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Assessing Primary Student Learning

Bluebell School provides children with a decent, no-fees education from pre-school to grade five. Most students are from a nearby social housing “cluster village” for ultra-poor families. On a recent site visit, BHP Director John Richards completed another of his on-going evaluations of Bluebell students. This year, for comparison, we included a sample of students attending schools in the nearby town of Balagram, using a survey protocol developed by an Indian NGO so that we could also compare results in Pakistan and India. Due to the small size of Bluebell school, all students in grades 3 to 5 were surveyed.

John discussing progress with two of the volunteer surveyors.

The in-home survey used two simple tests for reading and arithmetic skills:

·         ability to do subtraction and division: The share of students able to do subtraction and division in Bluebell (16.7%) is nearly twice that in Balagram schools (8.9%). The all-India government school average at grade 5 (21.6%) is higher than in Bluebell.

·         ability to read grade 2 level story: The reading result is slightly better among the Balagram school students (46.7%) than in Bluebell (43.3%) and both are better than grade 5 Indian children attending government schools (38.5%).

The results are somewhat disappointing. Two important factors are, firstly, learning loss during the COVID pandemic when all schools were closed for nearly two years. Bluebell teachers provided in-home support but this was not sufficient, perhaps in part because of the second factor: inability of students’ parents to support learning. Only 40% of Bluebell students have at least one parent able to read; in Balagram, 70% of surveyed families have at least one literate parent.

Meeting with Bluebell teachers in guest-house

Our follow-up meeting focused on solutions including rearrangements and replacements in teachers and lesson plans. Bluebell teachers will also intensify their efforts to help students become active learners through group study, mixed-age lessons, community service projects (clean-up, tree planting, helping parents at home), regular parent-teacher interactions, and home visits when students are absent.

OFP Founder Rabiul Islam summed up the situation, “Children attending Bluebell School are at high risk of dropout because of their families’ illiteracy, unawareness of educational outcomes and poverty. They remain vulnerable to rollback so quickly. We will continue our focus on continuous improvement and assessment, confident that our children will be able to do better in the near future.” 

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