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Asyia Kazmi
Episode 89th December 2021 • The RISE Podcast • Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE)
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In this episode of the RISE Podcast, RISE Research Director Lant Pritchett speaks to Asyia Kazmi. During the episode, they walk through Asyia’s wide-ranging experiences spanning her 25-year career in education—as a teacher, mentor, advisor, and educationalist—and they reflect on the legacy of Girin Beeharry, the inaugural Director of Global Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They also discuss the critical importance of getting kids literate and numerate, as well as the need to build systems that champion quality teaching and restore children's confidence in their ability to succeed. 

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Guest biography:

Dr Asyia Kazmi is the Global Education Policy Lead at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with a focus on effective instructional practices, education advocacy and edtech. Nearly half of Asyia’s 25-year career in education was spent as a mathematics teacher and teacher coach. Before joining the Gates Foundation, Asyia was a management consultant in PwC leading the Girls’ Education Challenge, a $1bn fund set up by the UK to support the education of 1.5 million girls in 17 countries. Asyia has worked in three UK Government departments: as a senior education adviser in DFID, a project director in the Department for Education, and a senior Her Majesty’s Inspector in Ofsted, where she inspected schools, local authorities, initial teacher education and trained inspectors. Her areas of expertise include teaching, learning and formative assessment; school improvement; and large-scale programme management. Asyia has a Masters in Applied Mathematics from Imperial College London and a Doctorate in Education on teaching and learning mathematics from the Institute of Education, University College London. She has a PGCE in Leadership development and educational consulting, and a PGCE in mathematics teaching.

Attribution:

RISE is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Programme is implemented through a partnership between Oxford Policy Management and the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford. The Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford supports the production of the RISE Podcast.

Producers: Joseph Bullough and Katie Cooper

Audio Engineer: James Morris

Transcripts

RISE Programme, Host 0:04

Hello, and welcome to the RISE podcast series, where we aim to explore the stories behind education, research, and practice. As part of the multi-country Research on Improving Systems of Education endeavour, funded by UK Aid, Australian Aid, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Welcome to a RISE Podcast. I'm Lant Pritchett, I'm the Research Director of the RISE Programme. And I'm very happy to be here today talking with Asyia Kasmi, who is one of the few people in the world who I think has done something important at every level of education from classroom teacher to now working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And so I'm here, hoping to draw her out from what she's learned at each of the various levels of which she's worked and how that adds up to a vision of the way forward for global education. So Asyia has, as I say, has worked as a teacher in a school and been engaged in an important turnaround of learning performance in a school, she's worked at a district level trying to mentor and improve teaching of other teachers, she's worked with the British agency Ofsted, where she, in turn, tried to train the inspectors at Ofsted, in how to use data and how to improve their performance. She worked with one of DFID's largest development projects and on their largest policy programme, and is now engaged at the global level. So so let's start with the classroom teacher part of it. My understanding is that you were a classroom teacher, you had worked in one school for a couple years, and then returned to the actual neighbourhood school where you had attended as a child, and one in which was struggling in lots of ways, including with their basic learning performance. So just in your own words, how did you tackle that challenge?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

So first of all, I want to just say I loved teaching, I was a secondary school math teacher, it's something I've always wanted to do, now sitting in a really good school, got slightly bored and looked at the school that I attended myself. And results were low. And thought, well, let's go and see what we can do here. And it was tough. So going from a good school to a school where behaviour was a big issue. Lots of lots of work to do there. But I was very lucky to have had for a short time an amazing head of department before I became a head of department. And she set up some structures that we carried on and three things are really important. And but before I say what we did, what happened was, our results in mathematics was something like 12-13% of the students met the benchmark, in three years, we got it, we got it to nearly 50%, I say nearly, it wasn't exactly 50%. There were five children who didn't get the results they should have got. And I'm still upset with a teacher who didn't get them the expected results. And so we had value added that became like the top 2% in the country. And we got a letter from the Department for Education to say, "Can we host best practice day". And we were surprised that anything, we're doing our best practice, it just seemed like, you know, normal practice that everybody should be doing. So it pushed us to think about what it was that might be different. And three things: One was a real focus on equity, because these were children that were the cause, because language might have been an issue. Some of them were refugees, you know, many, many had free school meals, poverty. We really had this moral purpose that we, education, had to deliver even more for them. And it was a no excuses culture. Right, whatever was preventing them from learning had to be addressed. And I think the other thing was, I had gone to that school, I had sat where those children have sat and I was almost like a dare tell me why I'm so difficult to teach. And, and that I think added a lens to it. So that part of the equity was real kind of what everything else around them that we needed to do to make it happen and to make them have greater opportunities, greater expectation. And there's a couple of stories that really stuck with me.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

One was I decided to enter the class for them the UK Maths Challenge, which was very elite at that time. Elite, you know, Private schools used to do this Maths Challenge, no preparation, nothing. Just got girls and it was a girls' school to go and see how they will do and lining up outside in one girl, Karnika, said "I don't know why you're bothering, no one from here gets anything." How do kids pick up that? And I was able to do this full outrage up: I'm from here and look at me, I'm the head of maths, etc. She got the gold certificate, she got the top two and a half percent in the country. And I, when I presented that certificate in assembly, I can still get emotional about how excited these kids were that one of theirs had got this. So there's something about opening up opportunities and not having these labels, be holding them back.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

Second, was a relentless focus on data. And we were very precise about the data. We broke it down on a termly and half term level. What were the objectives, the learning objectives children achieved? And what were the ones that were not achieved? And how do we reteach so that we're constantly plugging away at that gap. And in your book, 'Schooling Aint Learning', you talk about learning projection trajectories, we have this thing of, if nationally, students who got a certain level at and a primary 50% went on to get Grade C, we wanted that to be 80%. We wanted that to be 90%. And so we improved those, the we accelerated their progress, we went backwards before we went forward. So TaRL for us wasn't teaching at the right level, wasn't something we did at the end of the year, we were doing it constantly. And there was a relentless focus on teaching. So I remember when we were hosting, we're supposed to host this data, that we just taught the heck out of them. We taught and we taught, we taught. Behaviour was preventing from learning, we improved behaviour and boy was behaviour an issue, then, you know, when people sort of say to me in global ed behaviour, like these kids were using swear words, the F word as a verb, it was in practically every sentence. I remember one of the first.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

This wasn't an English class, this was in Math even.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

The first one of the first lessons I had is only a few children, and I walked in the back of the classroom and this girl stood up, threw back her chair said to me, get back to the front where you belong. And quaking in my boots, she was about twice my height. And it was like, "How dare you speak to me in that way." But the same kids, they were testing us. They wanted to see what we stick around? Did we care about them? Did we want to go above and beyond to help them. And when they were convinced of that, they rose to the challenge. So going back to this focus on teaching, we had a department of six. And we knew that we had to quickly become experts in topics. So we did joint planning, you know, departmental meetings are about how do we teach this. We begged borrowed and stole ideas from others. I would teach algebra, somebody else would plan a lesson on numbers. So I would take this. We were constantly working as a team to improve. And there was cake. We had a lot of cake in the department to bring that, you know, collaboration together, all doing the same thing.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

So that's super interesting. And I don't want to project back. But this was these three things of equity, a relentless focus on data, teach, teach teach. This predates, in some sense, the jargon of teach at the right level and have and the sort of emphasis on evidence this was to you this just seemed common sense. And it worked, right?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

At the end of the day, as teachers when we close the classroom door, whatever anybody wants us to do, they have no control over that. So we wanted to get kids to this level of expectation, and then we have to continuously test. So there's this practical lens, about what support is available to us. If it's not working, we need to try something different. And so teachers, you know, within the constraints that they have, can be innovating and innovation doesn't have to be big bells and whistles. I mean, when you are doing things like when you you know, end of term test or end of year exam, we had a grid and we passed it around to the class and each question they would write down how many marks they got. So now all of that can be done in Excel, the children writing it down themselves. I didn't have to do this work. And then I've got a very good analysis of zeros. Let's reteach that topic. And then we had things like homework clubs, maths surgeries, we did things like pre-teaching. So rather than catch up, we had the students we knew were struggling, we had the teaching assistant, teach them in advance. Now imagine you're somebody who struggles in mathematics, and you're walking into a classroom, and you know more than anybody else in that classroom, because we taught you in advance. And these are very common, didn't get a lot more just needed a teaching assistant, who, who was able to teach these children, what the class teacher knew these children needed to catch up on.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

I like how you were surprised by being cited for best practice. You just thought this was teaching. This was this is what you did.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

We genuinely were surprised and I was remembering, I was thinking, I don't know what to tell these people. So I was sitting in the library with with my, with the students, and I spotted a few and I went, can you come and help me do this presentation? Can you tell me what you think is different. And they came out with all of these things that it didn't matter which class teacher you went to, they would help you that they would go above and beyond. So I was like, okay, you guys do the presentation. I mean, it's not, it's not no faux modesty, we genuinely thought, doesn't everybody do this?

Lant Pritchett, Host:

And you learn. So let's move to the next stage. Because given your success, and given the sustained improvement along these learning trajectories that you are experiencing, my understanding is you were invited to then move to the district level and sort of improve teaching at the district level. And one of the things about education that one of our RISE members, Luis Crouch emphasises is that nearly every country go to their pockets of good practice, you know, he has this wonderful passage from one of his writings where he says, you know, you can walk into an urban area in a developing country, and find a good school. And then the problem was, you can throw a rock and hit a really awful school. So a lot of the challenge of systems isn't necessarily creating pockets of good practice or best practice, was it diffusing though? So tell me about your experience. Did you find it harder to improve practice of other teachers or to be a teacher yourself?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

Oh, definitely harder. I was very reluctant to leave the classroom, I loved being a teacher, I love the relationship between a student and the teacher and this direct impact you're having on students. And so, you know, the conversation was you can affect more students. So went to the local authority as a Maths Advisor in the National Strategies, which was England's reform programme, under the Labour government at that time. I was supposed to be the equivalent of a Maths Coach, we were called teaching and learning consultants. And for two terms, nobody would return your call. So you're knocking on a door that is not wanting to open, you know. And over time, it changed. And what changed? It was, I think, this bit about the maths consultants, and there's a literacy consultant, as a maths consultant, and a science consultant came on board, is we could walk the walk, we weren't just talking the talk. So we would go in and say, let me demo a lesson. And we would demo a lesson of those students that these teachers had taught. So it kind of opened up the possibility of what teaching and learning could be like for their children, not somebody else's, not government, you know, videos and things, it was their children. And so for some teachers, that was oh, right, you're worth talking to, you know what you're doing. And, and, and so then maybe sort of process of joint planning, team teaching. I suppose to some it would be a I do, we do, you do, kind of approach. Then there is this bit about you balancing support with challenge and that challenge is based on really good quality data, when you can say schools that are like yours, are achieving this result, "Why do you think your students are not able to get the same results?" And you're asking the question, and sometimes people will be, "We're really wanting to work on this." Other times there'll need a little bit more convincing. But also, there were other levers in place that were also providing this challenge. And so the system was aligned on the same thing. We're all wanting to improve learning, we're improving attendance, we're improving behaviour, we're wanting to, you know, reduce the gap between different ethnic minorities, etc. So that support, that challenge was balanced with I'll help you, I'll come and support you, I'll work with you. And then the third aspect was that you're building a community, you weren't the one who had all of the answers as the consultant, you could provide some kind of direction. But actually, when you're building the community through building the trust, that they're all wanting the same thing. You know, the training, I remember finding great teachers in a range of schools and ask, asking them to share their best practice or asking them to take the training module, try it out, and then speak at the at the local authority meeting about it, making connections with other local authorities. Andy Hargreaves calls it collaborative professionalism. You know, teaching is a contact sport, it's not something that you do on your own. And that kind of vocabulary. I think that that first thing that shifted, there was much more of a pedagogical vocabulary, people were using, you know, assessment for learning and, and all sorts of, you know, analysis of data, looking at transition matrices, etc. And our results improved in three years by 5%, which was amongst the highest, again, across the country, on just improvement. But when you're working at a level that's at the district or at the national, you're working through others, and you're working with others. And so intentionally developing that takes time. It can't just be here's the training, go deliver it, learn and improve.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Yeah, I think one of the most frustrating things about improving education systems is that often, maybe the most broken part of the system is teacher training. So everyone's as well, obviously to, you know, you're only going to improve learning if you can improve the teaching and learning practices in the classroom level. Anything that happens at the policy and announcement level doesn't matter. It doesn't translate into change practices, but changing practices through the chalk and talk, here's what you should do, go do it, doesn't seem to be very effective. So everything you're saying, I think is very instructive about even in a relatively high performing like Great Britain, how you have to, it takes time to build the trust in the community to really support the teacher so that that's, I wonder, I want to say two things: One of the things that the literature sometimes suggests is, it's important to change the teachers own beliefs about what is possible for the kids. You know, we've often heard examples of, you know, I worked and lived in India, oftentimes, you'll hear teachers just saying, "Well, this kid can't learn this material." It's like, it's not my fault. They take the lack of learning performance and project, the cause of that on others. So they never really internalised in some sense, their own responsibility. Was that a challenge to get? I noticed you emphasise that you would teach in their own classroom, you would teach, and you would compare them to other schools like yours. Do you think that was an important part of creating an optimistic kind of positive mentality among the teachers?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

Definitely. This point about exemplars and really learning from those who are smashing it to use a technical term, those who are the outliers to say, given the same starting point, look at what these schools are doing. And and let's learn from them. Let's see, you can't translate completely when you can think about what are the principles they're employing. And this bit about expectations is so important, like when I was describing that school about there's no excuses culture, we have to do it because these children almost have things stacked against them. And therefore if you believe in social justice, if you believe in equity, and education is a way through them that how do you convince others. So part of it, is it's possible for for our children, and to make them see that they've got to learn from, from teachers who are teaching children similar, that you're going in, and you're saying, "let's try", not "I'm the perfect teacher", definitely not. Let's try, let's plan, let's see how we can, we can do this a bit better. I visited a school in a programme four or five years ago in northern Nigeria. And this is a programme we'd funded. And you could tell that these children weren't going to get anything new out of this, what was being taught, because expectations were too low. And it wasn't worthful. They, you know, they've been advised that this was a lesson plan. And after a while, I just couldn't I was like, put my hand up and said could I teach this? Right? And we did, and we've got these children to say what do you know, the teacher was wanting them to do triangular, square, and rectangular, these kids knew this already. We had to shift them on. So I was like, let's try. And we got them to talk about the similarities and differences between a rectangle and square and articulated in sentences and just using mathematical reasoning. So opening up, you know, the point that you make about expectations and beliefs, how we shift them is from teachers learning from each other, as well as a little bit of challenge and the data comes in really, really important from there. Your work on how slow learning trajectories work. Now, come on, you've got children in school for eight, nine years, and some of them are still at Grade 1 and Grade 2, you've got 9 out of 10 children after five years of schooling, not being able to read, write and do math, that should be the minimum that an education system should be able to provide. So it comes with every layer from from political to the parent to the teacher to the head teacher. And so we think about working at those different layers and not just on one aside.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

So I'm we're just tracing the narrative of your very interesting life. Then you move from the district to Ofsted. Could you just say a bit for the non-British office, non-British listeners what Ofsted is and what Ofsted sees its role? I was quite surprised that Ofsted is sometimes an agency engaged in education that's completely independent legally and otherwise from other education authorities. So tell me a bit about how Ofsted is designed and how Ofsted works and what you were able to do at the next level up. Not even embedded in a district but at Ofsted.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

So the Office for Standards in Education inspects schools inspects national policy, it inspects social care, inspects initial teacher education, it inspect colleges, technical colleges. I think this, I think the statistic which might be slightly out of date is 1 in 3, it's inspection services touches 1 in 3 people in the country.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

It is a non-ministerial government department. So it is a government department but its independence comes through the fact that it doesn't have a minister and it reports to Parliament. So every year it produces an annual report to parliament on the state of education. And it has what's called Her Majesty's inspectors and I was one one of those and it also has Ofsted inspectors who will often be serving head teachers. And that then, so I think, you know, internationalists assume that they just inspect schools. The more interesting aspect of their work is the policy inspection. So they'll say you know, standard of mathematics, standard of a reading, or French or languages. It also inspected the national strategies. So government was, you know the programme I was describing earlier, government had a national improvement programme, Ofsted inspected it and it has a motto called 'Report without fear or favour' and I wanted to quote some of the things that they have publicly said about this programme because we don't have an equivalent in global ed. So just a few examples: "The programme has not rooted out weaknesses in basic teaching in a third of primary schools."; "Head teachers have been subjected to multiple requests for the same information from different agencies."; "Schools are experiencing too much monitoring by too many people, which rather than tackle the weaknesses simply continues to identify them."; "And schools and local authorities are overwhelmed by volume of centrally driven initiatives." So I wonder who else this could apply to?

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Wow.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Yeah, they're all features. But this was an important insight that Ofsted wasn't just seen by the school as an inspector of schools, but also had authority to report as you say, without fear or favour about the policy framework itself. And so it could really, truly be kind of seen as a trusted agent. In that, yes, you were inspecting schools, but you weren't exclusively an instrument of some topdown programme, you actually had your ability to report on the success of the policies and implementation itself, and as an independent agency. So I think those are really important things when you start thinking of separating out various functions that go on. And one of the problems is that if you just embed everything in a single ministry, it's the referee, it's the player, its the...you know... its incentives to report on its own failings are very weak. So that was very interesting. Now, again, one of the things that is often most needed and most broken, is often the supervision and inspectorate role inside schooling systems in which to be honest, in education systems I've worked in before they promote people who are the worst possible teachers who are the most burnt out and cynical, into the role of being the inspector. And so to some extent, the inspectorate is the least likely place one would see dynamism or, you know, true coaching or mentoring or support coming from. Is it able to avoid that problem? Are you able to have inspector to inspire as well as inspect?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

So, Ofsted is 200 years old, and it started off to say, and I think started off with two Her Majesty's inspectors, and Her Majesty being the independence as opposed to the government to report on how funding for education was being spent. Its recruitment of HMI, Her Majesty's Inspectors, is very rigorous, and it's seen as you know, HMI label is seen as something that means things and I'll give you a kind of example as to the technical skills of HMI. So I was quality assuring an inspection that was led by a HMI and she was able to give feedback to a teacher on a phonics teaching lesson, that was, "You haven't pronounced all...the way that you are saying the letters is is not going to be very helpful." So they have that level of technical detail. They have expertise over the data, and they were seen as people who have walked the walk and therefore have, have authority to be able to evaluate schools and promote, give feedback that may promote improvement. Obviously, you know, that's not a universal thing. And there's there's critiques of it as well. But I think where Ofsted is most powerful is when schools are in special measures, because normally schools might be inspected once every three years. And you're not improving your system by going and doing the two day inspection, you're shining a light on, you say this is what it looks like. When school's are in special measures, leadership and management of a school has been judged inadequate. And schools get an inspection visit every quarter by the same lead inspector for two years. There the relationship becomes, what's being done to support this school to improve the quality of education, what's the local authority doing what's the, you know, for education resources on it, and therefore, you have got real leverage to make change and as well as independent evidence as well, that really does support improvement. And I think one of those attempts to replicate Ofsted inspection system, and you haven't got that wider ecosystem that is drawing on. You know, when in when inspection says, When my last visit, the quality of I don't know, I'm making this up, mathematics teaching remained inadequate, the use of data is insufficient. And three months later, they say that, again, that's worrying, because these are publicly, they are public letters that go to parents. And so action is taken. And there are, there are organisations and agencies that can support the school to improve these things. If you haven't got the ecosystem, you're not, you cannot assume an inspection alone is going to produce improvement. And also, if you've got an inspection system that is counting, as opposed to really looking at what's preventing improvement of outcomes for these children, you're not going to make a difference.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Yeah, that's one of the things we're trying to emphasise is account-driven accountability rather than counting-driven accountability, where you are engaged in a professional narrative with people about their performance, why they're, what their challenges are, how they can overcome them, rather than just accounting mentality. I, just the recent RISE conference, two weeks ago, there was a paper that showed that where they were doing kind of surprise visits to see if teachers were even in the school or in the classroom. And lack of teachers in the classroom went up significantly, if they had been visited by an inspector. And the result was kind of puzzling, but they made sense of it, because they knew the inspector was only coming once. Inspector was only going once, if your school that had its inspector visit, it was just about them, you know, counting that they'd done it, and they were never coming back. And so again, the difference between really being engaged and following up, versus we did our inspection here was the counts we're off. And therefore, there was no, and you know like I said the attendance went significantly down, because teachers were like, well, they're not going to be back this year. So the inspectorate function is, it's finished.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

What you said about accounting, I think, is really, really important. Like, and when the Ofsted is best or inspection at its best, it says, "Why are outcomes as they are?" and then they write about the so what? I don't care if teachers have been trained. So what? Because teachers were trained this is the difference it's made to students. If you put in a new programme to improve personal development and well being, so what? What difference has it made, and that accounting, rather than so much was spent on this teacher training, and so many teachers here, it's not going to get us there.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

So next you move to work with PwC on a very large scale project in Pakistan, and this was I think, your first, you know, professional exposure to the development edge of the education or in this early development industry edge of education. What was it that surprised you most moving from having worked up and with and through the British system to moving and seeing what was happening in other countries?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

So I actually joined the Department of International Development. Yeah, and I mean, I was actually very proud that the UK Government, for international development had this focus. But I was also very surprised at what the focus of the global education community was in education. Coming from Ofsted, where we were relentless about the focus on outcomes. And, and, you know, are children are able to do the basics, etc. And not just those things, we looked at a much wider range of things, but there was an expectation that an education programme should equip children to be able to do, to be able to read, write and do basic maths. And the fact that at that time since 2011, learning wasn't a prime outcome for education programmes was a surprise. And I had, I was asked to as a stakeholder meeting of organisation, a funding organisation I'm not going to name but I remember saying to them, you got to put learning outcomes as learning as an outcome measure. And he said, we don't do that. And I said, You got to, you're wrong if you don't, and he said, but we never have. So I was like, you've always been wrong and he's saying, who is this little person? And so I think it's really good that now there is an acknowledgement that learning needs to be looked at. And I was also surprised at the lack of focus on pedagogy, and even now we need to do a lot more on what is effective instruction. And how do we take that effective instruction to scale a lot more consistently. So that, you know, teacher training, what do we do for teacher training, why even teachers do teacher training? What are the three things that you want to be seen as shifting in teaching, we need to have a lot more position and a stronger vocabulary about the competencies in the quality of teaching and learning that we want to shift. And we need to be much better informed by the science of learning and the science of teaching in these programmes. And the other thing that really surprised me, and remember, I came from an England system where English was the first language, there was such a focus on plain English and I get into international development. And it's English, but not as I know it. So the complexity of the language and the vocabulary is a very small group of people who knew what anyone else was talking about. And it was certainly not infiltrating the wider kind of, those who needed to implement these programmes, weren't able to understand what I was talking about because of the vocabulary was so complex and so academic. And then the final point was the lack of school improvement experts designing programmes and lack of people perhaps who might have experienced poverty or, or reflected the communities that these programmes were being designed for. I think, if you had more of those school improvement experts, they'd be able to set the question at the start, why did you even think it will shift learning, you know, it might be a good thing to do, but don't assume that that good thing is going to shift learning. So this move between what shifts learning has got to be, to do with teaching, you know, like, if you have attendance, you look at teachers attendance, if they don't know how to teach, they could be attending 100% of the time, is not going to shift. So an understanding of what shifts learning is really important.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Yeah, I think I think, as you know, in the RISE Programme, one of our teams in India did a huge randomised evaluation of a very large scale attempt in one of the states of India to implement School Improvement Plans as a way of doing school improvement. But it was just, from my point, I mean, and the impact evaluation found zero impact on anything past producing the report. So everyone was required to produce a report, everybody produced a report, but then nothing about the inspection changed, nothing about supervision changed, nothing about teaching, literally nothing changed. And I do think this, this understanding that a school is an organisation that, you know, you need to have a theory of change, how is the school going to get better? How are these teachers going to change their behaviour? How is that behaviour, positive change going to be reinforced across the school. So the lack of sort of attention to school by school, how are things getting better? What's the mechanism that's really going to matter, as opposed to you know, frames and policies and programmes and, and things. So let's, let's move to the last turn in your current stage, which is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has only recently become involved with education globally. They've always had an education programme in the United States and a large presence in health abroad, but they never got involved. So as we both know, a person that was instrumental in getting Gates involved has just passed away. And so I think it'd be appropriate to say a few words about about him as a testament, I think, his influence and getting the Gates Foundation involved. And then let's move to sort of where you see that going.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

So Girin Beehary passed away on Wednesday, and he wanted to look at global education. And he wanted to look at it from let's learn about it. So he combined his fierce intellect, with an ability to talk to and communicate with people from many, many different angles, and have experts talk to each other. What are the issues, what are, you know, possible areas to work on, listen to debate and understand it from that it's not just, you can't just produce a public good. There's the implementation side, there's the support that teachers require, there is this bit about this pipeline of who's going to be implementing, and something that I think is an expression that we need to hold on to about who's keeping us honest. You know, how do we know that what we're doing is the right thing to do? And how do we know that what we're doing is making a difference. And so he read everything. I mean, his desk was like a skyscraper of very organised papers. And, and he read about, you know, when you read a paper with a critique of that paper, and the critique costs of the critique, so I had a really 360 way. And I was in PwC at this time, I wasn't looking to move. But when I saw a very succinct strategy, focus on foundational literacy and numeracy, it was like a siren. You know, I was, this is what I want you to do, because the statistics that 9 out of 10 children, if you're born in a high income country, nine out of 10, can read by the age of 10. If you're born in a low income country, 9 out of 10 cannot, that is a shocking statistic, it requires all of us to say, what is stopping this from happening, and what did we do to improve it? So the strategy was very, very focused. And I really valued that I think we, we tried to do too, too little on too many things, and don't shift anything. And this approach of we're going to learn about this we're going to take, we're gonna approach it with humility, and we're going to see what works. To this point about what have we learned, we're a small player in the sector, we are very focused on improving foundational literacy and numeracy, we started off with an initial focus on public goods. And then when we reflected on that, that public goods are important, you know, having data, having evidence about what works, but it's not sufficient, there needs to be a desire for those public goods, then, and that desire will come when you there's an awareness of what the issues are, and there's a willingness to address these issues, that creates a demand for public, for those public goods. Also, that the evidence itself needs to be more practitioner oriented. So some of the work that RISE is doing on the 'Align' aspect. And I sort of pulled that assessment informed instruction, where now the Bank is also looking at 'Coach' and you know, how to have practical aspects of supporting teachers, I think that's really important. So advocacy to raise awareness of what the issues are of the problem, but also the solution. You know, you say, we know what works, we don't implement it. So let's make that what works be implementable. And that it's in country that action happens its in country where the solutions are. And so really looking at how, what is our role in supporting those who are wanting to work on this? And then the final aspect is what I started this bit about: accountability. Are we doing the right things, if we are doing the right things, what are the green shoots? We don't have to wait four years to say this didn't work. They'll be indicators at three months level at six months level, to say this is along the right lines. And so having that data and course correcting is really important. So I think you know, Girin was, I've been in education 30 years. In a relatively short time, he got a great array of organisations and people to, to look at this agenda. And just the amount of people who have reached out to express their condolences on this, on on his loss, the legacy that he set up, we need to really continue to work on this, to look at improving learning and improving learning for the most underserved. We need to carry that on.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

Well, thank you so much for this kind of. It is truly a pleasure always to talk and listen with you is again, there are lots of people in global education that don't have the span of concrete experience starting in the classroom, in the classroom in a challenging environment, to the district, to the inspectorate, to the global and now to the kind of pan opticon view of what can a small but strategic philanthropic engagement do. We have, I think I'm glad you're there continuing the struggle for better education from where you sit now. And I'm sure our listeners will come away informed and engaged. So thank you very much.

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

Pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much, as well. education programmes have to, at the very least, equip children with the ability to read, write and do basic maths, that we need to look at those who are the most underserved in society and be relentless in understanding and implementing what we know will work to improve them. And that is something that Girin was very passionate about, and for the last four or five years, really focused on and I think it's his legacy to continue that.

Lant Pritchett, Host:

So, Asyia, in conclusion, I just want to ask you one question that we've asked everyone who's been on the podcast. And it's a kind of simple question, but at the same time deep, which is what is the one thing you wish other people knew about education systems?

Asyia Kasmi, Guest:

It's so not a simple question. The one thing you wish other people knew about education systems? I'm going to answer it in two parts: that improving the quality, improving the quality of learning isn't as hard as we think it is. I think we need to be, it's complex, it's, it takes effort. But we have examples of it being done. So it's not as hard as it can be, as as perhaps we make out, it is definitely doable. And the second part of that is, without basic literacy and numeracy isn't just about getting jobs, it is about dignity. It is about right, it is about opportunity. And the quicker we equip children with this, the more benefit it has on a huge array of other aspects.

RISE Programme, Host:

Thank you for listening to our podcast today. And if you liked it, be sure to check out our research at riseprogramme.org or follow us on social media at RISE Programme. You can find links to the research mentions and other worksheets under the description for this podcast episode. The RISE podcast is brought to you by Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) Programme through support from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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