ROscars: Everything You Need to Know About the RISE Oscars

Earlier this year, three ROscar awards were designed to recognise exceptional work by the RISE community in capability development, impact, and research, with twelve nominees overall and three winners that were announced at an in-person awards ceremony in June.


Image of Rastee Chaudhry

Rastee Chaudhry

RISE Directorate

Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

On June 22nd, members of the RISE community gathered in person and online to participate in our RISE & Shine Day. The RISE & Shine Day was a whole-day event where policymakers, funders, and members of the RISE community gathered to hear about emerging policy messages from the RISE Programme, to celebrate all the incredible work that has been done under the Programme over its seven years, and to reflect upon one key question: where do we go from here?

Part of the RISE & Shine Day was an awards ceremony we call the ROscars (the RISE Oscars). Before you ask, yes – the famous golden statues, ball gowns, and outfit changes were all part of the ceremony. If you missed the livestream of the event, read on to learn about the awards we gave and the exciting accomplishments of the nominees and winners.

What are the ROscars?

Earlier this year, the RISE Directorate developed three ROscar (RISE Oscar) Awards to celebrate the achievements of the RISE community. The three ROscar Awards categories capture three ways in which members of the RISE Community have supported countries in overcoming the learning crisis: (i) capability development, (ii) impact, and (iii) research.

We wanted these awards to be from the community and for the community, so the nominations and selection of winners came from among the RISE teams. In March, we sent out a call for nominations for the ROscar Awards to the RISE teams. After collecting nominations, a committee from the Directorate convened to reach a shortlist of nominees in each category. A call for voting was then sent out a week prior to the RISE & Shine Day, and results were announced live in the awards ceremony during the day.

What were the three awards?

The three awards were as follows.

RISE Capability Development Award

This award recognised organisations or teams that have developed the capability of stakeholders to better understand the learning crisis, to demonstrate the importance of education systems coherence and alignment to learning, and/or to undertake systems solutions for addressing the learning crisis. Capability development may have occurred through training, mentorship or other means.

RISE Impact Award

This award recognised organizations, teams or individuals whose actions have had substantial overall impact or have high potential for future impact towards the RISE cause. In particular, this award recognises those organisations, teams or individuals whose work and actions have led to a recognition of the learning crisis, of the importance of education systems coherence and alignment to learning, and/or to undertaking systems solutions for addressing the learning crisis.

RISE Research Award

This award recognised research that has made a significant contribution to the academic discourse on education systems and learning. Specifically, this award recognised research papers, working papers, books, insight notes, blogs or other research products which have been funded (or part-funded) by RISE and that have substantially contributed towards understanding the learning crisis, demonstrating the importance of education systems coherence and alignment to learning, and/or proposing solutions for addressing the learning crisis.

Who were the nominees?

There were three nominees each for the capability development and overall impact award, respectively. For the research award, the committee was unable to narrow the nominations down to just three. Instead, nominations were condensed to an intermediate “Long List” that includes two outstanding papers from each team – one nominee and one honourable mention. From there the Directorate Committee voted to arrive at a final list of six nominees that were eligible to receive the award.

The final nominees for each of the awards are listed below; winners are marked with a star.


RISE Capability Development Award

Nominee Description

Central Square Foundation (India), Economic Policy Research Centre (Uganda), Education Partnerships Group (Ghana), Global School Leaders (Malaysia), SUMMA (Ecuador), University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa), and Verso and Juniper Consulting (Pakistan) for piloting the RISE Diagnostic.

The RISE Systems Framework provides a template for understanding how components of the education system interact to produce system outcomes.  The RISE Programme has been working to use this framework to develop an approach to Education Systems Diagnostics that can support government in identifying key incoherence and constraints and selecting strategic priorities to improve learning outcomes. Since 2019, nine organisations have been working alongside the RISE Team to develop and pilot an approach to education systems diagnostics based on the RISE Framework.

Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA, Nigeria) for the Learning Trajectories Training.*

Learning trajectory analysis allows policy makers to visualise how much children build skills over time and to model how different policy experiments could affect cohort learning. In 2022, the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) team developed and held a practical 2-day introduction to learning trajectories and related techniques for understanding how to address the learning crisis. This was piloted with a group of 20 policymakers and practitioners in Nigeria. The course will be offered later in 2022 to reach a wider audience in Nigeria and across West Africa.

Faisal Bari and Rabea Malik (Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan), Michael Boakye-Yiadom (University of Cape Coast, Ghana), and Caine Rolleston (University College London, UK) for the University Course on Education Systems.

The nominated faculty members have worked together with RISE colleagues to design and deliver a master's level introduction to education systems course. The course draws heavily on research from the RISE Community and features recorded video lectures from 16 leading academics and practitioners, as well as live webinars, and discussion groups that bring together students from the various universities.

RISE Impact Award

Nominee Description

India and Pakistan Country Research Teams for targeted instruction for foundational learning.

Targeted instruction approaches seek to understand a child’s current learning level and to tailor teaching to meet that child’s needs. These approaches have been shown to lead to substantial improvements in learning outcomes. Both the India and the Pakistan Country Research Teams have been instrumental in supporting the design and roll out of large scale, government implemented targeted instruction approaches, and evaluating their impact on children’s learning outcomes. In India, the team has supported roll out of a technology-enabled approach using the Mindspark software in Rajasthan (in public schools) and Delhi while in Pakistan the team has supported the roll out of the Targeted Instruction Programme in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad Capital Territory.

Funda Wande for driving the foundational literacy and numeracy agenda in South Africa.

Funda Wande is a South African non-governmental organization dedicated to equipping teachers to teach foundational reading and math. They create teaching and learning materials, teacher support materials, and teacher training courses, and conduct independent evaluations of their activities. In addition, they undertake policy engagement activities to influence government and promote a national “reading for meaning” agenda.

All members of the Community of Practice for leading the global discourse on learning and education systems, and for shifting global paradigms.*

The RISE Community of Practice is an initiative to convene a group of practitioners in organisations all working to create systemic change to raise learning levels, focused on sharing lessons from implementation, which help us overcome challenges and improve education systems together. This group is made up of organisations seeking to spur systems change at every level, from intergovernmentals, philanthropies, NGOs, think-tanks, civil society organisations, to national-level programme teams, practitioners and researchers. The Community of Practice aims to build a space for dialogue on shared lessons across a diverse group of practitioners and organisations all working to drive learning improvements around the world.


RISE Research Award

The nominees below were chosen from the “Long List” of nominees, which is just as worthy of recognition.

Nominee Description

Yamini Aiyar, Vincy Davis, Gokulnath Govindan, Taanya Kapoor for ‘Rewriting the Grammar of the Education System: Delhi’s Education Reform (A Tale of Creative Resistance and Creative Disruption)’.

This study uses ethnographic observations and document review to understand the pathways of policy formation, design, and promotion by leaders and then understanding, resistance and adoption by frontline workers. It documents the dynamics of implementing reforms in a low capability setting. A new political party took over the city government of Delhi in 2015, winning the election on a platform that included a commitment to improving education outcomes. Political will was present and the effort offered an opportunity to study how the government could build capability for delivery. Improving foundational skills was a key goal and approaches adapted from TaRL were a core feature of the reform.  A central argument of the study is that “the success and failure, and eventual institutionalisation, of reforms depend fundamentally on how the frontline of the system understands, interprets, and adapts to reform efforts. This, we shall argue, holds the key to upending.” (pg 3). Political will is not enough to reform a system; instead, it requires identifying the “points of friction in the ecosystem and experimenting with different ways to negotiate these.” (pg 3)

Tahir Andrabi, Benjamin Daniels, and Jishnu Das for ‘Human Capital Accumulation and Disasters: Evidence from the Pakistan Earthquake of 2005’.

This study looks at the effect of school closures on children’s learning after a devastating earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 caused children to be out of school for an average of 14 weeks in affected areas. Surveys measuring children’s learning and other outcomes were conducted four years after the earthquake to study how the system fared after the earthquake related disruptions. The authors found that four years after the earthquake, enrolment, infrastructure, household incomes and adult health outcomes were restored, but children’s lost learning was far from recovered. Students in affected areas were 1.5 to 2 years behind those from unaffected areas, potentially reduce their future income by 15%.  These were timely and relevant results in the first year of the pandemic, as they suggested that losses to human capital could continue to accumulate after children return to school if they fall behind the standard curriculum. It suggested that assessment, remediation, and meeting children where they are would all be critical components of mitigating the effects of school closures.

Julius Atuhurra, Michelle Kaffenberger for ‘Measuring education system coherence: Alignment of curriculum standards, examinations, and teacher instruction in Tanzania and Uganda’.*

To improve learning, education systems need to be coherent for learning. Coherence of instructional components is crucial: the content of the curriculum, exams, and actual teaching delivered in the classroom need to fit together. This paper defines and measures instructional coherence, and also provides a proof of concept for using the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) to quantify content across different instructional components. The authors produce three-dimensional content maps that show topic coverage, depth of conceptual mastery and level of emphasis for teaching, national exams, and the curriculum.  The content maps show: (a) high levels of incoherence across instructional components, highlighting areas for review and reform (e.g., the different components do not focus on the same content and prioritize content differently); (b) incoherent sequencing of content across subjects and grades (e.g., with the primary school curriculum leaving out important foundational topics like phonics).

Joan DeJaeghere, Bich-Hang Duong, and Vu Dao for ‘Teaching Practices That Support Thinking and Promote Learning: Qualitative Evidence from High and Low Performing Classes in Vietnam’.

Vietnam has considerable variation in learning outcomes which cannot be explained by factors such as teacher characteristics (qualifications, professional commitment, levels of professionalism) as they do not vary much across Vietnam. Similarly, the use of lesson plans and teaching the curriculum is also regulated nationally. In order to examine what teaching practices foster high levels of learning, the team conducts classroom observations to examine teachers’ beliefs, engagement with students, teaching of content, and classroom environment.  What distinguishes high-performing from low-performing classrooms is the teaching of metacognitive knowledge and strategies which are required for learning conceptual and procedural aspects of new knowledge. Metacognitive teaching practices are integrated with content knowledge, teacher-student interaction and emotional engagement. They require a more nuanced understanding of the complexity of teaching and pedagogical practices, and a design of teacher support that cannot be achieved through top-down, control-driven reforms. Policymakers and administrators often only engage with a narrow understanding of teaching and learning, focusing on observable and quantifiable factors, and omitting other crucial elements such as metacognitive teaching practices.

Karthik Muralidharan and Abhijeet Singh for ‘Improving Public Sector Management at Scale? Experimental Evidence on School Governance in India’.

Madhya Pradesh School Quality Assessment (MPSQA) was a school quality assurance program introduced in a large-scale experimental evaluation in Madhya Pradesh, India. Developed based on 'best practices', the program entailed, in each school: (a) developing a rating scorecard based on structured indicators in seven domains; (b) developing customised school improvement plans based on assessments and the scorecard; and (c) quarterly visits by cluster resource coordinators to follow up on the school improvement plans. The program was successfully implemented and officials complied with all “processes,” collected information, generated reports, and produced plans.  However, the program had no impact on student learning outcomes, nor on a wide range of processes that support student learning: student absence, teacher absence, teaching practices, or monitoring or support from bureaucrats and school committees. The program’s core objectives were overshadowed by competing process compliance objectives delegated to schools. The program did not link the new information to incentives to act on that information, and the information generated by the program was not accompanied by the support to act on that information. Despite documentation of the state level program having no impact on learning, the program satisfied political objectives and was scaled up nationwide. The authors found a “disconnect between the program’s objectives and how it was actually perceived by those implementing it” (i.e., incoherence within the system) prevented the program from being effective.

Daniel Rodriguez-Segura and Isaac Mbiti for ‘Back to the Basics: Curriculum Reform and Student Learning in Tanzania’.

A curriculum reform implemented in Tanzania in 2015 simplified instruction in Grades 1 and 2 to focus on foundational literacy and numeracy. The reform entailed a focus on the “3Rs”: Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic, dropping additional subjects such as English and emphasizing 80% instructional time on foundational literacy in Kiswahili and numeracy. This study evaluates how the reform effected learning outcomes using a student-level panel data and leveraging staggered timing of policy implementation across grades and cohorts to conduct a differences-in-differences study. The authors find that student learning increased by 0.20 standard deviations in literacy and numeracy scores after one year of the reform and that teacher training produced even larger effects. Longer term follow up also suggests that the reform reduced dropout rates up to four years later. On the other hand, lower average pass rates were seen in Grade 4 exams, perhaps a consequence of lower dropout rates among low-performing students.


Where can I watch the awards ceremony?

The awards ceremony was livestreamed on YouTube, where it can still be viewed. Please use the links and timestamps below to help you navigate the recording.

ROscars (RISE Oscars) Awards Ceremony (3:47:00), hosted by Katie Cooper (RISE)

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