Research and Advocacy

 
ASER has revealed that 50%
of India's fifth graders cannot
read a second-grade text.
 
 

PRATHAM’S SOLUTION:

We measure learning outcomes to improve education quality.
Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) measures basic literacy and numeracy skills, revealing the unspoken problem that school enrollment does not automatically translate into learning. Despite India achieving 97% school enrollment, poor attendance, oversized classes and antiquated teaching methods have led to a learning crisis.

The hard data we’ve collected in the ten years we’ve conducted the survey has become an essential reference guide for how the Indian government at every level allocates funds and develops education policies. Our data enables citizens to demand action and governments to make informed decisions.

This idea of “evidence for action” led to the formation in 2008 of India’s ASER Centre, an independent unit within the Pratham network. Identifying and quantifying a problem is the first step in enabling action at the community level; the ASER Centre provides such knowledge by measuring, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of social sector programs.
 

For over a decade, Pratham volunteers have tested 600,000 children annually in more than 16,000 villages across India to determine their level of reading and math skills.
 

HOW DO WE DO THIS?

We quantify learning outcomes.
Pratham has developed simple assessment tools that anyone can administer anywhere. Tests consist of two papers: one asks children to read letters, words, paragraphs and stories; the other presents number recognition and mathematical problems in subtraction and division. Test administrators record the highest level at which each child is capable, and this information is consolidated into a village report card.

The survey also evaluates the quality of a school’s facilities, including books, supplies, toilets and drinking water.
 

ASER’s rigorous methodology, uniform procedures and simple assessment tools quantify learning in concrete and actionable ways.
 

We make learning visible.
ASER volunteers don’t go into the schools; instead they visit a sampling of homes in every rural district in India. The survey becomes an ongoing dialogue with the community as volunteers engage parents, teachers and neighbors in the process. Children take the tests in front of the village, making the quality of their school’s education visible to all.

Such awareness turns to action when communities realize their schools are failing their children.
 

By visiting children at home, ASER volunteers collect data on the large number of children who are enrolled in school but don't make it to the classroom.
 

We emphasize collaboration and evaluation.
Such a large undertaking requires enormous support, and Pratham effectively uses low-cost methods to achieve wide-scale assessments. 25,000 volunteers from more than 500 partner organizations help conduct the survey over a period of 100 days. Results are tallied quickly and widely distributed inside and outside the government.

In 2013, Pratham set up a Measurement, Monitoring and Evaluation (MME) unit to evaluate the effectiveness of its programs. The MME assesses outcomes, provides feedback for improvements, and suggests adjustments necessary for scaling up our programs and making them sustainable.

In 2015, Pratham recruited hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens to stand up for the children in their communities through the Lakhon Mein Ek campaign. The three-month effort  mobilized 375,000 volunteers to assess the literacy and numeracy level of 10 million children. Village report cards were generated and shared with the community as a first step toward advocating for their children’s educational needs.
 

IS IT WORKING?

ASER is impacting education around the globe.
In India, ASER resulted in the creation of our Read India program, where we strive to ensure that all children acquire basic reading, writing and math skills.
 

ASER-modeled surveys are being implemented in seven other countries— Pakistan, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Mali, Mexico and Senegal—to measure learning outcomes and advocate for improved quality of education.
 

Our ASER model has inspired parallel citizen-led assessments (CLAs), with seven other countries already implementing CLAs and five more slated to enact them in the coming year. Spanning three continents, these CLA efforts are reaching more than a million children annually. Jointly, this People's Action for Learning (PAL) network strives to bring learning and measurement to the center of educational policy and practice.