PAL Network generates evidence on learning outcomes and work with partners to implement evidence based programs for improved learning. The network produces new insights using data from its assessment and action programs and other research. PAL uses data to track and report on global progress while advocating for equitable, inclusive and quality education.
PAL Network has contributed to policy shifts, from inputs to a focus on learning outcomes. It pictures a world where all children can read and do basic arithmetic.
The Story of PAL Network
Three decades ago, the world came together in Jomtien, Thailand, and unanimously agreed to make education a top priority on the development agenda. According to the World Declaration on Education for all, over 100 million children and at least 60 million girls had no access to primary schooling by 1990. The declaration resulted in many more school buildings, teachers, books and many more children, including girls, enrolled in schools than was the case thirty years earlier. But despite the increase in schooling inputs and enrolment, one question lingered on: Are Children Learning?
The question needed to be made visible. In 2005, Pratham, an organization in India made visible the scale and depth of the problem that was quietly unfolding-that while many children were in school, little learning was taking place. They started the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) meaning (impact) in Hindustani. ASER is an annual, nationwide survey that assesses children's ability to read and solve basic numeracy problems. ASER engages citizens in finding out whether children are learning.
The household based, scalable, rigorous and citizen–led approach of assessing children learning outcomes quickly spread to other nations. The years 2006, 2008 and 2010 saw education leaders from Pakistan, East Africa and West Africa respectively visit India to learn more about the ASER approach. Gradually, the ASER approach expanded to Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Nepal and Botswana. To date, 14 countries conduct citizen-led assessments and citizen-led actions across Asia, Africa and the Americas to improve children’s basic reading and numeracy skills.
The increase in the number of countries undertaking citizen–led assessments and actions required a central unit to support, facilitate learning and sharing in the global south. The People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network was therefore solidified in 2015 and formally registered in 2018 to coordinate and support the work of the members who conduct citizen-led assessments and actions to improve children’s learning. PAL member countries are drawn from diverse geographical boundaries, languages, and culture but, united by one common interest: increased learning outcomes.
PAL Network assesses children, regardless of their schooling status. Home-based assessment of children occurs through the administration of oral tests, and it enables parents to know whether the children have gained basic reading and numeracy skills. PAL members recruit and train local volunteers to carry out the assessment. To date, PAL Network has engaged over 690,000 volunteers that have assessed 9 million children.
PAL Network is committed to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 that seeks to ensure an inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all. To contribute to the realization of the education commitments by 2030, the network focusses on four key pillars; Assessment, Action, Research and Advocacy.
PAL Network Key Achievements:
- PAL Network member countries continue to generate reliable and robust data as guided by network wide Data Quality Standards Framework. Similarly, 13 member countries are creating a standardized mathematics testing tool to conduct a cross-national household survey in early grade numeracy to generate comparable data on children’s learning levels.
- A mapping study conducted in 2018 confirmed the influence and reach of the citizen-led approach, specifically in global south countries. Over 60 organizations in over 30 countries have used citizen-led assessment tools and data. The network has recorded an expansion from nine members in 2015 to 15 members, eight of which are conducting citizen led actions to improve children’s learning.
- PAL data continues to influence and shape discussions on learning outcomes. The PAL Network is part of UNESCO Institute for Statistics repository learning assessment programs with the ability to monitor progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4. PAL member’s participation in international forums such as the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) and a special task force 4.1 contributed to a milestone decision of Indicator 4.1.1a moved from Tier III to Tier II.