Our Topics

Topic 1 - Science of Learning

In 2020 we will be be able to say that within our thematic priority of “Science of Learning” we explore the frontiers of individualized learning and intervention. We do this by generating research insights and innovation related to the biological, technological, psychological and pedagogical dimensions of learning.

No single child is the same as another. Research could soon tell us how to tailor learning to the specific needs of each individual child. This personalized approach would reflect, for example, differences in biology, upbringing, social and economic circumstances. It would be a historic breakthrough, providing unprecedented opportunities to tackle inequalities between children that can last a lifetime.

This is a great ambition and more than a dream. It is within sight. But achievement requires focussed research across diverse disciplines that helps us to understand children’s learning. These disciplines include psychology, neurobiology, evolutionary biology, pediatrics, education, behavioral genetics, computer sciences and human computer interaction. Achievement also demands understanding of the many settings where learning occurs—be it in the family, the playground or the classroom—as well as different methods for learning, such as formal teaching and digital technology.

The Jacobs Foundation is perhaps uniquely placed to extend and draw together knowledge from these diverse disciplines and about these varied settings and methods. That is why the Science of Learning is our first strategic goal. We will support the world’s leading research and the brightest early- and mid-career scholars in this field. They are creating the evidence that will underpin practical interventions we will design to support children for our next strategy beginning in 2020.

Topic 2 - Early Education

In 2020 we will be able to say that within our thematic priority “Early Education” we help to formulate comprehensive early education policies in Switzerland and other European countries. We do this by developing systematic programs designed to promote equal opportunity at the school-entry level and emphasizing the societal returns of education.

Research by the Jacobs Foundation and others shows that early childhood is the most significant developmental period. It tells us that high-quality early childhood education and care transforms people’s lifetime prospects, especially for those who are disadvantaged. Indeed, inequality typically persists throughout life between advantaged and disadvantaged people unless high-quality support is provided before they start school. Starting support for disadvantaged children only when they enter school may not compensate for their disadvantages. These important early years of brain development provide the most efficient and cost-effective moment to help out. Yet, there is a gulf between knowledge of what is best for young children and what happens in practice.

Within our second theme, Early Education, we will help to formulate comprehensive early education policies in Switzerland and other European countries. We will do this by developing programs designed to promote equal opportunities at school-entry level and that emphasize the societal benefits of education. We want better transitions between early care and kindergarten and then onto primary school and formal education. Organized well, these moves strengthen integration of children and learning.

Topic 3 - Rural Livelihoods

In 2020 we will be able to say that within our thematic priority “Rural Livelihoods” we work to improve the lives of the rural population of Ivory Coast both today and in the future. We do this by nurturing an ecosystem of private and public stakeholders dedicated to the common goal of enhancing educational quality.

Ivory Coast leads the world in the production and export of the cocoa beans used in the manufacture of chocolate. Its smallholder cocoa farmers account for almost 40% of global cocoa production. Yet they can barely survive on less than $0.50 a day, well below the internationally recognized $2 poverty line. Nearly half of men and almost three quarters of women are illiterate. More than two thirds of Ivorian youths have not finished primary education and more than a third have never attended school. The well-being of these communities and the education of their children are intricately connected. Education is associated not only with higher income, but also with better health, and longer life.

The Jacobs Foundation has a long history of supporting better livelihoods in West Africa, particularly for children. Under our third thematic pillar (Rural Livelihoods) with our program called Transforming Education in Cocoa Communities we have entered into a strategic partnership with CocoaAction, which represents the 10 globally leading cocoa and chocolate companies. Our goal is to improve quality of life for 200,000 children in Ivory Coast and,approximately, 1,000 communities, by supporting community development, improving children’s education and increasing the incomes of cocoa farmers.