The People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network recently hosted a high-level regional policy dialogue under the theme “Evidence for Learning” to discuss innovative solutions that can drive growth in early childhood literacy levels in Africa.
The forum convened key stakeholders in the education sector alongside Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa to deliberate on the gaps in education policy and discuss available solutions to improve children’s foundational learning outcomes at scale.
Armando Ali, chief executive officer at PAL Network speaking at the event called for collaborative efforts to bridge the gap between evidence and action to improve the learning outcomes of children in Africa.
“We ought to work collaboratively and learn from each other in order to bridge the gap between evidence and action to improve learning outcomes for children under the age of 10, across Sub-Saharan Africa. We need to get it right for Africa’s growing youth population.
This is only possible through a coordinated response that emphasises the importance of foundational learning policy guidelines in combating the dramatic learning crisis that millions of African children are experiencing,” Ali said.
There have been synergies to improve foundational literacy and numeracy, and the forum will provide an opportunity to benchmark successful solutions that have worked in other countries and review data required to inform equitable and inclusive responses to education.
Sara Ruto, former minister of education and a mentor of Citizen Led Assessment and Actions in Africa said; “Education is a source of power for many children. The situation is dire, not many children have access to the skills and competencies needed to yield successful adults.”
A recent study conducted by Usawa Agenda in Kenya shows at least 60 percent of grade 4 students are falling behind in competencies they should have learned a year earlier. 57 percent of the grade 4 girls tested could not read a grade 3 level text.
“We must accelerate learners’ acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy skills,” she added.
Benjamin Piper, director of global education at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation emphasised that it is critical to ensure that all students acquire fundamental knowledge.
“Foundational learning and socio-emotional skills serve as the foundation for all other learning, knowledge, and higher-order skills that children and youth acquire through education, as well as learning in general throughout life.
Too many children, however, leave school without having mastered these fundamental skills,” Piper said.
According to the World Bank, nine out of every ten children in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) do not achieve basic reading and numeracy skills by the age of 10.
This is an alarming statistic, especially when compared to developed economies where only one out of ten do not achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills at the same age.
“Evidence for Learning” is a call to action for all stakeholders to share proof of work done in order to collaboratively drive learning intervention programs aimed at improving learning outcomes.
The high-level regional policy dialogue was followed by a field visit to Machakos County, where foundational learning is already being implemented in five different schools.
The visit gave a first-hand practical exposure to the assessment of children’s foundational literacy and numeracy skills using the International Common Assessment of Numeracy (ICAN) tool.
PAL Network seeks to collaborate with a broad set of stakeholders across the continent, leveraging evidence-based advocacy to mobilise governments and policymakers to take actions that improve early learning outcomes for children and drive the accountability needed to deliver change at scale across sub-Saharan Africa.