Quality Education in Developing Countries

Quality Education in the Developing World

A young girl learns to read and write in a school in Senegal. The Quality Education in Developing Countries initiative makes grants to improve reading, math, and critical thinking among primary education students in sub-Saharan Africa and India. Photo by Dana Schmidt/Hewlett Foundation.


Education is essential to economic development. Citizens who can read, calculate, and think critically have better economic opportunities, higher agricultural productivity, healthier children, and better reproductive health. Fundamental educational skills form the basis for all future learning, but today too many students across the developing world— particularly the poorest—are missing out.

Many more children enroll in school today than a decade ago, an achievement brought about by leadership and policy changes at the international and national levels. But the promise of greater enrollments may not pay off. Just enrolling in and attending school does not guarantee mastery of even the most basic skills. The Hewlett Foundation’s Global Development and Population Program, working in a unique partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, established the Quality Education in Developing Countries (QEDC) initiative to focus on ensuring that children learn to read, calculate, and begin to think critically by the end of third grade. QEDC has developed a strategy to demonstrate that significant changes in education—from teacher practice to donor behavior—are possible in a relatively short time.

QEDC supports global advocacy and in-country efforts to improve children’s learning in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mali, Senegal, Ghana, and India. Its grantmaking activities are concentrated in three areas.

Measure Learning

Grantees are working to increase awareness and accountability for student learning by improving public knowledge about learning outcomes.

Improve Instruction

Grantees are working to support the development of effective instruction that improves student learning in many schools at low cost.

Track Resources

Grantees are working to advocate for sufficient resources to improve educational quality, and for those resources to be used efficiently.

In the past decade, millions of poor families have sacrificed scarce family income to put their children in school in the hopes that education will put young students on a pathway out of poverty. However, many children are not learning the basics of literacy, numeracy, and critical thinking during their foundation years.

Failure to address learning outcomes now could lead to a serious crisis several years from now as students exit the system without any learning gains. This learning gap threatens future development and will be an obstacle to productive lives for many.

QEDC believes that when these three approaches are effective and interact, significant improvements in children’s learning will result.

Geographical Focus

This initiative is focusing its support for basic education on India and six priority countries in Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda.

The QEDC initiative’s overview and grantmaking strategy provide additional details about the initiative.

The Global Development and Population Program is not accepting Letters of Inquiry for its QEDC initiative at this time.