June 21, 2018
On June 20, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) signed a memorandum of cooperation (MOC) with the Pratham Education Foundation (Pratham)  and the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL)  with the objective of sharing knowledge and collaborating to improve literacy and numeracy abilities among children in developing countries. The signatories to the MOC were Rukmini Banerji, Pratham CEO; John Floretta, J-PAL Director of Policy and Communications; and Noriko Suzuki, JICA Senior Vice President.
In Africa, approximately 61 million children, or about 20 percent, are unable to attend primary and lower secondary school. In addition, approximately 200 million children, or nearly 90 percent, do not meet minimum proficiency levels in reading and mathematics (UNESCO, 2017). In response to this “learning crisis” , JICA began technological exchanges in 2017 with Pratham, which has expertise in improving the quality of children’s learning as one of the largest educational non-governmental organizations in India, and with J-PAL, which has achieved many research accomplishments in the education sector and has a network of researchers. JICA has also partnered with those agencies to hold two seminars on the School for All project , an education development project carried out by JICA, and the three agencies have mutually shared their approaches, such as innovations for improving the quality of children’s learning through collaboration among parents, teachers and communities, and effective learning techniques for literacy and numeracy.
On the basis of this MOC, Pratham, J-PAL and JICA will further advance their partnerships at the ground level in developing countries, and work on developing innovative models for improving literacy and numeracy abilities among children. These efforts will also contribute toward the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 4, “Improve Quality of Education and Promote Lifelong Learning.”
Founded in Mumbai, India, in 1994 by two university professors, Pratham focuses efforts on community preschools in slums. With a mission of “Every Child in School and Learning Well,” Pratham aims to improve socioeconomic equality by raising the ability to read and write among the poor in India.
J-PAL is a global research agency established at the Department of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2003 by esteemed economic researchers such as Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo—professors at MIT said to be deserving of Nobel Prizes—in order to reduce poverty through policies based on scientific evidence. As of May 2018, 161 university professors had joined J-PAL. Areas of research include education, health care, water sanitation, agriculture, governance, finance, gender equality and energy. To date, more than 500 research projects have been carried out in education.
3: The learning crisis
Worldwide, hundreds of millions of children reach young adulthood without even the most basic life skills. Even if they attend school, many leave without the skills for calculating the correct change from a transaction, reading a doctor’s instructions, or interpreting a campaign promise—let alone building a fulfilling career or educating their children.
(Source: World Development Report 2018: “LEARNING to Realize Education’s Promise”)
4: School for All
An educational development project that JICA is carrying out in Africa. The School for All project aims to improve educational access and the quality of children's education by engaging parents, teachers and communities. Starting with 23 schools in Niger, the project had spread to all 18,000 schools in the country by 2007. The project has achieved large increases in enrollment rates and other successes, and has now expanded to 40,000 schools in Senegal, Madagascar and other countries in Africa.