Can't Wait to Learn

More than 30 million children are excluded from education because of armed conflict. Can’t Wait to Learn provides these children with vital learning opportunities - no matter where they are.

The programme sees children learn by playing curriculum-based educational games on tablets. This e-learning method enables children to receive quality education. The programme is replicable in different emergency contexts and is backed by a number of partners from the public and private sectors.

At a Glance

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About This Innovation

Innovation Stats

Funding Goal ($): 
Innovation Type: 
What phase of development is your innovation currently in?: 
Potential Lives Impacted: 

Provide a status update for your Innovation.

  • The Can’t Wait to Learn programme will expand and encompass literacy components, besides mathematics. The expanded programme will launch in the Middle East to respond to the urgent education needs of Syrian refugees and vulnerable children from host communities. This follows a series of research trials of the mathematics application in Sudan between 2011 and 2015. 
  • In Sudan, Can't Wait to Learn is currently working in partnership with the Sudanese Ministry of Education, UNICEF, UNESCO, Dutch research agency TNO and Ahfad University for Women to conduct a six-month scaled trial of an Arabic reading component.   In addition, the programme has been integrated into national education plans with scale-up strategy design planned for the coming years.
  • The coalition of organisations behind Can’t Wait to Learn will expand to incorporate new research, design, procurement and implementation partners. This will support the rapid scale-up of the programme in the future, in the Middle East and in Africa. 
  • Robust funding provides the basis for the current five-year planning period (2016-2020). 2016 saw Can’t Wait to Learn selected as a ‘Dream Fund’ project by the Dutch National Postcode Lottery. The programme also receives financial support from IKEA Foundation and UNICEF. The Dutch Ministy of Foreign Affairs supported the programme in Sudan between 2011 and 2015. This funding structure allows Can’t Wait to Learn to plan ambitious, large-scale interventions - and make a tangible difference in the lives of children affected by conflict.
  • The Can’t Wait to Learn-method proved to be a success in Sudan, where trials showed that boys and girls between the ages of seven and nine displayed significant improvements in mathematics using a control group measure and international tools. Please see the research report for further information.
  • In 2016 Can’t Wait to Learn was chosen by UNICEF, UNHCR and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) as one of three projects worldwide chosen for the Humanitarian Education Accelerator (HEA). This means that Can’t Wait to Learn will be given tailored mentoring and support as the programme grows and scales up in three countries and beyond.   


How does your innovation work?

At an individual level, children who are out of school, or who have missed out on formal education opportunities due to conflict, are able to access education which is tailored to them.
By spending between 1 - 2 hours a day,  children are able to use a tablet and the Can’t Wait to Learn software to access the primary maths and reading curricula with integrated psychosocial support.

After completing a series of exercises, the software automatically unlocks new exercises at a higher level, making it possible for children to progressively acquire skills and competencies. The game worlds teach core concepts from the national curricula, but they also teach life skills and provide solid support to children’s personal growth.

The games itself and surrounding intervention, including teacher and facilitator training, is designed with the specific target children in mind to ensure strong learning outcomes but also community and national institution acceptance of the programme.

Can't Wait to Learn comprises six key elements:

1. An embedded maths and national language literacy curriculum and full instructional model;
2. A digital user interface which is co-created with children to ensure that the digital environment is appropriate and recognizable within their reality;
3. Back end analytics which harvest data from individual learners to both tailor their learning journey and to provide information to facilitators or teachers on next steps for support;
4. Learning motivation, life skills and guided psychosocial wellbeing activities within the game that supports a vision of a positive future;
5. A cost-effective delivery mechanism that works across resource-constrained environments where power and connectivity are lacking, and where there is not always quality support available from teachers; and
6. An emphasis on working in strong collaboration with state and international actors to develop a partnership framework which supports integration of the Can’t Wait to Learn model in national education systems and adaptation by the global education in emergencies sector.

What Evidence do you have that your Innovation works?

Research shows that this innovative learning method works. In the pilots of the mathematics curriculum in Sudan, Can't Wait to Learn showed promising academic outcomes, with children in the project doubling their scores from 18 to 38 points out of 60 over six weeks.

The program’s second trial in Sudan results showed 31-point gains in scores from pre- to post-tests among children in the treatment group during the six month trial period, with psychosocial research indicating positive effects on the self-esteem of both boys and girls.

Both phases included rigorous research into learning outcomes using the standardised Early Grade Mathematics Assessment (EGMA); psychosocial research exploring the impact on children’s motivation, future orientation and confidence; and value for money, with the aim of understanding both the costs of the intervention and the options for scale and replicability.

Do you have current users or testers?

Can't Wait to Learn is operational in Sudan where the focus is on girl and boy children between the ages of 7 - 9.

The programme is currently working in two countries neighbouring Syria to design the Can't Wait to Learn intervention here. It is expected that the programme will work with both host and refugee communities in these two countries with a focus on girl and boy children between the ages of 7 - 12.

What is your strategy for expanding use of your innovation?

The strategy for expanding the innovation, focuses on both product and process related ambitions. 

Product solution ambitions:

Building on the strong research base and on the needs of children in key areas, the aim is to build on the successes to date and create a solution which integrates:
• A serious game which builds and assesses curriculum-linked basic skills for literacy and numeracy up to the end of primary school. Whilst the maths has been successfully tested and is in the development phase for new environments, the literacy is still in development.  Initially the focus is on Arabic, French and English language as per the requirements of the groups in the target countries;
• Fully integrated psychosocial support and life skills into the Can’t Wait to Learn programme;
• A range of curated open educational resources (OERs) by country which are available as enrichment materials alongside the game; and
• A body of research which makes a significant contribution to education and humanitarian sector understanding how to best support children affected by conflict to access quality education


To develop a robust model for scale up which can be adopted by a range of education in emergencies state and non-state actors.

Next Steps

  • Can't Wait to Learn is adapting the programme for launch in two countries neighbouring Syria.
  • Can't Wait to Learn is currently working with the Ministry of Education in Sudan, UNICEF, UNESCO, TNO and Ahfad University for Women to conduct an Arabic reading trial.
  • Can't Wait to Learn is introducing a range of new research, design, procurement and implementation partners to the programme as part of its expansion strategy.


Question for the innovator

Seems very promising. A solution that integrates technology, context and targeted group inputs in its design and inplementation will have good chances to grow and scale. Interested to learn more about this specific project. Can it be replicated for non-Arabic speaking countries like Nepal for example? Have background working in Middle East and would be interested to share my ideas if I could be of any help to the publisher. Also have interest in studying technology-based education programs for rural poor in remote areas with high level of illiteracy. Would love to learn how this could be used as a model and what are the policy implications and requirements.