In 2008, a group of educators, researchers and leaders from East Africa undertook a journey to visit Pratham, in India – an independent civil society organization that had successfully developed an innovative methodology to produce an Annual Status of Education reports. ASER is a household based nation-wide survey that measures ability in basic literacy and numeracy among children between the ages of 6 and 16. The ASER approach is impressive in its scale and coverage, as well its apparent ability to focus public attention towards learning capability and galvanize public action. In discussions with educators, government officials and civil society organizations, consensuses emerged that an ASER type assessment would both provide data on learning outcomes and galvanize citizen action to improve the situation in East Africa. As a result, Uwezo was born. The following key features of the Uwezo assessment have been adapted from ASER:

Instant feedback: Unlike other assessments previously conducted in the region, the results are instant and are shared with the child and family immediately

Household based: The tests are conducted within the households. This help demystify testing as a school event and aptly bring “education” and assessment to the family level

Volunteerism: Uwezo recruits volunteers to administer the tests nationally. Other than nurturing the community/civic responsibility, it shifts the assessment of learning competencies away from the domain of education professionals to the public domain, hence helping to galvanize public response and action to the schooling process

Scalability: The methodology is designed to be scalable. Nationwide scale will make it more attractive to bureaucrats because every part of the country can easily identify with the results of the survey

Policy planning: The survey is timed to provide input into the annual planning and budgeting process. The results aid in shifting prioritization to address key concerns

100 days analysis: Uwezo assessment is completed within a defined and relatively short period of time. There is no danger of collecting data that becomes stale due to long delays before analysis and use

Periodic nature: Uwezo assessment occurs annually

Collaborative spirit: Uwezo derives its stamina from the belief that an education movement united in its search for qualitative changes in the education sector can have more sustained impact

Building partnerships: Uwezo recognizes that the most effective way of achieving its objectives is through collaboration with key individuals, organizations and government departments. This approach is novel given that much of the existing NGO effort is lone ranger, localized, has small geographic coverage and limited policy impact.

Communications: Uwezo realizes generating evidence alone is not enough. It will therefore share information in a manner that better informs the public, stimulates nation-wide citizen debate and creates pressure for policy change from the bottom-up

Interventions: The assessment findings will stimulate others to design suitable interventions in response, but Uwezo itself will not