Well-trained teachers, quality learning resources and literate communities are more important than measuring performance
Literacy has become a hot issue in the UK and internationally, with growing outrage that many children fail to learn to read and write. Globally, there are about 50 million more children in school today than there were just over a decade ago. There are still challenges in achieving universal access - more than 67 million children are still denied this basic right - but it is important we now also focus on ensuring that children in school actually learn. It is a violation of children's rights if they are in school year after year yet fail to develop basic skills.
However, a reductive focus on literacy and learning outcomes can lead us into at least four fundamental mistakes.
One serious mistake is investing disproportionate resources in comparative assessment. There is pressure on ministries of education across Africa, Asia and Latin American to better assess the reading progress of children in the first two or three grades of school - and, increasingly, to do so in ways that allow international comparison of performance. This generates lots of work for international examination boards, publishers and consultancy firms, but risks giving primacy to international data collection rather than the provision of practical support for teachers in the classroom, who are often working in very different contexts. Teachers should be able to monitor the progress of children, but need to be able to do so in ways that are contextually relevant.[view whole blog post ]