The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognises the key role that education plays in empowering people with the knowledge and skills to work together towards sustainable economic and social development, the highest attainable standards of health and well-being, equality, human rights, and global peace. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 is dedicated to the achievement of quality education, aiming to ensure inclusive and equitable education, and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. Specifically, target 4.5 aims to eliminate disparities in “access to all levels of education for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations.”

Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want is a visionary blueprint that projects the voices of the people of Africa and her diaspora. For Africa's development to be people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children, the talents of the child and the youth must be fully developed, rewarded, and protected for the benefit of society. This is one of the aspirations under Agenda 2063 and, as one of their calls to action, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union committed to speed-up actions to "catalyse education and skills revolution" by expanding "universal access to quality early childhood, primary and secondary education", among other commitments. Translating this commitment into action, the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25) is laser focussed on revitalizing the teaching profession – which includes developing quality and relevant teaching and learning materials – and ensuring the acquisition of requisite knowledge and skills as well as improved completion rates. A third strategy closely aligned to this sub-theme is the launch of comprehensive and effective literacy campaigns across the continent to eradicate illiteracy. This includes developing curricula and gender responsive pedagogy, promoting reading and writing activities as well as the teaching of languages, social sciences, mathematics and sciences and the use of ICT in literacy programmes.

The COVID-19, however, threatens to reverse the progress made so far on CESA 16-25 and SDG4 and other SDGs and could have long-term negative impacts on harm a generation of children.

The ADEA 2022 Triennale fosters global, continental, regional, and cross-country interactions in support of peer learning and knowledge exchange. The overall aim is to form an African umbrella for political dialogue and promotion of knowledge and experience sharing around practical and innovative solutions to address educational challenges across Africa.

As part of accelerating progress towards SDG 4 - and CESA 16-25 for Africa, the UN Secretary-General is convening a Transforming Education Summit (TES) in New York in September 2022. The aim is to rally education actors to commit to "mobilizing action, ambition, solidarity and solutions". This is critical in transforming education in the remaining period, and beyond, for SDG4 and CESA 16-15. The outcomes of TES (renewed commitments, greater public engagement, and summary and call to action) will be disseminated and further discussed at the ADEA 2022 Triennale in Mauritius in October.

About the Sub-Theme

One of critical areas of this 2022 Triennale is foundational learning – children’s ability to read with meaning and to perform the basic mathematic calculations in early grades – as a game changer for African education systems for sustainable social and economic development. The sub-theme will, therefore, enable the sharing of, working strategies and practices as well as bottlenecks and lessons learnt around the foundational learning (acquisition of literacy and numeracy skills and competencies) in African educational systems.

Based on key challenges of foundational literacy and numeracy in Africa and beyond, the proposed sub-topics under this sub-theme relate to: (1) early childhood development /social and emotional development; (2) play based STEM for early learners; (3) learning literacy, the language skills that include language of instruction and family involvement. The cross-cutting areas include the use of education data; gender, equity, and inclusion; curriculum reforms; teacher professional development; use of ICT in education and remote learning; and education financing models.

One of the outcomes expected from the UN Transforming Education Summit (TES) in New York in September 2022 is the commitment to action in prioritizing foundational learning in transforming education. Through the discussions, stakeholders who will engage in this sub-theme will therefore push countries and partners to commit to prioritize the acquisition of foundational skills in education programming and policy dialogue, enhance coordination of operations on the ground around foundational learning and base them on the best evidence available during a rapidly changing crisis, strive to reach and retain every child, assess foundational learning levels and adapt approaches accordingly, increase catch-up learning at the foundational level and increase instructional time, and develop psychosocial health and well-being of learners and teachers.

In line with ADEA’s mandate, the 2022 Triennale will complement the existing efforts around foundational literacy and numeracy by ADEA, African countries, and other education stakeholders. It will help to boost the existing knowledge sharing and learning platforms and emphasize implementable recommendations. The key takeaways from the sub-theme’s discourse will contribute to the overall outcome and inform the development of ADEA’s 5-year strategic focus (2023-2027).

Specific objectives:

  • Reflect on foundational learning initiatives given the impact and exposure of the COVID-19 pandemic to inform the recovery of learning loss and future crisis preparedness.
  • Share knowledge, experience, good practices, and lessons learnt around practical and innovative solutions around foundational learning. 
  • Explore the possibilities of stakeholders’ partnerships improvement for better design and delivery of policies and strategies that advance foundational learning.
  • Strengthen the consistency use of national driven data, research, and study’s findings to form and implement harmonized programs around foundational learning.
  • African Ministries of education and other educational stakeholders in Africa have consensus and commitment to the successful implementation of the proposed reforms on foundational learning, including from the Transforming Education Summit (TES) commitments and call to action.

Expected outcomes:

  • The impact and exposure of COVID-19 pandemic on foundational learning are discussed to inform future initiatives.
  • Participants have mutual agreement on practical and innovative solutions on foundational learning.
  • The possibility of improving stakeholder partnerships for better design and delivery of policies and strategies that advance foundational learning are explored.
  • Consistency in the use of national driven data, research, and study findings to form and implement harmonized programs around foundational learning is strengthened.
  • African Ministers of Education and other educational stakeholders are committed to replicate the successful reforms around foundational literacy and numeracy, in line with the TES commitments and call to action.


Before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than half of 10-year-olds in low- and middle-income countries were unable to read or comprehend a simple story, according to the state of global learning poverty: 2022 Update. This figure is estimated to be as high as 70%, exacerbated by two years of COVID-19-related school closures that have deepened education inequality, (UNICEF 2022). At its peak, 90% of learners worldwide were concerned by school closures, with devastating consequences in terms of learning and earnings losses (UNICEF 2022). In fact, globally around 153 million children missed more than half of their in-person schooling over the past two years, with more than 62 million having missed at least three-quarters of in-person schooling (UNICEF 2021). According to UNESCO IIEP (2011), the most vulnerable children are paying the heaviest price, with evidence of disproportionate learning loss among children from disadvantaged backgrounds, children living in rural areas, children with disabilities and younger students.

Without, or with weak, foundational learning skills, the benefits of education in later years are lost. The foundational learning forms the basis of all future learning. The foundational learning prepares children for further learning levels, and higher order skills for decent and fulfilling work. Those who fail to attain basic literacy and numeracy skills by early primary level find it difficult to catch up with the rigor of the curriculum in later classes and fall behind while creating wide learning gaps. This also increases the chances of these students dropping out of the school system altogether as they are not motivated. It is thus most critical to achieve foundational learning for all children to improve overall student learning outcomes and build an effective and inclusive education system.

With widespread school closures and other disruptions to the education system brought about by the pandemic, the learning crisis has escalated to new heights. While the number of out-of-school children had already started to climb for the first time in 20 years in 2020, by all accounts the increase has begun accelerating. Children must get back to the classroom and must be retained in school, but changes are needed to ensure that they really learn, starting with the foundational basics of literacy and numeracy. Improvements in teacher training and prioritizing teaching fundamentals, assessing learning levels, greater investment in teaching resources, a focus on foundational skills, increase catch-up learning and progress beyond what was lost; and develop psychosocial health and well-being so every child is ready to learn, will help turn the tide and set children on a path to educational growth and discovery.

This sub-theme will focus discussion in four areas:

  1. Early Childhood Development with focus on social and emotional development.
  2. Play based STEM for early learners.
  3. Literacy learning and language skills including language of instruction.
  4. Family involvement in foundational learning.

Discussions will also consider the cross-cutting areas of data management and utilization; gender, equity, and inclusion; education financing; and use of ICT.

Guiding questions

  1. What was the impact of COVID-19 on foundational literacy and numeracy from early childhood development to upper primary and on how decisionmakers are ready to take steps in mitigating the caused losses and build future resilience systems?
  2. What are the planned practical and innovative solutions taken/or intended to be taken by your country/organization to improve foundational literacy and numeracy?
  3. What partnership modalities do you envision in designing and delivering better policies and strategies to advance foundational literacy and numeracy regionally and continentally?
  4. To what extent are your decisions around foundational literacy and numeracy being driven by national data, research, and study’s findings?
  5. What are the successful reforms your country/organizations managed to implement around foundational literacy and numeracy?


In line with the overall Triennale structure, participation in this sub-theme will be hybrid (in-person and virtual) with the following structure:

  1. The discussions will start with short presentations (ADEA and the co-leading partners and countries) of the research and study findings.
  2. The designated Minister or partner will comment on the presentations to lay the ground for discussions.
  3. The moderator will facilitate a panel discussion in the four focus areas above (ECD with focus on social and emotional development, play-based STEM for early learners, literacy learning that includes the language skills and language of instruction, and family involvement in foundational learning).
  4. The moderator will then open the floor for audience interaction with the panelists, in the form of Q&A and comments.
  5. After the deep discussions and engagement between the audience and the panelists, the moderator will wrap up the session highlighting the key messages / takeaways, in liaison with the rapporteur, to be presented in plenary during the report-back session.