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[This article originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of Rug News andDesign Magazine.]

A month ago, the New York Times published an article on the volunteer driven (not government) report called the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). For the article (see http://rugne.ws/nyt-aser) or see “We Care” at www.rugnewsanddesign.com.

The article is fascinating, but one quote applies universally, and in the US.

Rukimini Banerji, who leads the ASER, says that Pratham’s evidence shows that the most important reason (for falling behind) is something else: By law in India, the teacher must cover the entire year’s formal curriculum. “When the fourth-grade teacher uses the fourth-grade textbook, you’re eliminating 80 percent of the class,” Banerji said.” Someone sitting in a fourth- grade classroom who can’t read a simple sentence will be lost on the first day—and never catch up. “The learning curve is flat.”

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Elsewhere in the NY Times article, it says: “ASER is more than a survey. By making children’s learning visible to parents, teachers, and policymakers it has become a mobilizing force for better quality education. It has helped to turn the government’s focus beyond enrollment toward learning. And Pratham is not just diagnosing the problem. It is also introducing simple methods that teach basic skills.”

“Last year India’s nationwide ASER cost $1.3 million. (Not a typo)” …”During October and November, volunteers will test between 600,000 and 700,000 children, including some in every rural district in India.”

If, as the article says, India gets 96 percent of the school age children (6-14) enrolled in school, then the problem in education is the quality of education in the school –Sound familiar.

According to the Pratham website, they reach about 30 million school age children. And as they put it: “Pratham builds communities (not schools-ed). Pratham leverages

46,000 volunteers from villages and cities to teach children and bring them up to speed. We collaborate with government institutions and use existing structures. It’s an efficient strategy and it encourages local ‘ownership’ of programs.

For more information, please visit www.prathamusa.org and/or Google: New York Times ASER.

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