Citizen-led assessments (CLAs) emerged in India in 2005 as a way to raise awareness and advocacy around low learning levels, and to act as a force for bottom-up accountability and action that would improve education quality and learning. Thousands of volunteers traveled to rural districts and administered simple reading and math tests to the children in households they visited. The dismal results, published in the 2005 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), helped stimulate debate and prioritize learning in national policy.
On World Literacy Day, we spoke with our colleague, Senior Education Specialist Shabnam Sinha, on the importance of training teachers to improve learning outcomes.
In high-income countries, learning outcomes have improved as a result of an intervention that increases transparency and accountability through the use of test scores. In a previous blog, I mentioned examples of ‘high-stakes testing’ accountability systems, such as No Child Left Behind. A high-stakes test has important consequences for the test taker, school, or school authorities. It carried important benefits if the test is passed, such as a diploma, extra resources to the school, or a positive citation. Some of these interventions also follow the “naming and shaming” of school leaders, which is done in England.
There is also evidence that suggests that even just providing information on test scores will lead to improvement. This is the case in school choice systems such as in the Netherlands.
A couple of months ago, I visited Chandra Shekhar Azad College in Sehore, about an hour’s drive from Bhopal, the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh, India. It was a short visit, but long enough to see that college students the world over have similar dreams and see higher education as a way to realize them.
During a recent trip to India, we met with Professor Anil Sahasrabudhe, a dynamic, positive man who will likely remind you of a favorite uncle. In 2004, he was in the less satisfactory position of being director at the College of Engineering in Pune (COEP), located 150 km southeast of Mumbai. At that time, the institution had no financial or academic autonomy, no governance structure, and no administrative freedom. Ten years later, in 2014, the institution had turned around, garnering national awards and recognition. What helped spark the change? While several factors made an impact, Professor Sahasrabudhe mentions good governance first.
By educating girls, we reduce poverty, improve maternal and child health, prevent HIV and AIDS, and raise living standards for everyone. Despite the overwhelming evidence of the benefits of girls’ education, however, 37 million school-age girls around the world are not in class.
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Tomorrow, a Learning for All Ministerial Meeting will bring together development partners and ministers of finance and education from Bangladesh, the DRC, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nigeria, Yemen, and South Sudan – home to nearly half of the world’s out-of-school-children – to address challenges and steps to ensure that all children go to school and learn.
My last two blogs, Lessons on School-Based Management from a Randomized Experiment and Empowering Parents to Improve Schooling: Powerful Evidence from Rural Mexico, have focused on empowering parents to help increase accountability in schools. However, too often, decentralization programs are designed without adequately conveying the messages about their purpose to the intended audiences; or, it is done in such a way that the program is rendered useless.
Last month the World Bank hosted Mr.Kapil Sibal, India’s Minister of Human Resources and Development. Sibal spoke to a packed audience about India’s contributions to the global knowledge economy and discussed some of his widely publicized education reforms and plans for the Indian education system. The highlight of the event was Sibal’s display of the $35 tablet PC which he hoped to launch soon as a technology aide to help bridge quality gaps in secondary education. The event was chaired by Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, Vice President of the Human Development Network, and moderated by Mr. Michal Rutkowski, Sector Director for Human Development in the South Asia Region.
When my wife and I were looking for where to live in Washington DC, an important part of the decision was the quality of the local public school that our children would (eventually) attend. But how to judge quality? Talking to lots of people was the first step. Taking schools tours was another. But researching test scores was a key factor. We wanted a school with a good learning environment, a sense that parents had a positive feeling about the place—but also wanted to know that the school had a track record of good learning outcomes. Thankfully, the performance of public schools in Washington DC is accessible online and can be compared across schools. This information was an important input into our decision. And it remains an important way in which we monitor school performance. We pay close attention to our own children’s academic development, talk to their teachers regularly, and try to be attentive to the many subtle indicators of the quality of education that they are receiving. But the annually released test scores provide an externally validated stock-taking of one aspect of that quality.