ASER's Citizen-Led Basic Learning Assessments
School enrollments are rising in countries across South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. In some countries, like India, over 96% of children are in school. Universal schooling is a goal that is accepted by global bodies, national governments and local communities. Every country has strategies to ensure that all children are enrolled in school; families, communities and schools have been working towards universal enrollment. Now, the critical question facing us is: are children learning?
To answer this question, an innovative approach to learning assessment has been implemented in several Asian and African countries. Using basic reading and arithmetic tasks, these countries have begun to assess for themselves what their children are able to do. The model began in India in 2005 and has been adapted for use in Pakistan (since 2008), Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda (2009), Mali (2011) and recently Senegal (2012). In India and Pakistan, the exercise is called ASER (which means "impact"), in East Africa it is called Uwezo (which means "capability"). The Mali effort has been named "Beekungo" (meaning "we are in it together") and in Senegal it is called nmgandoo (meaning "learn together"). In 2011 alone, these citizen-based large scale assessments covered over one million children in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Together, these efforts provide large-scale, annual, easily understandable indicators of children's ability to read simple text and do basic arithmetic operations. Unlike other large-scale learning assessments, this approach is led by citizen groups and has emerged from the global South.
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