In 2012, the ‘National Schools Partnership’ (with participation of between 50 and 60 organisations) was convened to consider how a collaborative effort could respond to the ‘burning platform’ of poor learner outcomes in the country. It was recognized that high investment in education by both Government and the private sector was yielding poor returns, and that efforts by the private sector were fragmented with a minimal legacy in sustained changed practices in government, little proof of concept at scale, and few instruments to monitor impact.
The partnership worked together to explore a programme that could improve learning at scale by drawing on established initiatives in key areas which had demonstrable impact, and which could be aligned in a clear and coordinated strategy and at district scale with the intention of making this available across the system. PILO as an organisation was born from this initiative and was established in 2013.
The design mandate given to PILO by its Board (and which was informed by the work of the National Schools Partnership) included the following principles to which PILO has maintained high fidelity:
- The focus of the programme was to be the improvement of learning outcomes
- The programme was to be trialled at scale to establish ‘proof of concept’ at scale.
- The monitoring programme was to diagnostically improve re-design, learning from what works, and would be responsive to contextual learning
- The programme was to be designed so that it could be internalised/ embedded within the Department (part of the routine processes of the department). This meant that it would be aligned with the policy framework; so that ongoing implementation costs would be within the resource constraints of the state; and during implementation, responsibility would be maximally located where responsibility would remain for the intervention to be sustained.