3 Ways USAID is Partnering with the Private Sector to Advance Education
Strategic Partnerships Improve Opportunities for Children and Youth, from Pre-primary to Higher Education
This blog was originally posted on USAID's Medium.
Investments in education serve as a foundation and driver for a country’s broader economic and social development. In recent years, particularly the last few decades, it is clear that no one actor can fully work alone and that the only pathway for success is through partnership — with other governments, financial institutions, and corporate partners. Partnerships help education systems deliver the quality education children and youth need to prosper in society.
For broader and sustained impact, USAID partners with the private sector across industries to address gaps and tackle challenges within the education system, and accelerate workforce skills development for employment and economic growth. Below, we share three recent examples of how USAID is building strategic partnerships from pre-primary to higher education.
Learning Through Play With The Lego Foundation
USAID and the LEGO Foundation launched their collaboration when the new USAID Education Policy expanded investments in pre-primary and into the early childhood years. Concurrently, the LEGO Foundation increased its Learning Through Play grantmaking activities internationally, particularly for children in conflict and crisis areas. The partners began at the global level with joint contributions to a United Nations global fund, Education Cannot Wait, and moved to country-level collaboration. Then the pandemic hit, making the timing even more critical.
Quickly, USAID, the LEGO Foundation, and the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies created a virtual center for distance learning to reinforce the benefits of learning through play and to help learners cope with the isolation, fear, and loss associated with the pandemic.
The global partnership grew to include country-level partnerships in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and South Africa, along with new collaborations on early childhood development, the care economy, and parenting. Today, the USAID-LEGO Foundation partnership continues to evolve.
“Our partnership with the LEGO Foundation demonstrates USAID’s strategic approach to engaging the private sector in education. The relationship continues to deepen and evolve to build more resilient education systems and responses to conflict and crisis,” says Deputy Assistant Administrator LeAnna Marr.
Bringing Cutting-Edge Technology To Higher Education
In April 2019, the Agency partnered with EON Reality, a global provider of augmented and virtual reality educational solutions, to launch an interactive digital center — the first of its kind in Morocco — on the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University campus in Ben Guerir.
The center is strengthening the country’s workforce to support growing industries, including tourism, healthcare, and aeronautics. Using virtual reality headsets and equipment, students gain “hands-on” experience in complex environments– from mining to the human body. Vivid experiences improve focus and memory retention, offering an affordable complement to traditional classroom instruction.
As of 2022, 710 had graduated from a six-month training course. Over 540 professionals across various sectors received vocational training, and 118 professors gained skills to create or upgrade innovative lessons through augmented virtual reality technology.
Environmental Literacy Through Educational Media
In May 2023, 120 teachers from 19 counties across Kenya gathered to discuss the nexus between education and the environment. Their teachers? World-renowned, award-winning conservationist and CEO Paula Kahumbu, and her team at WildlifeDirect, a Kenya-based organization dedicated to African wildlife conservation.
USAID collaborates with WildlifeDirect, The Walt Disney Company, the U.S. State Department, and Africa-based partners to produce Team Sayari, a children’s wildlife television series, digital platform, and school and community-based outreach program. Created by African kids for African kids, Team Sayari launched earlier this year. Now, WildlifeDirect works with three other local organizations — African People and Wildlife, Oceans Alive Foundation, and Prime Biodiversity Conservation organization — to bring Team Sayari to 10,000 learners between the ages of 7 to 12 in Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
As part of the initiative, WildlifeDirect trains educators and provides small grants to bring Team Sayari screenings and educational activities to classrooms through its Nature Positive Outreach Kids Program. Teachers engage their students to understand the critical lessons of environmental conservation and climate change.
Greater Reach and Impact Via Partnership
USAID seeks to strengthen education systems to enable all students to learn and grow. The effort is significant, as are the rewards.
Partnering invites innovation and creativity, resulting in greater reach and sustained impact beyond what a single partner could achieve. Together we can improve learning outcomes and skills development for children and youth around the globe.
About the Authors
The USAID Private Sector Engagement (PSE) Hub leads the Agency’s implementation of the PSE policy to expand collaboration with the private sector for more sustainable outcomes. This blog was developed in collaboration with Lisa Blonder, USAID Global Relationship Manager for The Walt Disney Company and The LEGO Foundation and the Senior Advisor for PSE in the Center for Education.