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[经济学人] [2006.07.15]Economics focus: Is our children learning?









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[2006-07-15] Economics focus Is our children learning

Is our children learning?
Jul 13th 2006
From The Economist print edition


After $12 billion of World Bank money, and the promise of more to come, donors still don't really know


A lot of turtles lived on the bank of a big lake. Boys would go to the bank and look at the turtles. Sometimes the turtles would walk around and at other times retreat into their shells,
as if they were stones. On seeing this, the boys would laugh loudly and clap. They would go home and tell everyone the story of the turtles.

NOT the most thrilling narrative perhaps, but less than half of Indian schoolchildren between the ages of seven and 14 could read this passage in their native language even
if they wanted to. That was one discouraging result of a national study of literacy and numeracy published by Pratham, an educational charity, earlier this year.


Education for all is a popular cause. So popular, indeed, that every decade or two, governments and donor agencies promise to put all the world's children in primary school by some date, normally ten or 15 years hence. In 1990 they set a deadline of
2000. In 2000 they set one of 2015. All that is required, the donors say, is money and will.


The money may be forthcoming. In April Gordon Brown, Britain's chancellor of the exchequer, promised
to spend $15 billion over the next ten years to help realise this goal. Russia, which is hosting the G8 summit in St Petersburg between July 15th and 17th, has put the subject on the agenda and $7m of its money on the table. But throwing money at the problem is not unprecedented. Since 1990 the World
Bank has spent over $12 billion on primary education. What has it accomplished? This week its
Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) gave its verdict.

  所需的资金也许即将到来。今年4月,英国的财政大臣Gordon Brown承诺在未来10年将会花费150亿美元用于实现这一目标。而今年7月15日-17日圣彼得堡8国峰会的主办国俄罗斯已将此事提上议事日程并有700万美元的具体用途正在讨论当中。但是,在教育上投钱是由来以久的,自1990年以来,世界银行已经在初中教育上花费120亿美元。这些钱能达到预期目的吗?这星期,有关这项花费的独立评估团(IEG)给出了评估结果。

Many more children are going to primary school. In the 12 countries the IEG studied in depth, enrolment rates rose by an average of 19 percentage points over the past ten to 12 years. In 1996 Uganda
abolished fees for primary education. As a result, enrolment almost doubled in a year, according to
official figures (which some scholars distrust). Both Kenya and Ghana have since followed Uganda's lead.


Cutting fees is now touted as a “quick win”, one of precious few easy victories in development. Indeed,
far from charging people to attend school, some governments, with donors' help, now bribe them to enrol. They offer free meals or cash handouts to parents on the condition they keep their children in school. In Nicaragua, the IEG reports, a pilot programme along these lines raised enrolment rates by about 22 percentage points.

削减学费被吹捧为“捷报 ”,是在发展过程中不可多得的宝贵胜利。而事实上,上学不收费使一些政府在捐助者的资助下,须向学生提供实惠来使其入学。这些政府向家长提供免费餐或兑现传单以便家长们能让他们的孩子留在学校。据IEG的报告,在尼加拉瓜,效仿的飞行员计划的入学率上升了22个百分点。

Governments and donors have been remarkably successful at getting children into school. But what do
they learn when they are there? Pratham's study in India is one of few serious attempts to find out. Only five of the 12 countries visited by the IEG had carried out repeated, standardised tests to monitor their progress in educating pupils, rather than merely enrolling them. Parents cannot fill this gap. Their
children are often the first members of their family to get an education. As a result, parents do not know what to demand from their schools. In Uttar Pradesh, a state in India, 41% of children could not read a single paragraph, but only 21% of parents think their offspring cannot read.

政府和捐赠者在孩子入学方面硕果累累,但当他们去实地考察时,他们会有怎样的发现呢?印度的Pratham(布拉罕)正是认真试图寻找这一问题答案的为数不多的机构之一。在IEG到访的12个国家中,只有5个以对学生实行反复的、标准化的测验来观察学生的进步,而不仅仅只是录取他们。家长通常不能测试孩子,他们的孩子往往是家庭中第一批接受教育的成员。因此,家长们并不知道他们能向学校要求什么。在印度的Uttar Pradesh,41%的孩子连一简单的的段落都不能阅读,但却只有21%的家长相信这一事实。

Uganda's explosive increases in the quantity of schooling came at the expense of an implosion in quality. Three years after the big bang of 1997, for example, the Bundibugyo district of Uganda had 209 pupils
for every classroom. In 2005 there were, on average, three students per textbook in the country.


Faced with ratios like these, the obvious response is to build more classrooms and print more textbooks—
in other words, to increase the “inputs” to education. In Uganda the obvious response is probably the
right one. But it may not be sufficient. In the past few years trials have shown that simply spending more
on textbooks, flipcharts or extra teachers does not necessarily raise test scores for the average pupil.


But these scholarly results rest uneasily with donors' habits. On the whole, they are better at procurement than at pedagogy, better at school-building than schooling. In Peru the bank helped to improve buildings, distribute textbooks and provide training. But Peru's teachers remained ill paid, poorly motivated and barely supervised, and were rarely held to account. Some refused to use free textbooks, preferring to collect commissions from commercial publishers for assigning their books instead.


Learning how to teach


Pratham's response to widespread illiteracy and innumeracy was to experiment. It tried various remedies
in half the schools in a district or city, picking which half at random. The remaining schools provided a control group with which to compare the results of its efforts*. One of its more successful ventures was to hire unqualified high-school graduates to provide remedial education for students falling behind. These balsakhis (which means “children's friends”) were cheap, paid about $10-15 a month, and quick to train, receiving only two weeks of prior instruction. Because they did their work in hallways or even under
trees, there was nothing for governments or donors to build.

Pratham对为数众多的文盲和数学盲进行试验。它在某个地区或城市随机抽取半数的学校来试验各种补救措施。其余的学校成立一个支配中心以便拿它努力的成果进行比较。Pratham较成功的经验是雇用未拿到高中毕业证的学生对成绩落后的学生进行补习。这些balsakhis (意指“孩子们的朋友”)的工资低,一个月仅10-15美元,而且他们受训的时间短,只有两个星期的预先培训。他们通常在走廊或树下工作,所以也就不需政府或捐赠者为他们建教学楼了。

Nonetheless, the instruction they offered was surprisingly effective. In Mumbai it raised the chances of fourth-year pupils grasping first-year maths by 11.9 percentage points. It improved their chances of mastering second-year literacy by 9.9 percentage points. The gains in Vadadora (formerly known as Baroda) were smaller, but still worthwhile.

  尽管balsakhis的待遇差,但他们给孩子们的帮助却是惊人的有效。在孟买,在他们的帮助下,差生的一年级数学分数提高了11。9%,二年级的语文成绩上升了9。9%。尽管这些进步在Vadadora (通常也叫Baroda)微不足道,但还是非常有意义的。

Pratham's remedy may not apply to Africa, where fully trained teachers are still relatively cheap. But the charity's approach—measure, experiment, evaluate—should. Thanks to the balsakhis, more of India's children are learning to count and read—well enough at least to enjoy turtle stories. Whether donors are also learning any lessons remains to be seen.


后记:1 对于我这个语言极度溃泛的人来说,翻译好一篇文章真不是一件易事,很多东西只能意会不能很好的表达,
        如“quick win”,我翻译成“捷报”,但我还是认为不恰当。不过我还是尽力了,烦请各位热心的网友多多
2 一些地名没翻译出来,如Uttar Pradesh、 Bundibugyo 、Vadadora 、Baroda,不好意思,地理知识也知之甚少,又缺少工具书。
3 balsakhis不知是不是英文单词、倒数第二段的fourth-year pupils 我翻译成了差生,因为实在弄不明白后面又有
first-year、 second-year, 金山词霸里有fourth-rate,意思是“没什么价值的”,所以我想fourth-year pupils是不是差生的意思。
4 我觉得翻译成中文时,有些标点符号不一定要和英文一模一样。
5 Pratham由百度搜索知是印度孟买的一个非政府组织,好像经常组织教育、医疗、消除贫困等方面的试验。
6 标题的翻译不知是否妥当。
7 总之,对于我这个新手来说,水平有限,需要的是大家的帮助,希望不吝赐教!

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