Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford
Education systems need regular and reliable learning data, not only to measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, but to understand when and why children stop learning. Students fall behind when the curriculum moves faster than their progress in learning, and if children don’t master foundational skills early, it is difficult for them to catch up. The mismatch between curricular pace and students’ skill levels is a crucial factor contributing to the learning crisis.
On 23 July, RISE hosted a webinar to discuss the importance of curriculum and assessments to achieve learning outcomes for all. Chaired by Suman Bhattacharjea from the ASER Centre, the panel brought their expertise to the discussion and provided insight from their individual research on the topic.
Adedeji Adeniran discussed a new education quality indicator in Nigeria that matches early grade literacy and numeracy levels with the curriculum. Doug Johnson presented results from a comparative study in India that assesses three nationally representative surveys on learning outcomes. Diva Dhar shared results from an evaluation in India of a blended remedial intervention in Grade 9. Isaac Mbiti summarised an evaluation of a recent curriculum reform in Tanzania that brought about significant improvements in early grade literacy and numeracy. Finally, incorporating the political perspective of policy reform, Wayne Sandholtz discussed a recent randomised school reform in Liberia and whether voters reward service delivery.
Although we covered a lot of ground during the webinar, we weren’t able to get through all of the audience questions. Now, you can click on one of the questions below to learn more about our panellists’ research through some of our unanswered questions.
Isaac Mbiti: There are many models of this approach but essentially it is ensuring that the material being taught is adequately tailored to the students’ skills. This approach ensures that the material covered is not moving too fast, or at a level that each student cannot follow (“too hard”), or too slow and repetitive (“too easy”). Top ↑
Isaac Mbiti: This is an important concern that you raise. We can only speak about the Tanzanian case and we would argue that this particular reform was not a case of dumbing down but rather one of prioritizing the fundamentals. By not having to worry about teaching “vocational skills” or “computer class” (in contexts where many schools do not have much access to technology anyways), teachers were able to focus on the most important skills for early grade learners—numeracy and literacy. Our results are not consistent with the dumbing down hypothesis because we do not see a negative impact on the better prepared (at baseline) students. In fact, these students also benefit! Getting the right balance is very difficult so lots of time, thought, research, piloting, needs to be done to figure how to do this appropriately. Top ↑
Isaac Mbiti: Yes, you are correct those are two different exams. The main purpose of this exercise was to rule out any other trends or patterns that may be driving our results. Since 7th grade exams are very important to schools, we thought they would provide a good falsification test for our analysis. We have also recently examined the reform using the Uwezo data which asks the same questions to all primary school aged children. Our results using that data are broadly in line and we also find no effect of the diff-in-diff on 7th grade test scores using Uwezo data. Top ↑
Wayne Sandholtz: This is really interesting to think about, although I can only really speculate. Despite the huge recent increase in private schooling in India and elsewhere, my guess is that public schools will continue to play a huge role in the education system. And it's completely possible voters could hold politicians responsible for the government's management and regulation of the private school sector. In Liberia at least, my research showed that voters responded to a public-private school partnership. Top ↑
For more information regarding the event, including links to the papers that were presented, please visit the RISE Online Presentation Series event page.
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