The People's Action for Learning (PAL) Network hosted a high-level regional policy dialogue under the theme "Evidence for Learning'' today. 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.
According to the World Bank, 9 out of 10 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 1 out of 10 do not achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills at the same age.
Speaking at the event, Armando Ali, Chief Executive Officer, PAL Network said: "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."
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.
"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.
Dr. Sara Ruto, Former CAS Ministry 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% of grade 4 students are falling behind in competencies they should have learned a year earlier. 57% 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.
"It is critical to ensure that all students acquire fundamental knowledge. Foundational learning and socio-emotional skills serves 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." Dr. Benjamin Piper, Director of Global Education - Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation emphasized.
Also in attendance at the forum were, Dr. Rukmini Banerji, Chief Executive Officer - Pratham Education Foundation, and H.E Graça Machel, Women's and children's rights advocate; former freedom fighter and first Education Minister of Mozambique; co-founder and Deputy Chair of the Elders.
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 ICAN (International Common Assessment of Numeracy) tool.
PAL Network seeks to collaborate with a broad set of stakeholders across the continent, leveraging evidence-based advocacy to mobilize 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.
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To learn more about the PAL Network and its work please visit https://palnetwork.org/
The People's Action for Learning (PAL) Network is a south-south partnership of 17 member organizations working to promote children's foundational learning across Africa, Asia, and America. PAL Network members conduct citizen-led assessments (CLAs) and learning intervention programmes (action) aimed at improving learning outcomes.
Foundational Literacy and Numeracy (FLN) designates basic reading and numeracy skills. These skills are ideally acquired during the first five years of education as the majority of cognitive abilities in language and mathematics should be developed during this period. Although literacy and numeracy, and their importance to education are not new concepts, the global focus on FLN is a relatively recent development.