The RISE Podcast: Education Research - From Systems Thinking to a Science of Implementation

The final RISE Podcast is an excerpt from the RISE Annual Conference and features a discussion with four professionals passionately committed to the cause for learning improvement in the Global South.


Image of Nompumelelo Mohohlwane

Nompumelelo Mohohlwane

Department of Basic Education, Government of South Africa

Image of Rachel Hinton

Rachel Hinton

UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Image of Lant Pritchett

Lant Pritchett

RISE Directorate

Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford

Image of Laura Savage

Laura Savage

UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

This episode is a recording of a panel conversation that took place at the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government during the RISE Annual Conference in September 2023. For the purposes of clarity and length, this podcast is an edited version of the conversation.

The panel featured Nompumelelo Mohohlwane from the Department of Basic Education in South Africa; Rachel Hinton from the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; and former RISE Research Director, Lant Pritchett. This conversation was moderated by Laura Savage from the International Education Funders Group.

The panel looks back at the questions that existed at the start of RISE and whether enough has been learnt ten years later. They reflect on the difference between the motivating questions for RISE and the What Works Hub for Global Education. They go on to debate what commitment to learning really means and what cultural shifts are needed for it to materialise, and connected to this, what implementation science really means. The conversation ends with a reflection on the meaning of the thematic shift from systems to implementation.

Guest biographies

Nompumelelo Mohohlwane

Nompumelelo Mohohlwane is an education researcher working as a Deputy Director in the Research Coordination, Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate at the national Department of Basic Education, South Africa. The unit is responsible for system monitoring, supporting performance information management, and conducting research and evaluation of education interventions. She is part of the research team for the government-led Early Grade Reading Study randomised control trials (2015-2018, 2018-2021). She has a Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Witwatersrand. Her studies focused on substantiating the contribution of Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) to evaluating early-grade reading acquisition using literature and empirical large sample data. She is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Stellenbosch, her study focuses on language in education policy. She recently co-authored a book chapter titled ” A review of recent efforts to benchmark early reading skills in South African languages” in the Early Grade Reading in South Africa Reading Oxford book edited by Spaull and Pretorius.

Rachel Hinton

Rachel Hinton is the Global Education Research Lead at FCDO, and a Fellow of Practice at the Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford. At FCDO she grew a portfolio of research including RISE, EdTech, THRIVE on ECD, DeliverEd and the What Works Hub. She currently serves on the Secretariat for the Global Evidence Education Advisory Panel, which documents ‘what works’ to combat the global learning crisis. In 2014, she established the Building Evidence in Education global group with the World Bank, USAID, and the UN, to improve standards of research in the sector. Her DFID posts include Ghana from 2009 to 2012, Western Balkans between 2006 and 2009 and Nepal in 2001. She took a secondment to UNICEF in New York in 2005. Previously she was a lecturer at the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh and Kenyatta University, Nairobi. She serves on the Board of STIR Education and is an advisory member for the Brookings Institution Scaling Initiative.

Lant Pritchett

Lant Pritchett was the Research Director of the RISE Programme. Previously, he was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development and Professor of the Practice of International Development at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2017 he published two co-authored books through Oxford University Press: Building State Capability and Deals & Development: The Political Dynamics of Growth Episodes. He also published two solely authored books with the Center for Global Development, Let Their People Come (2006) and The Rebirth of Education (2013), and over a hundred articles and papers (with more than 25 co-authors) on a wide range of topics, including state capability, labour mobility, economic growth, and education, among many others.

Laura Savage

Laura Savage is the Executive Director of the International Education Funders Group (IEFG), a network of philanthropic foundations and donor-advised funds working towards achieving SDG4, focusing on low and middle-income countries. Before that, she served as Senior Education Adviser at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Laura has lived and worked in Malaysia, Bangladesh and Malawi and holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge on the politics of aid in national education reform.


The continuation of the RISE Podcast has been made possible through funding from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford supports the production of the RISE Podcast.

Producers: Julius Atuhurra and Katie Cooper

Audio Editing: James Morris

RISE blog posts and podcasts reflect the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the organisation or our funders.