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CIES 2017: Using PAL Network data to identify children who are being left behind (group panel)

  • Sheraton Atlanta, 1, Capitol Center (North Tower) 165 Courtland Street Northeast Atlanta, GA, 30303 United States (map)

Chair: Patricia Scheid, The William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

Discussant: Ben Alcott, University of Cambridge 


  • Exploring the learning trajectories of out-of-school children across the PAL Network, Hannah-May Wilson, PAL Network
  • Exploring wide geographic disparities in learning outcomes at district and state/province level across the PAL Network, Mary Goretti Nakabugo, Uwezo at Twaweza/PAL Network
  • Exploring what PAL Network data tell us about the learning trajectories of poor rural girls, Wilima Wadhwa, ASER Centre/PAL Network


Enrollment has increased considerably in many low-income countries over the past 15 years, in line with global commitments to assure Education for All (EFA). However, PAL Network data demonstrates that being in school does not necessarily equate to learning. The global education analyses made the mistake of looking at the average learning gains for all children, which meant that progress for the most disadvantaged children was often hidden.

Equity is at the heart of Sustainable Development Goal 4, emphasizing the importance of all children and young people learning the basics by 2030, along with a commitment to ensuring no child is left behind. To meet these ambitious targets, tracking progress requires disaggregated data focused on the most disadvantaged groups, to identify the extent to which they are making progress over time. For the PAL Network, the explicit reference to equity is of critical significance. Our collective experience over the past ten years has demonstrated that inequalities in learning are evident even before children start primary school, and these inequalities widen throughout the primary school years. Children who do not learn the fundamentals in reading in mathematics in the early primary years face greater challenges later on. This has tremendous implications for equity as the most marginalized are the most likely to fall behind. 

Recognising the commitment that no target will be met unless met for all, particular focus is needed on children who face disadvantage due to poverty, gender, where they live, ethnic and linguistic minorities and disability. It is vital that the commitment to leaving no child behind translates into tracking progress for the most disadvantaged groups. Such tracking needs to include interim targets to provide an early warning signal before the more distant target of 2030. Better global monitoring of learning can push governments to ensure that not only are all children attending school, but that they are also learning the basics. 

This panel wishes to present and explore in-depth analysis of disaggregated data collected from household-based, citizen-led assessments countries across the PAL Network to focus specifically on those children with inherited and multiple disadvantages that are most likely to be left behind. The panel will present new evidence based on the latest assessment data from at least 7 network countries, exploring the policy implications for those hardest-to-reach children. The first paper will explore the learning trajectories of children who have never accessed school and those who have dropped out. The second paper will present a geographic comparison of the major disparities in learning outcomes across the network at district and state/provincial level. The final paper will explore what the PAL Network data tells us about the learning trajectories of poor rural girls.