NABU Wins $200,000 In Ed Tech Competition to Address COVID-19 Learning Loss


New York, NY, March 16, 2021


NABU today was named a winner in the Futures Forum on Learning: Tools Competition, a global competition aimed at developing new technologies to address student learning loss from the coronavirus pandemic.


NABU will receive $200,000 to develop NABU’s low bandwidth reading application that targets the 250m children in developing countries who have virtually no access to books in a language they speak or understand. The goal of the NABU Formative Literacy Assessment is to transform the current NABU.ORG mobile reading application into a powerful learning engineering tool that accelerates children’s literacy gains. The aim is for the app to be scaled quickly to support millions of children with the culturally appropriate resources they need to learn to read, on devices they already have access to at home.


The competition was convened and sponsored by Schmidt Futures and Citadel Founder and CEO Ken Griffin to accelerate pandemic-related learning recovery and advance the field of learning engineering. The 18 winning teams, made up of entrepreneurs, learning scientists, and researchers from around the world, are eligible to share a total of more than $1.5 million in awards to fund tools, technologies, platforms, and research projects ranging from interactive learning apps to on-demand tutoring.


“Our learning engineering design focuses on the home literacy environment, and will also look at factors such as parental involvement and its impact on literacy outcomes. The potential scale of our project NABU Formative Literacy Assessment is immense as there are half a billion speakers of our top four underserved language groups. The NABU data set unlocked will be one of the largest open datasets of its kind helping to drive understanding of how literacy develops among the world’s most vulnerable children.” Tanyella Evans, NABU’s Executive Director.



Launched in July 2020 at the Futures Forum on Learning, the Tools Competition generated nearly 900 proposals from 55 countries, showcasing innovative ways to accelerate learning recovery and mitigate the educational impact of COVID-19 on K-12 students. The educational tools developed by the winning teams have the potential to serve one million students by the end of 2021 and close to 20 million students within the next three years, according to estimates calculated by each team.


“The pandemic has underscored the importance of investing in long-term innovative solutions that improve student outcomes,” said Ken Griffin, Citadel Founder and CEO. “Every student should have access to the tools and resources they need to succeed, and I applaud the winners of our Tools Competition for their commitment to improving education for students globally.”


“The Tools Competition is built on three big ideas,” said Kumar Garg, Managing Director and Head of Partnerships at Schmidt Futures. “We must address the global learning loss from the pandemic now, or risk the consequences lasting for years. We must develop new solutions. And we can’t just chase after silver bullets—we have to actually invest in tools that use the best learning science and have the infrastructure for continuous improvement. That’s the value of learning engineering, and that’s what all of these winners exemplify.”


The 18 winning teams come from institutions and organizations across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. In addition to receiving financial prizes, the winning teams will share insights from their work with external researchers to facilitate experimentation to improve student outcomes and better understand student learning.


To see a full list of winners, their award amounts, and a synopsis of their proposals, please visit here.

Help us share this exciting news with your community! Click the share button at the top or bottom of this post to celebrate this news with us via Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, and more!


About NABU

With the goal of providing every child with inclusive and equitable access to literacy by 2030, NABU’s mission is to solve the global literacy crisis so that every child can read and rise to their full potential. As a leading publisher of multilingual children’s books, NABU uses technology to accelerate children’s literacy through a love of reading in their mother tongue.


Tools Competition Background

Administered by the Learning Agency with support from Teachers College, Columbia University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, the competition consisted of three rounds of proposal evaluations and pitches before a panel of judges that included philanthropists, education technologists, teachers and researchers. In order to be considered for an award, each proposal had to address a pressing learning goal connected to COVID-19 learning loss and work with external researchers to build a culture of continuous improvement. More information about the competition is available here.      

The field of learning engineering, and Schmidt Futures’ Learning Engineering program, aims to leverage the rapid advances in computational methods, data, and talent to both improve and utilize our growing understanding of how people learn. The Tools Competition embodies that approach by seeding the development of new tools and approaches that contribute to research infrastructure for rapid testing and improvement by a new generation of computational talent.