Indian girls looking up and smiling

5 Min Inspiration: Getting girls back to school

Strengthening Opportunities for Adolescent Resilience (SOAR) is a multi-country initiative working with Ministries of Education to provide accelerated education for out-of-school adolescents, particularly girls, enabling them to acquire key academic and life skills. In addition to building their capacity to read and do math, the SOAR curriculum includes leadership skills development, financial literacy, and adolescent sexual & reproductive health information.

Adolescents who complete the program are able to transition into formal school or use their new knowledge skills to enter a vocational training program or seek more meaningful work. SOAR was first developed and implemented in India in 1999 before being replicated in seven additional countries: Afghanistan, Malawi, Nepal, Pakistan, Somalia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Indian teacher and learners in maths class

What changed?
SOAR improved adolescents’ learning outcomes and increased their transition rate to formal education. It also increased their economic capacity and ability for collective action against social injustice. 

  • Increased transition rate to formal education: In India, 95% of girls who completed the accelerated learning program pass the state board exams to be eligible to transition back to formal school.
    In Nepal840 out of the 1,112 SOAR graduates from the Hausala transitioned to formal primary school, with transition rates increasing over time - from 63% in 2018  to 80% in 2019. Under the Excel project in Nepal146 out of the 160 graduates transitioned to formal school.
    In Somalia, under the AGES project, 73% or 5,756 graduates, have successfully transitioned to continue their primary education. Transition rates were equal among girls with disabilities and those without a disability, and among minority and non-minority girls. 
    In Malawi, under the Kukwera project, the percentage of adolescents completing SOAR has increased from 68% to 94%.  To-date, 737 adolescents, 56% girls, have transitioned back to formal education through the first four cohorts. 
    Finally, in Zambia, across the first two cohorts of SOAR, 1,087 adolescents transitioned back into formal school after completing the SOAR curriculum, representing 79% of those who completed the program. Additionally, the SOAR program in Zambia works with children aged 0-6 through early childhood development and early childhood education programs; of the children who attended the early childhood education programs and were eligible to enter primary school at grade 1, 85% made this transition on-time. 
  • Improved learning outcomes:  In Nepal, under the Hausala project, the proportion of girls able to read increased from 4% to 76%. Analysis of the Excel project showed an overall increase in the students’ capacity to read and do math at endline from baseline. In Somalia, girls graduating from the AGES project’s accelerated education course improved their literacy scores by 20 percentage points, with the highest gains among girls with disabilities and those facing extreme poverty.  In Malawi, adolescents enrolled in CARE SOAR centers achieved 85% pass rates on their most recent termly exams. 
  • Improved financial practices: In Kenya, SOAR participants reported a 30% increase in average savings. In Nepal, under Hausala project, in nine rural municipalities, 27 girls' groups formed Village Saving and Loans Associations (VSLA) with 608 girls who saved up to USD 1,687.  In Malawi, adolescents from 16 savings groups saved $1,089 USD in the last savings cycle. 
  • Exercising rights: life skills training provided by SOAR makes adolescents, particularly girls, more aware of their individual rights, and make them more confident on raising their voices against any wrongdoings they may face. In Nepal, girls who graduated from SOAR were significantly less likely to be married young than girls who did not participate in the program (7% vs. 40% national average). The knowledge of among girls about gender-based violence (GBV)-related reporting mechanisms nearly doubled from 36.5% at baseline to 62.81% at endline under the Hausala project. 
Nepalese young girl smiling holding books

How did we get there?

  • Build for local context. SOAR curricula are tailored for each country-specific context and designed in partnership with the Ministries of Education to match local requirements for certification and transition into formal schools. At the local level, SOAR works with community structures for management and oversight, as well as to increase the demand for education by shifting social norms that prevent girls from accessing school.
  • Support the people who need it most. SOAR is designed to support ultra-marginalized adolescents and is adapted to respond to their needs.
  • Build networks and solidarity. The intervention is not only developing adolescents’ agency and skills, but also building support networks at school and community to address barriers to education, particularly for girls, and enable adolescent-led action.
  • Think about scale. The program also supports education systems to better implement accelerated programs, contributing to the development of policy frameworks for alternative / non-formal education and processes to enable students to transition into formal school after graduation.  In Malawi, CARE’s work with the MoE has led to the SOAR model being adapted and implemented in government-led centers as a pilot for full government take-up of the model. 

Before COVID-19 closed schools in 2020, 258 million young people were not in school. During the height of the pandemic, over 1.6 billion children were out-of-school due to closures. Accelerated learning models can provide opportunities for the global children in recovering learning losses.  CARE’s goal is to grow SOAR’s reach from 4.1 million to 7.4 million across seven countries by 2030.

Want to learn more?

SOAR Program: Impact Brief
SOAR Program: 4-pager  
SOAR on CARE Official Website
SOAR on Global Education Hub

Indian girls in front of field of grass

CARE International’s expertise lies in our holistic and inclusive approach to tackling poverty and injustice. While CARE International works alongside people of all ages, backgrounds, and genders, 70% of the world’s poorest people are women. Women and girls experience poverty, hardship, climate, conflict, and health emergencies very differently to men, and require specialized approaches. This is why CARE International places the specific needs and rights of women and girls at the heart of that all we do

Read more on our gender equality focus