"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Thursday, May 23, 2013

After 2015, New Goal for Education

A country may be providing universal kindergarten to its young children, but something is not necessarily better than nothing. Without quality, basic education does not really help children. If children are still unable to read by the time they reach the age of 10 years old, education has not really done its job. Learning to read comes before reading to learn. Thus, failure in the early years of basic education spells failure in the later years. The 2015 Development Agenda of the United Nations prescribed "education for all", but missed the fact that poor education disguised as "education for all", does no good and perhaps even does harm to the school system. Failing schools not only waste time and effort. Such predicament can even lead to the impression that since schools are useless, why should one even bother sending children to schools.

It is very easy to set goals. Goals such as "education for all" or "Every child, a reader by Grade 1", are certainly tantalizing. The world must realize that these promises are empty without providing the necessary resources to reach these goals. Anyone can promise universal kindergarten, but without the necessary teachers qualified to teach kindergarten, it should be obvious that this promise is actually a deception. In education, it is likewise not difficult to deceive people that goals have been attained. There are many examples of cheating. Selecting pieces of data can also paint a picture brighter than what is true.

Ed Gragert, the director for the Global Campaign for Education - US, writes in the Huffington Post:
Once children are in school, how can we be assured that they are receiving a quality education? For example, India has made significant and very impressive progress in enrolling about 93 percent of their primary school-aged children. But, a study showed that only 48.2 percent of fifth graders can read at even the second grade level. Simply putting children in school is not sufficient and in some cases, if the education is not of sufficient quality, it can actually backfire when parents reasonably withdraw their children because for them -- it's a waste of time.
Thus, beyond 2015, it is not just "education for all", it should be "quality education for all". In line with this modified goal, one of the slides in the Global Campaign for Education - US home page points to something very important:

Figure downloaded from Global Campaign for Education - US
Quality education for all (in fact, education for all) can only be achieved if there are enough teachers. Universal kindergarten is not possible without qualified kindergarten teachers. Diving into a huge education reform such as early childhood education without the necessary resources can only do great harm to the educational system. Promises and goals need to be measured by the support that these objectives receive. Without the infrastructure and resources, without a clear path for implementation, without careful preparation, these promises are simply hollow.

The new goals for 2015 recommended by the Global Campaign for Education - US focus more on the necessary inputs for quality education. The targets and indicators are as follows (taken from All Children Learning: Quality Education Beyond 2015 ):

Targets and Indicators:  
In order to narrow inequities across disadvantaged groups, it is essential that the measurement of all indicators be nationally disaggregated by gender, income, location, disability, ethnic groups, conflict, and emergencies.  
Universal Readiness to Learn: All children start school on time and healthy.  
- % of all children enrolled in pre-primary school
- % of children under 5 meeting minimum levels of child development indicators, including height-for-age (stunting)
- % reduction in pre-primary enrollment gap between the poorest and richest quintiles and with respect to all disadvantaged groups
[Linkage to nutrition, ending preventable child deaths]  
Universal Equitable Access: All children — regardless of gender, income, location, disability, ethnicity,  conflict, or emergencies — access a quality primary and lower-secondary education.  
- % of children enrolled in and attending primary and lower-secondary school
- % reduction in enrollment and attendance gaps between the poorest and richest quintiles and with respect to all disadvantaged groups
- increased quality of education as measured by ratio of students to teachers trained to national standards, breadth of curricula, and textbook-pupil ratios  
Universal Learning: All children complete primary and lower-secondary education with the requisite knowledge and skills.  
- % of children completing primary and lower secondary school based on the fulfillment of nationally-adopted standards
- % of children demonstrating proficient skills in literacy, numeracy, and science at ages 12 and 15
- % of youth demonstrating proficient skills in problem solving and critical thinking by the end of lower secondary
- % reduction in learning outcome gaps between the poorest and richest quintiles and with respect to all disadvantaged groups
[Linkage to adult literacy, youth employment, economic growth]
These targets and indicators not only provide bars to measure progress, but actually identify some of the inputs required to reach such progress. Contrast, for example, the two following promises, "Every child a reader by Grade 1", versus "Every child having a teacher". The first one is "wishful thinking". The second one may likewise be wishful, but at least, it acknowledges what is needed.







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