| 10-07-2023

Instill Education’s unique approach to improving education outcomes in Africa

Education is the key to unlocking a more prosperous, inclusive future. But by 2030, UNESCO estimates there will be a shortage of 17 million teachers across the African continent.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of education exclusion in the world, with the lowest rates of successful educational outcomes. Something needs to be done to address this, and quickly: the population is growing rapidly, and about 40% of the world’s youth reside in Africa. But by the end of primary school, 90% of these children can’t comprehend a simple text. The continent needs higher quality educators, and to make this happen, educators need a revolution in professional development.

Instill Education: focusing on educators

Based in South Africa, Instill Education offers teachers a lifelong network of support, professional development, and practical skills. They work with individuals as well as schools to upskill teachers, which in turn improves students’ learning outcomes. We were recently joined by Alim Ladha, Instill CEO and founder, at an online Round Table to discuss his company’s impact.

Alim shared that by focusing on the teachers rather than the students, Instill has found an innovative way to improve Africa’s educational results: “We exist to solve a systemic challenge.” He explained that “educators are one of the largest drivers of better outcomes in our education system,” but as it currently stands, over 30% of primary school teachers and over 50% of secondary school teachers in Africa don’t have a teaching qualification. This problem is exacerbated by a lack of further training: on average, teachers receive less than 15 minutes of professional development per month.

Solutions are hard to come by: governments have limited education budgets – and most of it is spent on infrastructure, not people. But schools, even in the newest and shiniest buildings, are only as good as their educators.

An innovative approach to a systemic problem

With teachers being the biggest drivers of better educational outcomes, Instill focuses on them, rather than students. The company harnesses edtech to provide an online teacher training platform which supports current and future teachers. Their bite-sized, stackable credentials mean teachers don’t have to tackle a long degree program all at once. They also offer in-person support where applicable and develop customised programs for individual schools.

Data from the platform helps Instill to understand topic demand and access challenges – information which they use to craft a personalised approach, and to start conversations with policymakers to address systemic issues. Alim gave an interesting example: data revealed that men tend to access the Instill platform around 4 pm, when they are finished with work, but women often don’t have time to log in until midnight.

Instill’s technology not only helps them understand their users better; it also helps them train teachers in a more holistic way. They can adapt trainings for local markets, offer a wide variety of modules – including ones on social issues which impact the teaching environment – and, crucially, their product team is led by African women who understand the needs of African women. By taking this approach, Instill has successfully formed a partnership with the Ghanaian government, received accreditation from the South African government, is launching soon in Nigeria, and is currently working with 55,000 teachers across three countries.

The big challenge: refining the business model

Despite addressing a clear need in the market, Instill faces an unusual business challenge: teachers need to pay for the courses themselves.

For many of us, further education seems like a worthwhile investment, but that isn’t necessarily the case for many teachers across the African continent. Teachers already have a job, and although Instill can demonstrate improvement in teachers’ practices, receiving more training isn’t necessarily going to further their career.

In addition, women often can’t afford to take advantage of such opportunities, and governments don’t have the money to spend on teachers. Further complicating matters, many current teachers can’t produce the necessary documents to prove they finished previous trainings. Reliable access to internet and electricity are also a challenge, and time is also a constraint: many teachers are parents and/or have additional part-time jobs.

Instill is overcoming these challenges step by step, working closely with teachers, governments and schools to build trust and demonstrate value. “We tend to work with governments to effectively act as zero-cost distribution agents [while we] solve some of their challenges,” Alim explained. Furthermore, Instill delivers a life-long community network, with access to better jobs, rewards, and retention benefits. This enables the company to deliver a solid return on investment to participating teachers.

Partnering with Goodwell to reach one million teachers by 2030

Where does Goodwell fit into this? Because education has massive potential for positive impact, it’s a strong match for our investment ethos. From a financial perspective, the sector is attractive for a variety of reasons, including demand outpacing supply, access to negative working capital, high barriers to entry and prices which are growing faster than inflation. Goodwell is proud to be one of the first-movers in a sector usually financed by donors or development organisations.

From Instill’s perspective, partnering with Goodwell sends an important signal to the education ecosystem, adding credibility and opening conversations with other venture capitalists. Alim observed that “I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone anymore.” Goodwell offers a fresh perspective and long-term commitment to investing in the education sector. Together, Instill and Goodwell are working to better understand how and where impact is happening, and how the sector can mature to attract more funding. Our shared goal is to support one million teachers by 2030, increasing access to education and making important strides towards a more inclusive society.