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Citizen-led learning assessments enable educators, parents and volunteers to close learning gaps in rural India

Citizen volunteer Amol Moghe sets out to conduct learning assessments in a remote village in western India. Upon arriving at the village of Pimpri in Maharashtra state’s Aurangabad district, he greets the villagers, explains why he’s there, and asks for permission from the village leader to conduct a learning assessment survey.

Moghe greets the people of Pimpri and explains the ASER survey.

With the villagers’ help, Moghe begins to plan his survey by drawing a map of the houses in the village. This map will guide him to systematically sample a random selection of households for the learning assessment – a key component to ensuring the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) survey is randomized and therefore more statistically reliable. By mapping the entire village first, he is able to select five households from each of the village’s four quadrants.

Moghe explains how the ASER survey works and how he will go about conducting the survey following his hand-drawn map of the village.

The village of Pimpri is located in Maharashtra state’s Aurangabad district in India.

Following ASER survey guidelines, Moghe sets out to conduct the assessment at every fifth house in Pimpri, walking counter-clockwise. At the first household he meets two young boys, both in grade six, but attending different schools - one at a public school and the other a private institution. He starts his assessment with the boy attending public school.

Young boys from Pimpri laugh and smile while Moghe explains the ASER survey to the village.

The ASER survey is designed to help gauge skills learned right away. In the reading assessment, each participant, regardless of age, is asked to start reading a short paragraph. If the paragraph is too difficult to read, they are asked to read a few words or to identify letters to establish reading ability. If they read the paragraph with ease, they are asked to read a longer, more difficult paragraph.

Moghe begins with the standard reading passage. The boy who attends public school makes mistakes and struggles through the first passage, while the other reads it with ease. He then administers the math assessment, which asks students to do basic arithmetic problems. Finishing his assessment and noting their differing levels of comprehension, Mr Moghe moves on to the next assessment five households over.

WATCH: ASER in Action

Mr Moghe employs this innovative method developed by the ASER Centre, an offshoot of the Pratham Education Foundation, which uses a common set of learning tools and a comprehensive sampling framework to test children within their households in villages in rural districts of India.

At a time when the global education agenda aims to ensure “inclusive and quality education for all,” ASER extends its expertise in learning assessment to promote basic and quality education for all. It reaches rural children who might not be learning the basics despite attending school, a reality that the ASER survey helped to uncover. ASER also brings a global education agenda to the community level, empowering locals, such as Mr Moghe, to carry out assessments, and parents to understand how exactly their children are struggling.

Moghe points to his assessment outcomes worksheet, which records the evaluations of the learning assessments conducted for reading and math skills.

In India, all educational planning happens at the district level. The ASER survey is the only assessment tool that covers almost all rural districts in each state, in order to provide accurate data on learning state-wide, across the country. Rukmini Banerji, CEO of the Pratham Education Foundation, says this citizen-led focus is what fuels ASER’s success in India, and has enabled policy-makers in the country to identify challenges in the education system and to create policies to help mitigate them.

Programmes to improve learning outcomes have also been initiated in many states as a result of reviewing the ASER findings. India’s current Five Year Plan (2012-2017) on Education defines mastery of basic learning as an explicit objective of primary education and emphasizes the need for regular assessment to ensure that goals are being met.

A View of the Village: Touring the town during the ASER survey

This clinic and children's centre serves as an educational facility for mothers and children in Pimpri, with an emphasis on use for health and early-childhood education and nursing.

Three young men pose in front of Pimpri's town hall, where announcements and important information are posted on the walls, and people can meet to discuss important issues.

A local woman from Pimpri leaves her house to gather water from a nearby well.

Young boys gather back at the children's centre following the conclusion of the ASER survey.

See more from UNESCO: 

NEQMAP Co-organizes Workshop on Citizen-led Assessment in India

Related Links:

• Pratham Education Foundation :

• Annual Status of Education Report  (ASER)

• Pratham Institute (and PACE)


For more information about citizen-led assessments, please contact Ramya Vivekanandan [r.vivekanandan(at)] at the Section for Inclusive Quality Education.

Photo essay, photography and video by Kathleen Sullivan [k.sullivan(at)], Communications Consultant