One Tool to Measure Educational Impact and Child Learning

Measuring impact is becoming increasingly important. Donors want to hear the impact of their grants and donations. Communities want to learn if their strategies are making the difference for children in the ways they intended. We know impact is important, but how do you measure it?

Here’s one great tool we see our partners using to assess child learning.

Uwezo is an East African organization dedicated to improving basic competencies in children ages 6-16. The Uwezo assessment teaches volunteers to answer the question, “are our children learning?”

Two clocks side by side

Uwezo was born out of a shared interest among educators, researchers, and leaders from East Africa to develop an assessment, appropriate for the African context, to provide data on learning outcomes while also galvanizing community support and action to make changes to the educational systems in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. After a learning visit to India revealed how it was possible to develop a nation-wide assessment for students ages 6 to 16, Uwezo’s founders were inspired to do the same.

Read how Firelight partners are using the Uwezo assessment in Communities Improving Literacy in Africa

Uwezo adopted many of the key features that have made the Indian assessment a success. Here are a few notable examples:

  • Instant feedback: unlike many cumbersome assessments, results can be shared with the child and family immediately after the assessments are complete
  • Household based: In order to demystify testing as an event taking place in school, assessments are conducted within the household, bringing education to the family level
  • Spirit of Volunteerism: Uwezo recruits volunteers who administer the tests nationally, on an annual basis. This is seen as an avenue to engage civil society, shifting the focus from learning as the sole responsibility of education professionals to a public responsibility
  • Building partnerships: Uwezo taps into existing efforts by individuals, organizations, and government departments working to improve education quality. This way, what were once localized and limited impact projects are now brought into a wider nation-wide effort to improve education. Firelight partners are tapping into this network by becoming trained Uwezo volunteers and collaborating with Uwezo to register their beneficiaries for annual assessments.

black and white multiplication tables displayed in two rows

Since 2010, assessments have been completed on an annual basis in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. In 2012, approximately 350,000 children from 150,000 households across the three countries were tested on their ability to perform basic literacy and numeracy tasks.

Exercises range from asking children to tell the time, complete multiplication problems, to answering reading comprehension questions. These are based on expected competencies for students having completed two years of primary education. The assessment also includes a survey of teacher quality, school facilities, and household demographics. This way, assessors can analyze the impact qualified teachers, educated household members, and income differences have on a child’s ability to learn.

A simple elementary school story in black and white text.

In 2012, Uwezo found that:

  • Across East Africa, only 1 in 6 pupils in grade 3 passed grade 2 English tests
  • Children from poorer households perform worse on assessments than children from non-poor households
  • The gap between public and private school education quality is greatest in Tanzania (compared to Kenya and Uganda)

These findings have been shared with local, district, and national governments in time for annual planning and budgetary revisions, with the goal of shifting priorities to address gaps in the education systems. Uwezo expects that these findings will shift the focus from getting children into school to ensuring that schools are actually environments where children learn and teachers teach.

Uwezo sees its assessment as, “a key trigger for public action; the household as the initial point of democratization of access to information, and public debate as a key driver of civic and policy change.

We anticipate that over time, the communication of actual literacy and numeracy levels will lead to a realization among the public and policymakers that schooling is not enabling children to gain skills, which in turn will lead to a greater concern with how children can learn.”

Grantee StoriesMia Schmid