Use of Real-time Data on Children’s Learning

coauthored by Radhika Iyengar and HaeIn Shin

Until recently, large–scale assessments of children’s learning levels were considered to be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. They were seen to limit the frequency of useful assessment reports and restrict immediate usage of results to inform schools, communities or policy interventions, where remediation action is needed the most. The real-time use of data is critical to children’s development of learning before they further lag behind in academic performance or drop out of schools without any help.

One study — Real-time Access and Utilization of Children’s Learning Data in Ghana by the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) Education Sector and the Modi Research Group — uses cutting-edge real-time data collection technology to measure and improve literacy levels among children enrolled in primary school in the Bonsaaso Millennium Village (MV) in Ghana. This applied education monitoring program, currently in its pilot stage, provides information on literacy levels in the region, and when paired with collected spatial data, helps identify priority areas for ongoing education programs and necessary interventions. The project includes the design of a tool that facilitates real-time data collection and Report Card generation on learning assessments. An integral part of this study is the design of rapid literacy assessments specifically tailored to the Ghana context that will provide real-time feedback of data in the form of community-based Report Cards.

The project follows a testing model designed by ASER, in India, and also used by Uwezo, in East Africa. The test includes letters, words, simple paragraphs and a short story (around 10 sentences) to test literacy, and takes no more than ten minutes per child to administer.

There were three components of this project:

  1. Adapting the literacy test created by ASER and Uwezo and conducting the learning assessment in ten schools in the Bonsaaso Millennium Village;
  2. Using Android phone technology to reduce the time delay between assessing children and providing community-based learning Report Cards that can now be done on the same day;
  3. Rapid response by the education team of the Bonsaaso MVP, which will plan and prioritize education interventions such as remedial education, teacher assistance and supervision, among other critical interventions, based on learning results and available data.

The three components of the study facilitate data dissemination in the communities and improved data utilization to help large-scale community mobilization and accountability measures to plan remediation and improve learning levels. By collecting data on Android phones, we can allow for rapid, action-oriented summaries to be generated based on the data. This will be done using formhub, a platform created by the Modi Research Group at the Earth Institute.

This real-time feedback will allow community members to respond in near real-time to the literacy status of their young learners.

The Earth Institute will provide technical support for this study, including programming the survey template on Android phones, providing the necessary phones, training the field staff on the use of the phones, data storage, and back-end data processing (including automated data cleaning, report card generation and storage).  The findings will be used to direct interventions in partnership with the Ghana Ministry of Education and local Parent Teacher Associations.  The information will be distributed through the local authorities, education outreach agents, and school administrators.

At the end of the study we will conduct an assessment and partners on the ground to determine what aspects of the project are scalable to other communities and districts within Ghana, as well as within other Earth Institute project sites. The results of this assessment will inform the next phase of the project, and allow the Earth Institute to adapt the tool as needed first for usability, and then for effectiveness in other project sites.

Learn more about our Education Sector work across the Millennium Villages and other national projects.

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