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Schooling is not learning

The Centre for Global Development (CGD) has released a report calling for widespread adoption of national learning assessments as a means to drive education reform. Seeking to inform the next generation of the Millennium Development Goals, CGD argues that education should focus on learning rather than enrollment. Twaweza Board member and ASER director Rukmini Banerji co-chaired the report, and Twaweza Head Rakesh Rajani served as one of its authors. 

For Twaweza and Uwezo, who have long been calling for this re-orientation of education policy-making, the report is a welcome addition to the growing body of research that echoes our findings.

“For the last ten years, the major focus of the global education community has been on getting children into school. And that effort has been a success: most of the world’s children live in countries on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary completion by 2015.

But behind that progress is a problem—one that grows with each additional child that walks through the classroom door. Some children in those classes are learning nothing. Many more are learning a small fraction of the syllabus. They complete primary school unable to read a paragraph, or do simple addition, or tell the time. They are hopelessly ill-equipped for secondary education or almost any formal employment. The crisis of learning is both deep and widespread. It is a crisis for children, too many of whom leave school believing they are failures. And it is a crisis for their communities and countries, because economic analysis suggests it is what workers know—not their time in school—that makes them more productive and their economies more prosperous.

Fixing the learning crisis will take systemic reform stretching beyond the education sector. It will take teachers, headmasters, and education officials with the mandate to focus on learning. And it will take those officials being held accountable for learning outcomes by informed stakeholders including parents, parliamentarians, and employers.

Assessment regimes are a central part of this reform effort. They can provide evidence on the scale of the learning crisis as a lever for reform. They can track progress on improvements and provide the evidence base for what works. They empower parents to demand better outcomes—or move their kids to where they can find them.”

Read more: CGD

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