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Creating a National Conversation through Large-Scale Learning Assessments

Creating a National Conversation through Large-Scale Learning Assessments

Creating a National Conversation through Large-Scale Learning Assessments


Overview

Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda have successfully increased access to primary education, but the results from the first and second Uwezo annual education surveys in 2010 and 2011 show that children in all three countries perform poorly compared to established learning standards. The Uwezo annual assessments, designed to test literacy and numeracy, are the largest sample‐based studies ever undertaken in East Africa, covering more than 100,000 households. Findings are widely publicized to create broad public awareness, create social and political momentum and stimulate policy change. The World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF) is supporting Uwezo at the regional level with grant funding for three years (2011-2013).

 

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Challenge

Over the past decade, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have adopted free primary education policies, invested substantial amounts in primary education, and as a result, enrollment rates have increased in all three countries. These impressive results have put the three countries on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for primary education in enrollment and gender parity by 2015. The World Bank has supported these efforts and played a key role in education reforms in East Africa. Yet, the quality of education, measured in terms of whether children attending school are actually learning, remain serious concerns.

These three countries have increased the use of educational assessments, but so far, their impact has been limited. The governments are now beginning to focus on ways to address the quality of learning. Governments have the most important role in reforming education; but in addition, various accountability measures must be implemented to ensure enhanced performance by the government and relevant service delivery actors. There is also a growing realization of the need for locally driven accountability led by an informed citizenry to bring about better and more sustainable educational service delivery. Uwezo is the first such initiative in the region.


Approach

The World Bank is committed to working with governments and other stakeholders to improve the quality of education outcomes in East Africa through its lending portfolio in education, analytical and advisory work, and through support to regional initiatives, such as Uwezo. Human resources development is a key thrust of the Country Assistance Strategies in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. The CAS dialogue in these countries has also emphasized improved governance and accountability measures in implementing public programs.

Uwezo (capability in Kiswahili) is a four-year regional initiative (2010-2013) that aims to improve competencies in literacy and numeracy among children aged 5-16 years old in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, using an innovative approach to social change that is citizen-driven and accountable to the public. In addition to other partner support, the Uwezo initiative is funded at the regional level for three years by a grant from the World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF) partnership program.

Uwezo adapted the successful Assessment, Survey, Evaluation, Research (ASER) methodology (www.asercentre.org) from India and is implementing large scale, citizen-led, household-based assessments of actual levels of children’s literacy and numeracy. The tests used are Standard 2 level tests for English, Kiswahili and numeracy, designed in accordance with national curricula. Findings are widely publicized to create broad public awareness and debate to create social and political momentum and stimulate policy change. Uwezo includes several unique features: use of a simple tool to assess literacy and numeracy in the home; instant feedback shared with the family; use of local volunteers; completion of the assessment within 100 days; collaboration and partnerships among education stakeholders led by civil society; and broad dissemination of results to inform policy change. The specific goal over the first four years is to contribute to an improvement of at least 10 percentage points in literacy and numeracy levels among children aged 6-16 years in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda.


Results

The Uwezo learning assessment surveys are the largest sample‐based studies ever undertaken in the region, covering more than 100,000 households. The main findings (presented below) were published in national reports and in a regional report (in English and Swahili) Are Our Children Learning? Literacy and Numeracy across East Africa (2011) and all survey information and reports are available on a public website. A second assessment is scheduled for 2012.


  • Uwezo implemented large-scale household surveys (of at least 20 households per village) and assessed literacy and numeracy competency of children aged 6‐16 years (5‐16 in Tanzania) in the home environment. In addition, the survey teams collected information from one school per village. Volunteers from the villages trained by the program carried out the assessments.
  • Uwezo implemented large-scale household surveys (of at least 20 households per village) and assessed literacy and numeracy competency of children aged 6‐16 years (5‐16 in Tanzania) in the home environment. In addition, the survey teams collected information from one school per village. Volunteers from the villages trained by the program carried out the assessments.
  • According to the findings, children in all three countries perform poorly compared to learning standards established for second graders.
  • On the English test, few children in third grade achieved second grade level competency in the English literacy test. In Kenya, only 28 percent of pupils in third grade completed the test successfully (reading a story with ease). In Uganda and Tanzania, pass rates were worse and stood at 4 percent and 8 percent respectively. Children in higher grades progressively did perform better.
  • On the math test, childrens’ abilities improved with time and once they reached seventh grade most were numerate with levels expected by the end of second grade. But, even in Kenya, the country with the best performance, 12 percent of children in seventh grade failed to reach the second grade level. In Uganda, 15 percent, and in Tanzania a disturbing 32 percent of children in seventh grade failed second grade numeracy tasks.
  • The findings suggest that the environment outside of school, including the mother’s education (mostly for mothers with secondary education and higher) and wealth backgrounds, have a traceable impact on learning, more than student/teacher or student/classroom ratios. The grade level of a child was by far the most determining factor of the likelihood of a child having acquired basic numeracy and literacy skills. Gender and school quality had very limited impact.
  • Families were made aware of the test results immediately after the surveys, there were discussions of results with the village councils, and within 100 days the results were disseminated at the district and national levels via newspaper, TV, radio, short message service (SMS), and social media.
  • Uwezo findings from the first two assessments in 2010 and 2011 are already producing ‘national debates’ on the quality of education and discourse and dialogue has shifted towards quickly improving service delivery standards through improved incentives and accountability in the chain of service providers. Lessons learned will be used to improve Uwezo practice in the region and share this model globally to inform policy and practice.

Bank Contribution

The World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF) was established in 1997 with the objective to encourage innovation, catalyze partnerships and broaden the Bank’s services by convening and building coalitions and providing financial support to external entities. The DGF is supporting Uwezo at the regional level with grant funding for three years: US$1.0 million in fiscal year (FY) 2011, US$0.8 million in FY12, and expected support in FY13. DGF funding has allowed the partnership to develop a program at the regional level, with the coordination and exchange of lessons learned at that level, such as the development of a regional report and expansion into additional countries.

Uwezo has also benefitted from technical assistance provided by Bank staff based in Tanzania and other sector staff in Kenya, Uganda and other countries in the region. The three countries also have extensive education operations financed by IDA. The Bank has also played an important role in strengthening the credibility of the partnership and in facilitating access to the government.


Partners

Regional management and coordination of Uwezo is carried out by Hivos/Twaweza in Tanzania (partnership between the Dutch Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos) and an independent East African initiative). In each country, the following host organizations are responsible for implementation of the program, the Twaweza in Tanzania, WERK (a research and advocacy group) in Kenya, and the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) in Uganda). The World Bank DGF grant at the regional level is complemented by other partner and donor funds, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Hivos, the Open Society Foundation (OSI), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).


Toward the Future

Uwezo helps create a sense of responsibility at the community level through awareness of the actual level of children’s literacy and numeracy, and build a social movement to stimulate policy change. The results from the assessments in 2010 and 2011 will also be useful in the ongoing process of harmonization of education and training policies in the region. As the third year begins in 2012, there will be additional opportunities to learn about how this methodology is contributing to change in the education sector. Going forward, an increased focus on monitoring and evaluation is also being considered. As one of the larger education donors in the region, the Bank can leverage learning and policy dialogue, drawing from the findings and lessons learned from Uwezo, among ministries of education, other government units and donor agencies in East Africa and beyond. This outreach may include supporting the expansion to other countries in East and Sub-Saharan Africa.

 



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