A new World bank study show how vital it is to invest in improving leraning outcomes among school students in EMEs
Education, during one’s formative years, is of paramount importance. It is also the most cost-effective in terms of money spent on education at any stage of a child’s life. James Heckman, in 2007, showed that the emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall future development. That is why investing in young children is so important. However, according to the World Bank’s 2018 World Development Report and UNESCO, millions of students in developing countries are in schools that are failing to educate them to the level that they should have, with 617 million children and youth of primary- and secondary-school age not learning the basics in reading—shockingly, two-thirds of them are attending school.
The need to invest early education is clear, as also is the need for data and statistics on learning outcomes of children of primary/secondary school age. Such outcomes are studied and analysed by collecting data on children’s ability to read and comprehend what they are reading. The ability to read enables children to access curricula and is thus a good indicator of whether the education system is doing its job. Reading makes them independent learners for life, reduces the cost of schooling, and raises the efficiency of public spending. With appropriate data available, the progress of each student/class/sub-section can be studied and, accordingly, beneficial policy responses can be designed that fulfil the child’s development potential. Early grade assessments have produced national learning studies for more than 80 countries, including ASER in India. Such globally-shared metrics of learning, which can be compared across countries and over time, have enormous value. Crucially, they also show that the global learning crisis is deep. But, this is only the first step. Above and beyond metrics of learning, education and learning policies have to be designed and implemented. To that end, the Union government in India tying financial incentives for states, under the centrally-sponsored schemes, to the latter improving learning outcomes is a welcome move.