s investment.

Following a successful test and transition grant, a scale investment will enable Lively Minds to embed the programme in 1,600 schools across 24 districts in northern Ghana. Lively Minds will train district education officials, who in turn will work with headteachers and kindergarten teachers to deliver and sustain the programme. This grant will equip districts with support in planning and monitoring the programme; and support work at the national level to integrate with government systems and process. Funding will also support adaptation of the programme for broadcast in 18 languages, vital to ensure that families have access to key messages during a period of prolonged school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Investment objective(s).

Support government to integrate the Lively Minds programme with existing Kindergarten services in 1,600 kindergarten schools across 24 districts, and equip government with the capacity to sustain and monitor the programme. Funding will also support education authorities to prepare, broadcast and monitor the interactive Lively Minds Together radio programme in 18 languages.

Why we invested

The intervention and RCT address an important development issue affecting 200 million children, with significant long-term benefits on general productivity.

The play scheme is potentially an effective, low-cost, replicable model that addresses both demand and supply side issues and responds to many education, social, and health challenges simultaneously.

The intervention uses a scalable government service delivery system and has initial buy in from the Ghana Education Service, which has assessed the Lively Minds model to be ‘cost-effective, child-friendly and adaptable for use in Ghanaian kindergarten classrooms’ and has engaged its staff at the district level.

Robust study design and strong plans to generate evidence that is directly comparable and will complement existing research in ECCE in Ghana and contribute to the global public good.

Highly capable team, with a proven track record in using evidence in programme design and implementation, and with world class reputation on ECD research.

This intervention also supports a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals including: Goal 1 (No Poverty), 4 (Quality Education) and 5 (Gender Equality).

Click here to read Lively Mind’s Impact Brief.

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