There’s no question that the potential of the ‘data revolution’ first described in the U.N.’s “A World that Counts” report has captured the imagination of the international development community, especially data-wonks and donors concerned with how the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals will be measured. In the many discussions that have ensued, a consistent theme has been an aspiration to realize the potential of ‘non-traditional data sources.’
A new report examining independent learning assessments in developing countries shows that while they produce robust measures to date they have done little to improve the quality of learning. Growing awareness of the sorry state of education is necessary, but it is far from sufficient to spark change.
The ultimate measure of success in education is not whether or not children attend school, but whether they learn. And creating a system in which learning is valued requires finding out what children are learning and building broad awareness about it. It was these two principles that inspired the organization Pratham in India to mobilize and train volunteers to conduct household surveys of children’s learning.
The Hewlett Foundation supported Results for Development Institute in this evaluation of citizen-led assessments of learning. The Foundation’s Global Development and Population Program has funded citizen-led assessments as a central part of our Quality Education in Developing Countries Initiative and continues to do so as a way of measuring children’s basic reading and math abilities
In his three-minute TED Talk, Derek Sivers tells us that a movement is made not by charismatic leaders but rather by the first followers. It is the people who are alert to a new idea, who are inspired to leave their comfortable routine, and who adopt and adapt an innovation—these are the movement makers.
As a new set of education goals are drafted, improving quality and learning is likely to be more central to the post-2015 global development agenda. One important question to ask is – how can we measure the learning progress of all children? Ten years ago, citizens in India started using basic reading and arithmetic tools at home to systematically assess for themselves what their children are able to do.
The bell has rung. Civil society leaders from India, Pakistan, Senegal, Mali, Nigeria, Mexico, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania have come together, with optimism and conviction, asking others to join a movement to ensure that all children learn the fundamental, life-changing skills of reading and arithmetic.