UN Report Indicates Poor learning Outcomes of Children In school

The UN has come up with a report that indicates the sub-par status of educational outcomes in several areas of the world. The study has focused on the learning outcomes of the children who despite going to their respective schools are lagging on various parameters of learning. The report has called the situation a learning crisis. 

The report also highlights the reasons for the lacunae and suggests strategies for remediation. 

The report has highlighted the fact that the planning and aid internationally have remained focused on enhancing the accessibility of education and ensuring the universalization of education. It acknowledges the fact that the severely underdeveloped areas and the conflict zones secure aid for the reinstatement of the right to education, but the subsequently needed monitoring of the quality of education and achievement of the learning outcomes do not receive comparable attention and that ends up defeating the purpose of universalization of education and accessibility enhancement.

The UNESCO Institute of Statistics has brought to light the glaring inadequacy of education in the schools that have been established with the grand in aid in several regions of the world. The findings suggest that as many as 600 million school-going children do not have basic skills in mathematics and language, which reflects the scale of the dire conditions and their chronicity and pervasiveness.

The Inequity 

The educational outcomes globally are witnessing a sustained regional divide. The most deprived regions of the world are lagging in these terms significantly when compared to the other better-off regions. The poorest countries in Africa, particularly those in the sub-Saharan regions register dismal learning outcomes year after year, with 88% of children and adolescents entering working age without basic skills in reading.

The countries in South and Central Asia are doing equally worse with 81% of children reaching adulthood without adequate reading skills. These statistics are indicative of a bleak future for not just the children and the youth, but for their countries’ development also.

When we compare the academic outcomes of children in developed countries of Europe, we find that just 14 % of children graduate without basic skills. It is notable that just 10 % of the world’s children live in affluent countries.

The report of the Unesco Institute for Statistics remarks that the poverty of the learning outcomes is indicative of a systemic problem as the majority of the children who are grossly underachieving is composed of those who are not off the grid and are going to school of some form. The report calls it the problem of “Schooling without learning” which also finds mention in a World Bank report.

 The report has some serious implications, the most worrying of them being the fact that millions of school-going children in the low-development areas will graduate without necessary skills, therefore they will be bound to engage in low-paid and insecure jobs in the future. This augurs badly for the low and middle-income countries as with a poorly educated workforce they will not be in a position to achieve their developmental goals.

Mali and Japan when juxtaposed for the comparison of the learning outcomes show the gravity and pervasiveness of the divide. In Japan, 99 % of children gain basic proficiency in language and math while just 7% of children in Mali gain comparable levels of proficiency.

The levels of academic inequity also exist within a given country, this is true for India as well where only a minor section of the population has access to modern education in the schools.

The causes 

The factors that account for such dismal state of affairs have been summarized by the World Bank study, they are as under ---<

  • The poverty that predisposes school-going children to learn at sub-par levels

  • Malnutrition and illnesses also put children in a sub-optimal condition that hampers their learning

  • The training levels of teachers are inadequate and the fact remains that they themselves had poor academic outcomes as students

  • The regularity of teachers remains a concern in most of the underdeveloped regions, the rate of attrition is also high

The World Bank's chief economist, Paul Romer, commented on the implications of the said World Bank report tersely by saying that presence of children in schools is not proving to be a sufficient condition for learning. He added that the current state of affairs indicates a painful truth about education.

Assessment Poverty 

The said report specified lack of assessment data of pupils as a cause of concern. The student achievement data is in many cases not present with the departments of education and robust mechanisms to keep track of progress are absent.

The situation can be contrasted with the situation in the developed countries of the west wherein the debate is about the drawbacks of excessive testing. In poorer countries the problem of too little measurement of learning is evident.  

There are nations in the developing world that have shined a light in the otherwise bleak scenario. The researchers mentioned South Korea and Vietnam as exemplary in the progress they have made in the arena of education.


Vinod Kakumanu

Vinod Kakumanu

Founder & Consultant - School Serv

Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.

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