“Test and punish”?
There’s a debate raging in American schools today: how (and how much) should children be tested?
The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act created a system where all children in all schools from grades 3 to 8 must be tested each year. Critics refer to this accountability architecture as “test and punish,” with stakes such as school funding (or closings!), bonuses for teachers, or grade promotion for students all riding on performance. There is evidence that NCLB improved learning outcomes, but improvements came at a high cost: In addition to teaching to the test, this approach can lead to a number of perverse incentives, like keeping weaker students at home on test day, narrowing the curriculum, or downright cheating. Worse, some have said they can serve to mask and contribute to the structural race and class inequalities in the United States.
“Test and punish”?
Access to schooling and quality learning can be undermined by various manifestations of fragility, conflict and violence (FCV). The effect of different elements of FCV on education has both immediate and long lasting impacts on children’s learning, their well-being and their future prospects.
In different forms, FCV manifestations contribute to a denial of the right to education, whether from government failures, a violent ecosystem, and the treatment of displaced children and divisions within schools, attacks on schools or the language of instruction. This can include the ways in which teachers and principals treat lower castes, children with disabilities, or minority groups; the threat or real violence against girls; as well as how textbooks portray history and culture. These issues exist globally, not just in ‘fragile states’.
Over the past two decades, greater attention has focused on the impact that long-term complex humanitarian emergencies, fragile states, and contexts of protracted crises on education. What has received less attention is the aggregate impact of various forms of negative conflict and intra-personal violence.
There are three entry points to consider for FCV: protracted crises; conflict as the basis of exclusion; direct and indirect forms of intra-personal violence.
As I write these lines, I am sitting in an airplane returning from my first mission in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. My mission was for the education sector, and included visiting a few lower secondary public schools. As I listen to the pilot’s welcoming message, I find myself thinking about the children I met at the schools, and trying to assess the odds of their becoming pilots, engineers or scientists.
Most parents in Africa will tell you that their children’s education is the most important investment they can make. Over the past decade, great progress has been made in terms of getting children into school, with countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Rwanda and Zambia recording primary net enrollment of over 90 percent. But across the continent, primary school completion and youth literacy rates remain unacceptably low.
Ed: This guest post is by Professor Eric A. Hanushek, a Paul and Jean Hanna Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. Join us online on January 28, 2016 to listen to Prof. Hanushek as he discusses his latest book “The Knowledge Capital of Nations”.
In September 2015, the United Nations adopted an aggressive development agenda that included 17 separate Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) designed to guide investment and development over the next 15 years. Two of these assume particular importance because they will determine whether or not the other 15 can be achieved.
This year, Indonesia celebrates the first decade of its school grant scheme BOS (Bantuan Operasional Sekolah). The program aims to ensure that schools have sufficient funds to operate, reduce the education costs faced by households and improve school based management. The program is huge and covers approximately 43 million primary and secondary school students across Indonesia. Every year, schools receive $50 for each primary and $60 for each junior secondary school student. This translates into an annual grant of about $20,000 for the average junior secondary school.
Since I arrived in Indonesia we have visited schools regularly to check on the progress of BOS. I have talked with poor parents about how the program has helped to lower the education costs they face. School Principals have shared with me the many ways BOS has enabled them to provide the training opportunities their teachers need to improve classroom practice. School visits have also highlighted some of the challenges the program has faced in ensuring funds are used transparently. In one school, the necessary public noticeboard displaying information on the use of BOS funds was pulled out from behind a cupboard and contained information that was a year out of date.
Now that the dust has settled around the PISA results we have been thinking about the reasons behind Indonesia's poor showing. For those of you who haven't seen them, Indonesia ranked lower than all participating countries except Peru in mathematics and science, and was fifth from last on reading. Perhaps more worrying were the low absolute levels of learning reported for 15-year-olds. In mathematics, three-quarters of students were rated at or below the lowest benchmark – a level associated with only rudimentary levels of proficiency and a lack of higher order thinking skills.
Financed by the mining boom, government spending on new infrastructure in Mongolia has increased 35-fold in the past 10 years. But you would not know this from driving the pot holed streets of Ulaanbaatar or inhaling the smog filled air of the city, particularly in the ger areas.
A new World Bank report I co-authored examines why this increased spending is not resulting in equivalent benefits for the citizens of Mongolia in terms of better roads, efficient and clean heating, and improved water and sanitation services.