Creating the Learning Generation

The Education Commission is challenging the international community to rally behind a bold vision to create the Learning Generation: getting all young people into school and learning within a generation.

We know creating the Learning Generation is possible because a quarter of the world’s countries are already on the right path.1 What is remarkable is this group of top 25 percent fastest education improvers is a geographically and socially diverse set of large and small countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America; and they include not just rapidly growing economies but also low-income countries. Countries in the group of fastest improvers include Ethiopia and Togo for expanding access to preschool, Burundi and Malawi for expanding access to primary and secondary education, and Lesotho, Ghana and Namibia for improving learning.

It may seem unusual to see some of these countries at the top of education rankings because typically countries are ranked by their access and quality levels rather than by their relative rate of improvement. For achieving progress however, the rate of improvement is the key indicator.

If all countries followed suit and improved their education systems at the same rate as this group, then within a generation, all children would have access to quality preprimary through secondary education; and a child in secondary school in a low-income country would be as likely to reach the baseline level of skills as a child in a high-income country today.2


The Learning Generation would be the largest expansion of educational opportunity in history and mean all countries could ensure that within a generation, or by 2040 at latest, these vital objectives were achieved:
  • All children receive a quality preschool education.
  • All girls and boys complete primary school and all 10 year-olds have functional literacy and numeracy.
  • The proportion of girls and boys achieving secondary level skills in low-income countries reach current levels in high-income countries.
  • Participation in post-secondary learning in low-income countries near levels seen today in high-income countries.
  • Inequalities in participation and learning between the richest and poorest children within countries are largely eliminated, coupled with strong progress in reducing other forms of inequality.


Investing in the Learning Generation will deliver huge returns

Based on the Commission’s projections if the Learning Generation were achieved then, by 2050, GDP per capita in low-income countries would be almost 70 percent higher than it would be if current education trends continued.3  Extreme poverty would be virtually eliminated. The mortality reductions resulting from improvements in education— measured in years of life gained— would almost be equivalent to eradicating HIV and malaria deaths today.4 According to estimates by the Commission, if children in low-income countries who start preschool today were to experience the benefits of the Learning Generation, over the course of their lifetimes they could expect to earn almost five times as much as their parents (see Figure 3).

Figure 3. Investing in the Learning Generation will deliver large returns for girls and boys

A Financing Compact for the Learning Generation

To make the Learning Generation a reality, the Commission calls for a new Financing Compact between developing countries and the international community based on the following principles:

  • Developing country governments will commit to reforming and investing in their education systems to maximize learning and efficiency and to ensure that every child has access to free quality education from preprimary through secondary school.
  • The international community will stand ready to offer countries committed to reform the necessary financial and political support. This will include mobilizing new finance from a wide range of sources, including through the establishment of a new education investment mechanism to help scale financing from multilateral development banks.
  • Accountability measures to ensure that the international community and developing countries are meeting their responsibilities and obligations. A transparent framework that monitors progress and accountability of which donors and governments are living up to their responsibilities in reforming education must be established.

Achieving the Learning Generation not only requires a commitment to the Financing Compact, but also a commitment to making four key education transformations: strengthening performance, fostering innovation, prioritizing inclusion and increasing financing.

Four Transformations to Invest in the Learning Generation