Relevant data for education post-2015 need not be ‘big data’

post2015_data_200With the 2015 deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) approaching, planning for a new development agenda, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), is taking shape. Concurrently, as the world embraces the notion of sustainability and sustainable development, a technology revolution is upon us. It is rooted in the enormous streams of information routinely captured by computers and other digital means in our workplaces, homes and communities. The scope and implications of this ‘data revolution’ are being linked to the new developments goals and their corresponding ambitious targets. This blog asks whether a revolution is really required for us to be able to measure progress in the post-2015 education targets.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently asked an Independent Expert Advisory Group to make concrete recommendations for bringing about a data revolution in sustainable development. The EFA Global Monitoring Report, which has been monitoring education goals since 2002, participated in the recent public consultation run by this group. We took the view that, while ‘big data’ may be an exciting concept, we must remember that most countries are still grappling with the compilation of reliable, high quality data in education. Getting the basics right is critical, before we embark on grander mechanisms. Doing so would go a long way in helping the international community measure new global education targets post-2015. Here is what the GMR team contributed to three of the consultation’s key questions.

Credit: Monika Nikope/UNESCO

Credit: Monika Nikope/UNESCO

First, on the prospect of measuring progress of the sustainable development goal on education, two concerns come to mind. The first is the need for better information on early childhood development, learning outcomes, and skills for youth and adults, including literacy. Understandings of terms such as ‘skills’ and ‘literacy’ have evolved considerably from how they were defined at Dakar. Adult literacy is now viewed on a continuum, for instance, rather than a black and white classification of an adult being either literate or not. We must be sure that data for post-2015 targets follow suit. However, while some are suggesting over-hauling ways of collecting data, and bringing about a ‘revolution’ through technological means, our position is that better coordination between agencies in order to develop ways to measure these outcomes, and more money to implement these ideas, would bring about the changes needed to measure education progress post-2015.

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Posted in Developed countries, Developing countries, Governance, Post-2015 development framework, technology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Nigeria: Why pupils learning in English and mother tongue are not mutually exclusive

This blog by Kieran Cooke from the Universal Learning Solutions, explains how a synthetic phonics approach can be taken to literacy education that can mean governments don’t have to choose between either instruction in English, or in their local language; children can learn in both. The approach aims to support governments in ensuring all children learn the basics by the time they reach Primary 4.

© Rene Edde 2008

© Rene Edde 2008

Education research from across the globe has demonstrated that it is ineffective for pupils to learn to read and write by memorising, due to the limited brain capacity to memorise whole words. Instead extensive research such as that by the US National Reading Panel has shown that teaching using synthetic phonics is a highly successful alternative. This approach teaches pupils letter sounds (for example, mmm not em, sss not es) and how to blend those sounds together to read words (so d-o-g makes ʻdogʼ). At the same time they learn how to write words by segmenting a word into its sounds, and then forming letters for those sounds.

Universal Learning Solutions (ULS) delivers literacy programmes using this synthetic phonics approach in Nigeria and elsewhere. So far, over 8,000 teachers in Nigeria have been trained in teaching the synthetic phonics approach in English and over 500,000 pupils have been provided with synthetic phonics teaching and learning materials. These programmes have shown that pupils using this approach, regardless of their mother tongue language, have made significantly faster progress than those taught using whole word approaches.

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Posted in Early childhood care and education, Ethnicity, Language, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Primary school, Quality of education | 15 Comments

Pakistan: Children in primary schools should be taught in their mother tongue


Credit: UNESCO/Amina Sayeed

By Bushra Rahim, PhD student.

“If we start speaking other languages and forget our own, we would not be we, we would be clones of an alien people; we would be aliens to ourselves” (UNESCO, The Use of Vernacular Languages in Education, 1958)

The Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) announced that the medium of instruction would change from Urdu to English in public schools from April this year. The arguments put forward for the change were to make public schools the same as private schools in the province and to provide a uniform education to all children. But did the government of KP take into consideration the following questions? 1) What is the preferred medium of instruction of parents, students and teachers? 2) What is the impact of changing the medium of instruction on educational outcomes? 3) What does international research on the subject tell us?

In order to understand people’s perceptions about their preferred medium of instruction we need to know first about the most commonly spoken languages in KP. According to the 1998 Census, 74% population of KP speaks Pashto, 3.9% speak Siraiki, 1% Punjabi, 0.8% Urdu and 20.4% speak other languages. A more recent household survey by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012 shows that the four commonly used languages in the province are: Pashto (77%), Hindko (11%), Siraiki (3.5%), Chitrali (3%) and others (5.5%). Changing the medium of instruction to English, therefore, means that most children are learning in a language that is not their own. Continue reading

Posted in Basic education, Early childhood care and education, Language, Learning, Literacy, Primary school, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Malawi: Why it’s important children learn to read in their mother-tongue

By Helen Abadzi, Radhika Iyengar, Alia Karim and Florie Chagwira – education specialists from the Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development at Columbia University.

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa, reading levels of students are far below grade level, and Malawi is no exception. Recent results of the Early Grade Reading Assessment (EGRA) used by USAID and the Ministry of Education Science and Technology indicate that student reading levels are very weak, with 72.8% of grade 2 students unable to read a basic story, and 41.9% of grade 4 students unable to read a story.

In the South of Malawi in Grade 1, children are being simultaneously taught to read in English and in the local language, Chichewa. While English grammar is relatively straightforward, many English words are hard to spell and read. There are silent letters. There are multiple spellings for the same sound (eg. bear and bare) and different pronunciations for the same word (eg.row the boat, and have a row with someone). This requires children learning to read in English to memorize word lists, learn complex rules and predict unknown spellings.  Were they to learn in Chichewa which has letters that always have the same sounds no matter the formation (like most of the world’s languages) they would find reading far easier. It is therefore of grave concern that Malawi is heading towards English-only instruction in schools, and risks leaving those speaking languages such as Chichewa behind.

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP), a multi-sectoral initiative led by the Earth Institute, Columbia University has taken on this learning challenge. Community Education Workers use these with children in village learning centres. They show the children a letter, tell them its sound, showing them how that letter can sound different when attached to other letters, and then spend time asking children to practice saying them. The learning approach uses the tried and tested theories of cognitive neuroscience to teach Chichewa. This method teaches students one letter at a time, with letters spaced out and in big font, allowing students to differentiate between different letters and symbols.

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Posted in Africa, Basic education, Early childhood care and education, Learning, Literacy, Quality of education, Teachers, Training | 9 Comments

We owe all our children the benefits of quality education

By Mariam Khalique, a teacher from the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan and previous teacher of  Malala Yousafzai.

There is a saying in our national language: a teacher is like an architect who builds the soul and character of a child. Yet Pakistan is ignoring the vital importance of teachers and teaching – and our children are suffering the consequences.

I am a teacher from the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, Pakistan. I taught Malala Yousafzai, the schoolgirl education activist who was attacked by the Taliban for exercising her right to go to school.

Even without the threat of such attacks, it is very hard for teachers in rural and remote areas in Pakistan to provide quality education. In district Swat, where I work, there are about 2,000 schools, but very few are providing quality education. In mountainous areas, where very few schools can be found, many are either ghost schools (the schools exist on paper in black and white but do not actually exist in reality or are not operational at all) or schools with no infrastructure, no system and no teaching learning process. The buildings lack proper facilities, the classrooms are not properly equipped with desks and chairs and there are no toilets in some schools. Let me tell you that it is very hard to teach and keep children’s concentration when they have no chair to sit on, and nothing to lean on to write. In short, these are schools in name only. They provide abysmal learning conditions.

At this school in Mureed Seethar village, Sindh, Pakistan, there is only one teacher for 100 pupils across five classes at the school.  Credit: UNESCO/Amima Sayeed

At this school in Mureed Seethar village, Sindh, Pakistan, there is only one teacher for 100 pupils across five classes at the school.
Credit: UNESCO/Amima Sayeed

Our schools also fail to give every child the care and attention they need and deserve. Class sizes are out of control in some areas, with one teacher for up to 150 students.

I know how hard it can be to teach if you don’t have the right support. I, too, am frustrated at hearing about so many children who are not learning in school and want to do something about it.

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Posted in Basic education, Conflict, Equality, Equity, Gender, Out-of-school children, Poverty, Teachers | 1 Comment

Wanted urgently: adequately trained teachers so all children can go to school by 2030

By Aaron Benavot, director of the EFA Global Monitoring Report and Albert Motivans, head of Education Statistics at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. 

A new paper jointly released by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the Education for All Global Monitoring Report today puts a spotlight on the global teacher shortage while identifying those countries facing the greatest needs. Under pressure to fill the gap, many countries are hiring teachers who have little or no training. Without immediate action, the shortage of teachers, especially trained teachers, will jeopardize wider efforts to ensure that all children not only go to school but also learn.Capture

How many teachers do we need? The year 2015 is just around the corner, and yet UIS data show that  countries will need to recruit about 4 million more teachers to achieve universal primary education by the deadline. Of the total number, 2.6 million would be needed to replace teachers who leave the profession, while the remaining 1.4 million must fill new positions to ensure that there are not more than 40 pupils per teacher. At least 27 million teachers would need to be recruited even if the deadline is extended to 2030, as is currently being proposed.

Some regions and countries need many more teachers than others. This interactive e-Atlas by the UIS shows which countries have teacher shortages and when they might close their gaps if current trends continue. By far, the greatest challenge is in sub-Saharan Africa. The region accounts for more than one-half (63%) of the additional teachers needed by 2015 or two-thirds (67%) by 2030.

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Literacy, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Rural areas, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

New: Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers

CaptureToday is World Teachers Day. It is a day for teachers to speak their minds and describe the challenges and joys of their daily experiences in the classroom. It is also a day for policy makers to listen carefully to what teachers have to say, and take note of their suggestions for improvements in the future. To foster the links between teachers and policy makers, the EFA Global Monitoring Report has produced an Advocacy Toolkit for Teachers in partnership with Education International and the Teachers Taskforce for Education for All at UNESCO. This document underscores the importance of teachers playing an active role in the search for solutions to provide a quality education for all.

It is well-known that there is a huge teacher gap around the world. As was shown in the last EFA GMR, there is a chronic lack of trained teachers as well. Tomorrow, we will be releasing a new policy paper jointly with UIS showing the size and scope of the teacher shortage. This massive shortage of qualified teachers is taking its toll on the quality of education, contributing to the fact that 250 million children are not learning the basics, over half of whom are in school.

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Literacy, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Sustainable development, Teachers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments