Session Submission Summary

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Mind the Gaps: From Access to Equity in Ethiopia, India and Vietnam

Thu, March 9, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Sheraton Atlanta, Floor: 1, Capitol South (North Tower)

Session Submission Type: Group Panel

Description of Session

While the vast majority of children now access basic education of some kind, for many its potential benefits are only partially realised – owing to (i) slow or uneven progress through grades and levels; (ii) poor learning outcomes; or (iii) weak mastery of the skills required by 21st century economies and societies. These three dimensions of the current global ‘learning crisis’ form the focus of this panel, which draws on unique comparative and longitudinal data to provide new insights from three developing countries with very different educational trajectories: Ethiopia, India and Vietnam.

The role of education as a driver of social mobility and as a mitigating influence on wider social and economic inequalities depends much on the nature and extent of inequality in access to and quality of education itself. The longitudinal nature of the Young Lives study, which has collected data at household and school level from children in four low- and middle-income countries since 2002, provides a unique opportunity to explore educational experiences and learning outcomes throughout childhood and adolescence. Papers in this panel draw upon different aspects of the Young Lives education research, at both household and school level, and utilise findings from the first four rounds of household data collection alongside data from school effectiveness surveys at primary and secondary levels.

Building upon Young Lives’ primary school surveys, which began in 2010, a further round of school surveys are currently taking place in Ethiopia, India (Andhra Pradesh and Telangana) and Vietnam. These will provide data on the quality of upper primary and secondary schools serving the Young Lives sites and, in combination with a fifth round of the Young Lives household survey, will provide data on the learning progress and outcomes of fifteen-year-olds across three developing countries. In this panel, findings from this current round of surveys will be used to offer insights into policy relevant questions such as which children transition between different stages of schooling, how levels of attainment levels differ between groups and across countries, and the extent to which children are developing ‘21st century skills’.

The international nature of Young Lives data enables country-specific educational environments to be examined in comparative perspective, including opportunities for cross-country comparison of learning outcomes and their determinants. Solving the global learning crisis requires narrowing gaps in learning by raising the ‘long tail’ of poor performing pupils and schools in many countries to adequate standard. While it is apparent that different paths are needed in different contexts, a comparative can shed light on the policy options and trajectories available within various resource envelopes.

The current pivot in policy focus from access to quality includes a recognition that as access has improved, inequality of access has narrowed, while in many cases quality has declined and inequality of educational outcomes has widened. Improving quality is essential to remedy significant inequalities in outcomes, but requires targeting to be effective. Without this, efforts to improve quality risk becoming an additional source of inequality, leading to further gains for the most advantaged but increased disadvantage for those left behind.

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