South Asia’s progress in tracking basic numeracy with a new assessment

By Steffi Elizabeth Thomas, Senior Research Associate, Pratham Education Foundation-ASER Centre, India and Waqas Imran, Data Analyst, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi (ITA), Annual Status of Education Report (ASER), Pakistan

There has been a global shift in focus towards the quality of education under the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) with the realisation that increased schooling has not translated to improvements in learning. With only a decade left for meeting the SDGs, tracking learning outcomes to gauge the progress made towards the SDG targets and their indicators, and to identify who is likely to be left behind has become imperative. This blog looks at the way that a new international assessment of numeracy launched by the People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network can help.

Image credit: Sudipto Kar /ASER Centre-Pratham Education Foundation

In India, Pratham, through its Annual Status of Education Reports (ASER), has been reporting on foundational literacy and numeracy skills since 2005. Today, 12 other member organisation of the PAL Network based in South Asia, East Africa and Latin America carry out similar assessments. They are known as Citizen led Assessments (CLAs). These assessments are simple and easy to administer and are conducted at the household level. This has enabled understanding of learning deficits in early years of schools as well as identifying who is likely to learn less owing to individual and contextual factors.

However, findings from CLA data were not comparable across countries as each country’s CLA aligns with their corresponding national curriculum. The launch of the new International Common Assessment of Numeracy (ICAN) last July developed by the PAL Network has overcome this limitation ICAN is open-source, easy-to-administer and available in 11 languages. In its first round, ICAN was conducted in one district of each of the 13 member countries of the Network, using the household based design used by all CLAs. The tasks in ICAN are aligned to UNESCO’s Global Proficiency Framework, offering international comparability relevant to the Minimum Proficiency Level (MPL) descriptor for numeracy under SDG 4.1.1(a). ICAN thus enables tracking foundational numeracy skills of children globally and helping us understand the ways in which children are left behind.

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Act now to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on the cost of achieving SDG4

Next week, finance ministers are being convened by the United Nations Secretary-General to look at financing in the era of COVID-19 and beyond.  It is critical that they see education as key to the recovery from the effects of the pandemic.  The costs associated with school closures, the GEM Report has found in a new policy paper released today, risk increasing the funding gap for SDG 4 by up to one-third. But acting now and investing in remedial and re-enrolment programmes is far cheaper than rolling out second-chance education in the long-term. Immediate action could reduce the additional cost of COVID-19 on SDG 4 by 75%.

Even before COVID-19, the total annual cost of universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education for low- and lower-middle-income countries is US$504 billion a year. Of that amount, US$356 billion is projected to be covered by domestic resources, under plausible assumptions on growth, tax revenues, and the priority assigned to education. This means there is an annual funding gap of US$148 billion between now and 2030 to achieve SDG 4.

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Singing from the same song sheet – Growing momentum across the disability movement to adopt a comprehensive definition of inclusive education to achieve SDG 4  

By Ana Lucia Arellano, Chair, IDA and Manos Antoninis, Director, GEM Report

quote cardCountries committed to achieve inclusive education by 2030 and yet almost a quarter of a billion are still out of school. Of these, children with disabilities are 2.5 times more likely to never go to school. Long before the outbreak of Covid-19, organizations working across the spectrum of education and inclusion have been calling for urgent action to address the education rights of students with disabilities.

Released shortly after the 2020 GEM Report on inclusion and education the International Disability Alliance (IDA) published its first global flagship report on education. The IDA Inclusive Education Report examines why children and youth with disabilities continue to be disproportionately excluded from education, and why those who do attend school usually receive a poorer quality education and fewer years of it. Both Reports call for an inclusive education system where all learners with and without disabilities learn together with their peers in schools and classes in their community schools, receiving the support they need in inclusive facilities.

The obvious commonalities between the 2020 GEM Report and the IDA Inclusive Education Report are far from coincidental. They signify growing momentum across the global disability movement to articulate a cross-disability consensus position on the implementation of SDG 4 in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Continue reading

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Why the world urgently needs a global plan to get all children safely back to school 

By Hollie Warren, Head of Education: Save the Children

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated more than ever that global crises require global solutions. In April, faced with a global health emergency like no other, the international community came together in what UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed as a “new era of global health collaboration”. The World Health Organisation (WHO) led a virtual meeting where world leaders agreed to work together on a coronavirus vaccine and share research, treatments and medicines across the globe. This was followed in May with an EU-hosted virtual summit where leaders pledged nearly €7.4 billion to research COVID-19 vaccines and therapies, pledging that the money will be used to distribute any vaccine to poor countries on time and equitably.

But the COVID-19 pandemic is not just a global health emergency. Efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus – such as school closures – are having a devastating impact on the lives of children everywhere, but especially in the poorest countries. School closures put girls at risk of child marriage, which has reportedly doubled in parts of Malawi according to Care International where, even before the pandemic, around half of all girls got married before the age of 18. In Kenya, reports of teenage pregnancy have spiked according to data from the International Rescue Committee, with some areas in Northern Kenya reporting a three-fold increase in pregnancies compared with the same period last year. Girls living in refugee camps are particularly vulnerable; at the Kakuma refugee camp, 62 pregnancies were reported in June 2020 compared with 8 in June last year.

Save the Children Italy supports children and young people against the risk of school dropout through free study support and workshop activities

Save the Children Italy has been providing children and young people with study support and workshop activities to reduce the risk of children dropping out of school. After months of social isolation, many children and young people were finally able to meet again in the Educational Archipelago. Credit: Gianfranco Ferraro per Save the Children

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Preparing for the new normal in Pakistan amid COVID 19 – A case for accelerated learning

By Hamza Sarfraz, Policy Researcher and Zain ul Abidin, Programme Specialist at Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi

Several months after it first hit globally, governments and experts across the world have now finally begun to register the long-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. Education for children has emerged as a major casualty, particularly in the Global South where many countries were already struggling with learning crises. The school closures, limited access to online learning, and already constrained education systems have coalesced together to bring about an adverse situation. The potential learning losses suffered by children, both temporally and economically, are significant.

Pakistan blogThe search is on to find an immediate solution for such an unprecedented crisis. Considering the time and resource constraints, a good solution has to fulfill a certain set of criteria. Essentially, it has to be 1) low-cost, 2) scalable, 3) easily available, 4) targeted specifically at the issue of learning losses, and 5) workable. In this regard, accelerated learning has been identified as potentially effective solution to learning losses. Pakistan has a large-scale workable model of accelerated learning underway that covers all bases already, which this blog describes.

As context, Pakistan had already been experiencing a deeply-entrenched learning crisis before the onset of COVID-19. Data from 2019 shows that 75% of children in Pakistan cannot read and understand a simple text by age 10. Twenty-four million children are out-of-school, equivalent to nearly 47% of those aged 5-16 years, among these 24 million children, 5.6 million had dropped out from school. This is particularly pertinent as the same solutions offered to bring these children back up-to-speed with their age-appropriate learning levels when re-enrolling them in school can be studied and modified for those now forced out of schools during the COVID-19 crisis. The Advancing Action for Adolescent Girls project (A3G) this blog describes addresses precisely this issue by providing accelerated learning to over 20,000 girls in Pakistan who have either dropped-out or, in some cases, not attended school before. Continue reading

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The winning One Big Idea on inclusion and education submitted by youth

Goodluck ChanyikaBack in May, the GEM Report asked youth around the world to submit their One Big Idea to achieve inclusion in education in the ten years left in the decade of action towards 2030 – the deadline for the Agenda for Sustainable Development. We received an avalanche of good ideas from around the globe, all important in their own right. A committee chose the big idea sent in by Goodluck Chanyika from Tanzania as the winning submission.

Goodluck’s big idea

One of the things that our country (Tanzania) can do is to ensure that there are committees (this has to be formed with people with disabilities of all type) at least in every Ward so that they can act as evaluators and quality education monitors. One of the tasks is to ensure in every school there are facilities to ensure quality inclusive education. They can also act as information providers on the quality/capacity of teachers to deliver lessons and take care of students inclusively.

Listen to an interview Goodluck gave to Vivian Onano, the GEM Report’s youth advisor, about his idea. Continue reading

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Open letter from the world’s youth calling for more inclusive schools when they re-open

Save Our Future logo (En)

Covid-19 brought about an education crisis, fuelled by deep pre-existing inequalities, many of which will have been exacerbated with schools closed around the world. The Screenshot 2020-08-12 at 10.02.48evidence and stories in the Youth version of the new 2020 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report confirm the extent of inequalities and discrimination persisting in education today. It shows how to build a system where all learners can feel they belong in school, no matter their identity, background or ability.

Starting today – International Youth Day – young people are invited to sign this letter to world leaders calling on them to prioritize access to and strengthen inclusion in quality education when schools re-open. We will circulate this letter with your signatures.

To: World leaders
From: [Your Name]

Dear world leaders, ministers, and decision-makers,

The Covid-19 pandemic brought about the biggest cataclysm to education any of us have seen. It magnified issues of inequality, insecurity, and injustice within and across societies, highlighting the importance of social services, including education. Even before schools shut in early March, some 260 million were not in school. Not because they didn’t want to, but because world leaders had not prioritized their education. We are writing to implore you to take this chance to ‘build back better’, to restore rather than replicate past mistakes. Continue reading

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Which are the biggest aid donors to education?

The recent new policy paper by the GEM Report shows that aid to each of the three education levels – basic, secondary and upper secondary education – has grown in the latest annual release of data from 2018. The last blog on this site looked at where aid to education is being allocated. This blog examines who the main donors are and for what education level.

The United States and Norway have prioritized aid to basic education

Of total aid to basic education, DAC member bilateral donors accounted for 57%, non-DAC bilateral donors (such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) for 11%, and multilateral donors for 32% in 2018. The United States, the World Bank, the United Kingdom and the European Union institutions together accounted for over 50% of total aid to basic education in 2016–2018.

The United States allocated US$1.3 billion to basic education in the period, more than twice as much as each of the other three donors, whose spending amounted to about $630 million on average. The bulk of the United States’ education aid (84%) is allocated to basic education, while the next three donors, as well as the two large non-DAC donors, allocated just half of their education aid to basic education; Germany and Japan allocate an even lower share.

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How much aid is spent on education and where does it go?

English / Español

While the main message of our new policy paper on the latest figures of levels of aid to education is that COVID-19 is a serious threat to aid recovery, it would be a shame not to give greater attention to the positive story that we uncovered before the pandemic arrived. In 2018, total aid to education reached the highest amount ever recorded, US$15.6 billion. This is an increase of 9%, or US$1.25 billion, relative to the year before.  Broken down by education levels, between 2017 and 2018, total aid increased by 6% in basic education, by 7% in secondary education and by 12% in post-secondary education.

Compared to 2010, when aid to education hit its previous high point shortly before the great financial crisis’s impact on ODA started to be felt, aid to education has grown by 16%, while aid to basic education has grown more slowly at 10%.

Even without a pandemic to contend with, however, there is still much room for improvement.

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Creating inclusive learning environments for students with learning differences from marginalized communities

By Rachel Brody, Global Director, Programmatic Partnerships and Inclusive Education, Teach For All

Inclusive education is at the core of our collective vision at Teach For All—a world where educators, policymakers, parents, and students are working together to ensure that all of their communities’ children have the foundation they need to shape a better future for themselves and all of us.  The 2020 GEM Report on Inclusion and Education is rooted in the premise that “education systems are only as inclusive as their creators make them”. Across our global network of organizations in 53 countries, we have seen the enormous amount of effort required in reimagining education and un-learning systems of oppression, listening to communities, and evolving mindsets, skills, and knowledge to be able to create inclusive settings that truly open up opportunities  for us to learn with and from every student.

Image: Connor Ashleigh/DFAT

Over the past several years, one of the key focus areas for our collective learning has been on the topic of education that is inclusive of all learners. In partnership with the Oak Foundation Learning Differences Programme, we launched a Fellowship to bring teachers and teacher coaches together to explore how to create more inclusive learning environments. After several iterations of this Fellowship, in 2019 we conducted a global scan—a survey and individual interviews—in which we engaged with teacher trainers and developers, teachers, and students from across our global network in order to learn more about the progress they are making towards creating inclusive learning environments for students from marginalized communities who also have intellectual and/or physical disabilities. Similar to the GEM Report, we learned that while there are many barriers and obstacles to be addressed, we are also seeing the implementation of innovations and practices that are supportive of inclusion.

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