While Kenya and Nairobi were at a standstill preparing for the US President Barack Obama’s Airforce I to land on July 24 for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, in another beautiful scenic setting, a global network on learning was born! The network will help hold countries accountable for ensuring their children are not just in school, but also learning. Committed to transparently conducting citizen-led household based assessments on learning, the network will increasingly enable communities to hold their leaders to account; it will support the call for lifelong learning for all – central to the new SDG on education.
The first ASER National Workshop was held in Bhopal in October of 2005. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but here we are 10 years later for our 10th Workshop in Aurangabad. In 2005, I remember that Pratham teams from all over the country came. There were about 50 people and of course, our office was not large enough to house everyone.
I am in Class X’, says a diminutive Atul who looked no more than 10 years of age. Resting his legs on the ground while still seated on his half-sized bicycle and a twinkle in his eyes, he mischievously adds, ‘I am stunted’, when I expressed my disbelief about his Class.
Earlier this year, an independent team of experts detailed the “global learning crisis” in the 11th Education for All Global Monitoring Report.One of the most sobering statistics was that 250 million children do not know the fundamentals — how to read, write, or do basic math problems — including 130 million children who attend school.
Crossing the Kosi Mahasetu is an experience. The highway leading to the newly constructed mega-bridge cuts through wide open huge empty spaces. The embankments that have been built around the river makes it feel like you are travelling in a mammoth bowl. The late morning hot winds whip the soil and dust into fast moving fine grey clouds that sweep across the horizon.
Every year since 2006, the findings of the Annual Status of Education Report have delivered a shock to the Indian education system. An all India (rural) survey carried out by education advocacy group Pratham, the report shows the proportion of children in the 5 to 16 age group who are able to perform in tests on basic reading and mathematics.
Some years ago, early one morning I went to a school in Kamrup district in Assam. The school was set in an open space off the narrow village road, just beyond the naamghor (village temple). School had not yet started but lots of children were already there. A Pratham volunteer was busy with children. Like many other schools in upper Assam, it was one big hall.
In many states across India, children have just moved into a new class. The excitement of a new school year is still in the air. New textbooks are being distributed; notebooks and stationery are being bought. Summer vacations have begun. On the eve of these new beginnings, hopes run high for all that children will learn in another year of school. But how much can we expect that they’ll actually learn?
Following the final meeting of the U.N. secretary general’s High-Level Panel (HLP) of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda in Bali, Indonesia from March 25-27, panel members are now engaged in drafting a report that will recommend the vision and shape of a post-2015 development agenda that responds to the global challenges of the 21st century.
I sat with a group of village women under a tree in the compound of a government primary school. Most of the women had children who were enrolled in this school. Many of these mothers had never been to school themselves. But they were interested in talking about children’s education in general and their children’s education in particular. We discussed many issues. What kind of education were children getting? Was it good enough? Why was it not better? How had the school been in the past and what was it like now?