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‘But Can They Read’: Monitoring educational quality

© UNICEF video
Experts from the World Bank, UNESCO and UNICEF met in New York to discuss the need to monitor the quality of education for boys and girls throughout the world.

By Kun Li

NEW YORK, 9 May 2005 – On 5-6 May, experts from the World Bank, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and UNICEF gathered in New York for a workshop called ‘But Can They Read’. The goal was to discuss ways of monitoring educational quality for boys and girls throughout the world.

Experts agree that, as the push is on to provide every child with an education, the children’s school performance cannot be overlooked. Simply put, can they really read, write and do basic math after years of schooling?

Dr. Cream Wright, Chief of UNICEF's Education Section, described the rationale behind the workshop: “We are faced with broadening our focus from gender parity in education as a means to ‘Education for All’ to gender parity in education as a basis for gender equality in society. This means paying attention to the process of education, the different experiences of boys and girls in education, and the outcomes of education."

© UNICEF video
These school children from Kenya are learning arithmetic.

Deadline: 2015

“The ‘Education for All’ [effort] around the world has been largely monitored in terms of access – whether or not children are getting into school or staying in school,” said Nick Burnett, Director of the Education for All Global Monitoring Report Team at UNESCO. “What has been missing is some monitoring on whether they are actually learning while in school.”

Bob Prouty, Lead Education Specialist at the World Bank, said that the increasing numbers of both pupils and teachers made it all the more important to assess quality. “As we are bringing in unprecedented numbers of children into school, and hiring tens of thousands of new teachers, what’s happening to learning? Is it staying even, or is it falling back? Is it possibly going forward? These things we have to be much more aggressive about tracking.”

According to the Millennium Development Goals, the year 2015 is the deadline for achieving universal primary education and eliminating gender disparity in education. Mr. Burnett explained that monitoring could help some countries achieve these objectives. “We need to monitor in order to find out if we are going to make it. If it appears that some countries are not going to make it, that monitoring can then generate action – both by policy makers and by those providing financial and technical support.”

Following up on the workshop, UNICEF and its partners aim to agree on a set of indicators that will help in monitoring the quality of education. The indicators should be comparable for all countries that are striving to achieve the same goals.




5 May 2005:
UNICEF New York correspondent Kun Li reports on the meeting among UNICEF, World Bank and UNESCO education experts, on the monitoring of children’s learning results.

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