BWIRE: Players in education sector should allow for alternative data sources

BWIRE: Players in education sector should allow for alternative data sources

For a long time, the issue of allowing alternative ways of generating and collecting data to supplement government convention ways of data collection on a number of issues as required by both national international obligations has been on the cards.

Experts have been urging governments to allow for the alternative data sources including citizen-generated data, media, and others to support national and global efforts to report internationally on progress made as a requirement by signed protocols and conventions factually.

Global trends show that data production and usage can no longer be the preserve of Governments or national bodies alone, given the increasing demand for planning, monitoring progress, and reporting of interventions and their impact using desegregated data, above all citizen involvement in the data generation and validation processes.

Efforts to support novel and professionally developed approaches to complement government efforts to gather data require support as we work to expand existing data protection legal regimes to accommodate this new reality.

It’s apparent that because of low data literacy among both producers and users, weakness in the data dissemination, difficulties in accessing data on time by users because outdated existing databases including censuses, Demographic Health surveys, household surveys, poor coordination and collaboration between users and producers among others, the issue of collaboration in developing globally accepted tools and approaches to generate data across sectors to help in measuring success and noting challenges to the provision of social services like education remains problematic.

It is thus interesting that experts from across three continents of Africa, Asia, and the Americas in the education sector are keen on implementing an approach to measuring the success on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number 4.1.1 requiring that ‘children and young people…achieve at least a minimum proficiency level in reading and math’.

The experts have devised and piloted a system of generating evidence on learning outcomes using the citizen-led assessment approach, which needs to the next level of increasing its testing in more locations globally.

The development of common global goals for education as reflected in Sustainable Development Goal 4 and the need for comparable data to monitor education quality targets has meant that many low and middle-income countries face increasing pressure to participate in existing international processes to measure progress.

Interesting that through this novel approach, pupils in Mwala (Kenya), Larde (Mozambique), Mubende(Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania), Ikorido (Nigeria), Toba Tek Singh (Pakistan), Makwanpur (Nepal), Jhenaidah (Bangladesh), Betul (India), Matagalpa (Nicaragua), Ségou (Mali), Ikorodu (Nigeria) can be involved in generating data that can enable the making of global comparisons despite differences in locations, cultures among others.

The International Common Assessment Numeracy (ICAN) study which was recently launched was administered as part of a household survey in 13 countries saw more than 20,000 children assessed on their numeracy skills in over 15,000 households using s standard tool.

The People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network, formally established in 2015 as a South-South partnership of organisations across three continents engaged in regular citizen-led assessments (CLAs) of children’s foundational reading and numeracy.

These assessments offer a method for assessing learning outcomes that are grounded in the realities of the Global South.

They focus on foundational reading and numeracy skills and are conducted orally, one-on-one with each child, so as not to assume that children can read; they are conducted in households, rather than in schools where not all children are enrolled or attend regularly; and they are simple and quick, in order to encourage the involvement of ‘ordinary people’ and thus increase the visibility of the problem of poor foundational learning.

The tool assesses foundational numeracy using common items, providing data on early grades/ lower primary.

The study confirmed high school enrollment but low outcomes numeracy skills in a majority of the locations surveyed. With just 10 years to go before 2030, the targeted achievement date of the Sustainable Development Goals, the data suggest that intensive efforts will be required to ensure that children achieve at least the minimum levels of numeracy expected as part of the SDG 4 goal for Education.

This is approach is suitable for measuring learning outcomes in similar contexts across Africa, America and Asia. The core tenets, that assessments are done in the households, one-on-one, using a simple-to-use tool, remain trademark features of ICAN.

These findings are echoed in the World Bank’s Learning Poverty indicator that showed that over 50percent of 10-year-olds in low and middle-income countries were not able to read and understand a simple text. A UNESCO study gave similar trends.

The minimum proficiency level descriptor for numeracy under SDG 4.1.1 for classes 2 or 3 also requires pupils to demonstrate skills in number sense and computation, shape recognition, and spatial orientation. SDG 4 focuses on ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

Players in the education sector including Governments and development partners should support this approach to the next level, expanded piloting of the ICAN tools to more locations so that it’s defined as an acceptable and credible method of assessing measuring progress in the achievement of educational goals. I am sure players in other sectors are working on other tools.

Victor Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya (