From Invisible to Visible: Being Able To “See” the Crisis in Learning

Rukmini Banerji:

Engagement and Understanding: The First Step in Assessment and Action

The group of mothers sitting in the sun in a village in north India was happy to chat. We talked about children and about their school. “Are they going to school?” I asked. “Of course,” said the mothers proudly. Some went further to say, “we even send them for private coaching after school.” “How are they doing with their education?” The common word for education in Hindi is the same as reading-writing. The chatter stopped. One mother looked at me sternly and said, “How do we know? We are illiterate. Anyway, that is the business of the school and of the teachers.”

For decades it has been assumed that schooling leads to learning. This is the assumption that has been widely held by parents and practitioners, policymakers and public. It is also assumed that “more is better”—more years of schooling are better than less. It is only recently that the world is beginning to realize that schooling does not necessarily lead to learning. For many in India and in other countries, at ground level and at higher levels, this is a new learning. Accustomed to years of measuring inputs and expenditures, the switch to measuring outcomes—especially learning outcomes—is new and still unfamiliar. We are just beginning to figure out how to think about learning beyond, and in addition to, schooling.