As the COVID-19 crisis has forced schools all over the world to close, more children are out-of-school than ever before. But even before the crisis, many children enrolled in school weren’t learning well.
Learning assessment data from across the PAL Network shows that on average, half of all children in Grade 5 were unable to read a simple Grade 2 level text. The results for numeracy follow a similar dismal pattern. Many low and middle-income countries were already seriously off-track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4) by 2030. The COVID-19 pandemic now threatens to increase school dropouts and make learning outcomes even worse.
Collecting data on learning during and post pandemic
UNESCO predicts that learning losses could be disproportionately larger in the first two or three years of primary school, compared to children in older grades. As nearly all types of learning assessments have been affected by school closures, obtaining reliable data on learning for all children (particularly the most marginalized) remains a major challenge.
The citizen-led assessment (CLA) model was born in India in 2005 with Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). Traditionally, CLAs have been conducted in the household and not in schools, offering a method of assessing learning that is grounded in the realities of the Global South where not all children are enrolled in school or attend regularly. Over the past 15 years, this approach has been borrowed and adapted by several countries across the Global South, known as the People’s Action for Learning Network (PAL Network).
However, the CLA tools have also been used all over the world in a variety of settings, including classrooms and accelerated learning intervention programs where teachers and instructors integrate the assessment tool into learning activities to help them understand children’s progress and target instruction to the level of the child.
Suitability of citizen-led assessments during and after COVID
In many Global South countries, the hardest-to-reach children are often found in the hardest-to-reach areas and are unlikely to be in school.