1. Getting the basics right in reading and math is essential for future learning
One often hears that the education community failed 15 years ago to recognise the scale of the learning problem; and, instead, focused on enrolment only. Let us ensure that we do not look back in 15 years’ time and realise that although we recognised a learning crisis, we did not change our approach to addressing it.
Learning the basics in reading and math is an essential building block for future learning. It has been estimated that 250 million children are not learning basic math and reading skills even after four years of education. This cannot continue. It will be a measure of our collective success whether or not every girl and every boy, regardless of circumstance, achieves at least minimum learning standards in reading and math by 2030.
Moreover, this is an area where the world community increasingly knows how to deliver results. It is one area where real success could be achieved if not with absolute ease, then with relative ease. It is critical for the sector to succeed. We can do this in the early grades.
2. Waiting until the end of primary to assess whether foundational skills are in place is too late.
The global education community will agree on a menu of indicators to be included as an annex in the Framework For Action in November 2015.
It is too late to wait until the end of primary to know if we are on track. If difficulties are not made visible early and addressed through support to children and teachers, many children, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable, will drop out of school. We today live in a world where socio-economic distances are growing. If we fail to assure that all children have basic skills, such as reading with comprehension, then we have neglected to use the opportunity of schooling as an enabler, a place for opportunity.
- We need formative assessments to understand if education is working for all children
Tracking progress is a very essential part of growth. Countries must be the leaders in these processes, and the owners of their outputs. National assessments play a critical role in informing teachers, parents and education systems. These assessments are done periodically, with a sample of children to gather information for public good. Very rarely do children take these tests more than once. Early grade assessments are oral, age-appropriate, “zero stakes” tests, with no pressure on the children. Citizen led assessments and other simple assessments are administered at most once a year and don’t take more than 20 minutes per sampled child. There is no naming or shaming of the child, but there is a call to action on behalf of the child.
Many countries today in the global south have utilized the evidence generated from these assessments to make reforms in education. The evidence has provided both urgency and agency to address a very real problem in formal education provision – that many children are not even acquiring basic skills of reading and math. We cannot retrogress to yester years when as an education community we did not put enough emphasis on getting the right evidence to inform us on the status of learning. We cannot allow children’s futures to be lost, by supporting them to attend school, but not ensuring that they are learning.
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