Follow Us:

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

The Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP) Secretariat at UNESCO Bangkok co-organized a workshop 4-7 June 2016 in Aurangabad, India with the Pratham Education Foundation. The Pratham Education Foundation hosted the “Introduction to ASER and Citizen-led Assessment (CLA)” workshop onsite at the Pratham Arora Centre for Education (PACE) in Aurangabad and invited members of NEQMAP as well as members of the Peoples Action for Learning (PAL) Network and other interested parties to participate in a four-day discussion and immersive demonstration on CLA methods, tools and findings from Pratham’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER).    

Attended by approximately 30 representatives from NEQMAP member and non-member institutions as well as partner organizations, the workshop invited participants to learn about the ASER method and to discuss their experiences with citizen-led assessment.

NEQMAP members from Bhutan, Lao PDR, Mongolia, The Philippines and Viet Nam participated in the four-day workshop, which included presentations on the ASER method from Pratham and ASER staff, as well as field visits to local villages participating in ASER and study camps designed to help raise reading, mathematics and science ability for students in need.

UNESCO participants followed an ASER survey being conducted in a small village called Pimpri where citizen volunteer Amol Moghe conducted ASER assessments systematically, beginning by informing the village about what he was doing there and then mapping out the village on paper in order to randomly select homes to survey.  After mapping out the village, Moghe proceeded to survey every fifth house, walking “left” or counter-clockwise in different sub-sections of the village as needed.  The first household reached had two young boys, both in grade six, to survey. Moghe started with the reading assessment by asking the first boy, who went to a “government school” (public school), to read a paragraph. The first boy struggled a bit and read slowly, ultimately finishing the reading but with a few mistakes.  The second boy, although in the same household, attended a private school, and was able to read the paragraph quickly and with ease such that his skills were assessed as being higher.  Five doors down from the two boys, Moghe found a household with another student in grade six and again assessed literacy and mathematics skills. He found her reading skills to be just above beginner level, and she was unable to do any math problems. Next, a friend of the girl who was also in sixth grade proved able to read the most difficult passage with ease.  In witnessing the ASER survey playing out in real time in this way, workshop participants were able to see the challenges a rural village faces in providing quality education for all.  In the case of Pimpri, ASER identified which students might benefit from intensive reading and math camps. 

The Pratham Education Foundation hosted the workshop in order to introduce the ASER method to NEQMAP and PAL Network members interested in administering similar surveys.  Facilitated by the Pratham Education Foundation, ASER is the largest non-governmental household survey undertaken in rural India and is. As an acronym with a double meaning, 'ASER' translates into impact in Hindi, and aims to make an impact on education by measuring the enrollment status and basic reading and arithmetic abilities of children between 3-16 years of age. The ASER method tests children within their households in rural villages through a detailed, yet simple process that uses a common set of learning assessment tools and a comprehensive sampling framework. By situating the assessment process within households, parents and community members are able to directly experience their children’s learning levels and are often galvanized to take action to improve the situation as a result. According to ASER, simplicity is? “the driving force to figure out the highest level at which children can comfortably do different tasks.”

The first ASER was conducted with a basic reading assessment in 2007 and has since expanded to survey a total of 600,000 to 700,00 children each year, including a mathematics assessment, with the help of thousands of “citizen” volunteers covering approximately 16,527 villages across India. ASER has pioneered the idea of “citizen-led assessment” through this method to enable learning assessment to take place in rural areas that might otherwise not have access and opportunity for measuring quality of education. Over time, ASER has been able to measure its own impact on education policy across India by enabling policy makers to see problem areas and inform where and how resources can be used to improve education in rural areas.

Rukmini Banerji, the current CEO of the Pratham Education Foundation, emphasized how important it is to mobilize citizens as volunteers to conduct these surveys in order to reach rural villages across India. “Volunteers from the community reinforce learning – and often these volunteers have higher education than parents and are young and able to dedicate time and relate to students,” Banerji said. She added, “The survey hooks children and parents by allowing them to see their own progress…. ASER mobilizes everyone in the community around learning. Citizen-led ‪assessments allow even parents who are unable to ‪read to see what learning looks like."

In addition to the work on CLA, the workshop participants were also able to learn about the Pratham Institute for Literacy, Education and Vocational Training, which was established in 2005 to help provide Indians with education and practical skills. Pratham’s PACE Center in Aurangabad, where the workshop was held, is one such facility focused specifically on providing sustainable youth skilling programs for employment in the hospitality industry in order to enable those without prior experience to enter the workforce in hotels and kitchens across India and the world.  Participants of the workshop were able to witness firsthand the skills taught at the PACE Center and to learn about the placement of graduates of the program after successful completion.   From early childhood education to young adult vocational training, Pratham is a true innovator and major provider of education and training opportunities in India and has inspired others to adopt similar approaches in other parts of the world.

The four-day workshop on CLA closed with a discussion on the field visits and on how different countries can leverage the ASER tool within their own unique contexts.  ASER has proven to be a powerful reference and resource, not only for India, but a guide for implementing citizen-led assessments globally.

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

Written by Kathleen Sullivan [k.sullivan(at)], Communications Consultant

 Related Links

• Pratham Education Foundation :

• Annual Status of Education Report  (ASER)

• Pratham Institute (and PACE)