LiftEd: From conception to launch – Part 1

On January 24, International Day of Education, we launched LiftEd, our most ambitious social finance project to date, built on the success of programmes like our Quality Education India Development Impact Bond 

LiftEd  is transforming the lives of 4 million children in India across 5 years by strengthening Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN), acknowledged by the Government of India as ‘the highest priority of the education system’.  

What drove us to launch an expert coalition to transform FLN? How did we bring private and philanthropic capital together to back this national priority?  

Right place, right time, right foresight – spotting the opportunity to create maximum impact  

FLN is defined as the ability to read and understand simple text and solve basic mathematical problems by the end of grade three. In India, as per a 2018 study by Pratham, 73% of children cannot read a simple class two text and 82% cannot solve a basic subtraction problem by class three.  

Research shows that once children fall behind on FLN, their learning curves plateau for years and they are unable to catch up with children who have stronger learning skills. As a result, this impacts children’s higher education prospects, job prospects, and ultimately, life chances.  

To address this, in 2021, the Government of India launched the NIPUN Bharat Mission (National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy). Its aim is to equip every child in India with FLN skills by 2026-27 and the government has been working in ‘mission mode’ to achieve this, allocating INR 2359 crore (USD 283.9 million) to NIPUN Bharat in 2022-23.  

Apart from putting FLN at the top of the Ministry of Education’s priority list, NIPUN Bharat has offered private sector and civil society the ideal goal to channel their efforts and resources towards – strengthening foundational learning. 

TBAT A Final 24 (1)

By working in a structured and systematic manner within this existing system and framework, private sector and civil society can act as an ‘impact multiplier’ for the NIPUN Bharat Mission to transform FLN in India rather than creating interventions in parallel.  

Put simply, NIPUN Bharat created an opportunity – one that we at the British Asian Trust recognised early on. The time was ripe too. Our track record and networks in education had developed well, having just wrapped up the Quality Education India Development Impact Bond (QEI DIB). Launched in 2018 and culminating in 2022, the QEI DIB achieved positive results for 200,000 children across India, who saw a 2.5x increase in learning, despite the school closures caused by the pandemic. 

Coming out of the four-year impact bond, we had numerous insights on what the education sector in India needed. Most notably, the need to create change and impact in a scalable and sustainable way by engaging with government and education systems. These were ingredients we knew we had to incorporate in our next programme for higher impact, in addition to our ‘secret sauce’ that fuelled the QEI DIB i.e. deep collaboration with partners and innovative approaches to finance.  

And so, the seeds for LiftEd were sown. 

This is the first half of our two-part series on LiftEd. Click here for part two. 

By Bharath Visweswariah