New Delhi: Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Pakistan and three African countries will survey how much children are learning in village schools in an effort similar to India’s Pratham rural education report. Pakistan shares a problem similar to India of state focus on enrolment targets and not quality of education.
Organizations based in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda said there is very little data on children’s capabilities despite examinations being conducted.
Complete picture: Uwezo’s regional coordinator Sara Jerop Ruto.
“Surveys in Pakistan were looking at enrolment,” said Talha Shahzad, research associate for a non-government organization based in Lahore, in a telephone interview. “Now that children are in school, what are they learning?”
Shahzad said his organization, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi, was impressed by the rapid rollout of Pratham’s survey and its use of volunteers when a team visited India in 2006.
Mumbai-based Pratham, headed by Madhav Chavan, measures education outcomes in rural schools by training volunteers who visit homes and test elementary school going children in basic skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic.
This data is collected and released through an Annual Status of Education, or Aser, report. The 4th survey is due out this month. The last survey found improvement in enrolment but showed learning levels remain a cause of concern—nearly 40% of 10-year-olds could not read a text taught to seven-year-olds.
Last year, Pratham got a $2 million (Rs9.7 crore) grant from Google Org., formed by Google Inc. founders for their charity work, for use in ASER.
In Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, an organization called Uwezo, which means capability in Swahili, has been launched to test students.
“If you look around the world, there is very little data on childrens’ capabilities,” said Suleman Sumra, regional coordinator for Uwezo, who is located in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. “Examinations don’t tell us much because they combine several things. For instance, it does not tell us (about) language capability because those things are not really tested.”
In Pakistan, the first ASER survey volunteers began visiting homes in December. They include students, teachers, and human rights activists drawn from organizations similar to Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi.
In Tanzania and Kenya, the rollout or data collection will begin in July. “Right now, we are preparing the tests, recruiting regional coordinators. (It is) too early to get volunteers,” said Sumra of Tanzania, who visited India in November to observe the ASER roll-out.
Kenya’s regional coordinator for Uwezo, Sara Jerop Ruto, wants to cover the whole country in the survey just as Pratham does in India.
“Yes, we are trying to cover the whole country. Everyone is asking us why? Because we want district-wise data. Why shouldn’t we when it has been done in India?” said Jerop Ruto who has taken leave from her teaching job at Kenyatta University to work on ASER.
Pakistan ASER’s organizers said the challenges they face include a recent ultimatum from militants in North West Frontier Province to shut down girls’ schools. “We are doing our best. You cannot imagine the conditions we are in,” said Baela Raza Jamil, chairperson of Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi.
Pakistan’s ASER will cover only 40% of the districts in 3 provinces—Punjab, Sindh and North West Frontier Province. It will omit Baluchistan, the fourth province where about 300 people were killed by a deadly tremor in October.
Tanzania’s Suleman said his organization is looking for a donor to fund the ASER date-collection and might approach Google.org. The planning for the report was funded by part of a $319,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. In Pakistan, Idara-e-Taleem-o-Aagahi and its partners will fund ASER.