Why media reports about learning assessment data make me cringe

montoya-cropped1By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.

With a new set of post-2015 education goals and targets on the horizon, the international community is looking to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) to help collect global data on countries as they seek to improve the learning outcomes of their children and youth. UIS is the official source of cross-nationally comparable education data, uniquely placed to identify and produce a range of new indicators with the support of its technical and financial partners. The challenges ahead are tremendous. While addressing the myriad of issues related to data production, we must address the following critical issue: How will the data be used?

The view from the field where scorecards eclipse analysis

Before joining the UIS as Director, I led a series of learning assessment initiatives in my native Argentina. With a small team, we focused on two key areas: producing the policy-relevant information needed for our constituency and ensuring accuracy in every step of the process, from psychometrics to sampling, test administration and data production. There was no room for error – we were producing high-stakes data that would shape education policies and resource allocations for generations.

Credit: Nguyen Thanh Tuan/UNESCO

Credit: Nguyen Thanh Tuan/UNESCO

The work was complex but inspiring. We were producing data that could positively influence the lives of children and their families. But to be honest, I was always nervous about the release of the results. I actually cringe when learning assessments make the front-page news, with headlines focusing on a ‘bad grade’ instead of suggesting recommendations to address the problems faced by the students, their teachers and their families.

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Posted in Equality, Finance, Learning, Legislation, Poverty, Quality of education, Teachers | 1 Comment

As more children have enrolled in schools in India, learning levels have declined

Renu Singh_IMG_1153_CROP (2)

Since 2009-10, when India made eight years of education a fundamental right, the number of 6-14 year olds going to school has grown by over a million. Analysing data from Andhra Pradesh, Young Lives India country Director Renu Singh shows that a rise in enrolment is associated with a worrying collapse in learning standards.

Education has been enshrined as a Fundamental Right of each Indian citizen through the Right to Education (RTE) Act, 2009. RTE, launched in 2010, has contributed to over a million more children aged 6-14 enrolling into both government and private elementary schools across the country. India boasts the largest school system in the world with 1.44 million elementary schools, and almost 200 million students enrolled.

9952786683_979ae8bd7c_zYoung Lives, a longitudinal research study on childhood poverty, has been following two cohorts of 3,000 children aged eight years (1,000 children) and one year (2,000 children) in undivided Andhra Pradesh since 2002. The first cohort of children turned 12 years of age in 2006 and the second cohort of children turned 12 years in 2013. The 2013 survey shows 97% of 12 year olds enrolling in elementary school, up from 89% in 2006. Given that Young Lives has a pro-poor sample, it is heartening to note that no major gaps in enrolment have been found across gender, caste, or urban/ rural location. Continue reading

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Why are citizen led learning assessments not having an impact on home soil – and how can we change that?

By Colin Bangay, Senior Education Adviser for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) in India. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK government’s official position or policies.

Citizen-led learning assessments have been one of the most internationally influential educational initiatives of the decade. However, what of impact in their home countries?


Photo credit: Akhtar Soomro / EFAReport UNESCO

This blog is written on ASER India’s tenth birthday, prompting us to celebrate its success but also look to the future. ASER in India has been ground-breaking, inspiring participatory learning assessments across the globe: Uwezo in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda, Bèekunko in Mali, Jàngandoo in Senegal, and ASER Pakistan. The findings of these assessments are widely cited and underpin important commentary on learning in the EFA Global Monitoring Report. Collectively, this movement has been critical in shifting attention away from the exclusive focus on access, brought about by the shape of MDG 2,  to one on learning embedded in the post 2015 sustainable development goals and the learning metrics task force.

But what of ASER’s impact on affecting reform efforts? A 2014 RCT impact assessment of ‘Uwezo’ in Kenya concluded the programme had no discernible impact on either private or collective action. This finding echoes a comprehensive survey of community led initiatives by The Global Partnership for Social Accountabilitywhich warns that information alone is not enough to affect changeASER India’s 2006-14 review of learning trends also tells a disappointing story – at best of learning stagnation – giving rise to two questions – Why might that be?  What might be done about it?

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World Education Forum declares: ‘no target met unless met for all’

By Pauline Rose, previous director of the GMR, and now Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge. First published on 26 May 2015 for The Conversation UK.

WEFLooking back at the World Education Forum, which drew more than 1,500 people from 140 countries to Incheon in the Republic of Korea, it is easy to be cynical about what these global meetings can achieve. After all, we have had two other such gatherings in the past 25 years – in Jomtien, Thailand in 1990 and Dakar, Senegal in 2000 – yet millions of children are still out of school and many millions more are not learning.

But there were strong signals from those who gathered – including the president of Korea, Park Geun-hye, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, ministers of education and the heads of UN agencies – of a strong commitment to promoting the transformation of lives through education. Three years ago there was genuine concern that education was going to get forgotten in any post-2015 agenda that was being developed. But the energy of UN agencies, national governments, international donor agencies and NGOs has now resulted in education gaining its rightful place amongst the post-2015 sustainable development goals.

This commitment has resulted in an ambitious agenda to be achieved by 2030, as set out in the Incheon Declaration. The agenda is framed by the overarching goal of achieving “equitable and inclusive quality education and lifelong learning for all by 2030”.

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Posted in Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Quality of education, Sustainable development | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Key education targets will not be reached by 2030 if recent trends continue

By Manos Antoninis and Marcos Delprato, Senior Policy Analyst and Research Office respectively, for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report.

WEFA new technical note prepared by the EFA Global Monitoring Report for the World Education Forum about the feasibility of achieving the new global education agenda by 2030, shows that, if current trends persist, the headline education target of universal secondary education completion may not even be met this century in low and middle income countries, let alone by the target date.

Are post-2015 education targets too optimistic?

The analysis shows that the lower secondary completion rate in low and middle income countries will reach 76% by 2030 and 85% by 2050, while a target of 95% will not be achieved until the 2080s. Likewise, the upper secondary completion rate in low and middle income countries will reach just 50% in 2030 and 63% by 2050, while a target of 95% will not be achieved before the end of the century.

tbaleThese projections take into account the current level of completion of each country. From there onwards, countries tend to make faster progress at relatively lower rates of completion but progress tends to slow down as countries come nearer to the target. This is because it is much harder to bring and keep in school the most disadvantaged children who are hardest to reach.

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Posted in Adult education, Africa, Arab States, Asia, Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Equality, Equity, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school, Sustainable development | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Hope for Nigeria

On 1 April the election took place in Nigeria for a new President. Today, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari is sworn in as President. This blog looks at the reasons for hope behind the priorities of the new government for education.

Credit: Aaron Akpu Philip/EFAReport UNESCO

The most basic of resources for education in Nigeria — teachers — are lacking. Photo credit: Aaron Akpu Philip/EFAReport UNESCO

Countering expectations, no violence occurred when a new President was given a democratic majority last month. Many are even nominating Goodluck Jonathan for a Nobel Peace Prize for the way he stood down from office. This might be the dawn of a promising new era for Nigeria that we should all support wholeheartedly. Mr Buhari was voted in on the campaign promises to tackle corruption and insecurity, both of which could have a huge impact on the future of education in the country.

Corruption was a buzz word in the election campaign after the news reported two years ago that some $20 billion of oil revenue was not paid into the federation account by the previous political leadership. The 2012 GMR noted how the poor management of natural resource revenues affects education and the latest Report shows that an equivalent of $21 million of education funding has been lost over two years. Meanwhile the most basic of resources for education — teachers — are lacking. Nigeria needs an additional 220,000 primary school teachers – 15% of the global total.

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Currents and counter-currents at the World Education Forum

By Aaron Benavot and Manos Antoninis

WEFThe 2015 World Education Forum (WEF) took place last week at the Incheon Free Economic Zone, Republic of Korea. Set among impressive glass skyscrapers built on reclaimed land, the choice of venue was symbolic of the meteoric rise of a country, which was achieved in part thanks to an unswerving commitment to education.

That this was a world gathering was evident from the flags lining the main avenue. Smiling Ministers of Education also pinned special Lego flags next to their country on a world map. Tellingly the lack of flags from Europe and North America reminded everybody that hardly any minister from these regions was in attendance. With their absence questions lingered about the universality of the post-2015 agenda, one of its central defining characteristics. This is a pity, not least because both regions have valuable lessons to share with countries in other regions on many matters, including, for example, effective coordination and peer learning in education.

CaptureThe WEF’s main achievement was a collective commitment embodied in the final Incheon Declaration to a single comprehensive education agenda within the framework of the sustainable development goals. And although complex negotiation processes at the UN since last year resulted in ten education targets whose formulation leaves much to be desired, one should not underestimate the fact that a commitment to equitable inclusive and quality education in a lifelong learning perspective now unites all countries until 2030. This outcome was far from given. Many obstacles were strewn along the way. It is to UNESCO’s credit that it managed to build consensus and steer the process to this result.

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Posted in Adult education, Africa, Aid, Arab States, Asia, Basic education, Developed countries, Developing countries, Early childhood care and education, Equality, Equity, Gender, Latin America, Learning, Literacy, Marginalization, Millennium Development Goals, Out-of-school children, Post-2015 development framework, Post-secondary education, Pre-primary education, Primary school | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments