Barriers to Learning

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Helpdesk Query:

Why are there poor quality student learning outcomes, even though enrolment is high? What is the global research that sheds light on the problem of children who are in school but not learning? Do traditional inputs such as classrooms, textbooks, cascading teacher training and others create the enabling learning environment needed?


Despite increasing numbers of children being enrolled in school, their learning outcomes are often of poor quality. This report looks at the issues and research on poor quality student learning outcomes and what inputs can create the enabling learning environment needed to address this. The report begins with a brief section on the context of the education system in Bangladesh. A key global evidence paper is then presented which provides an overview of many of the issues related to poor learning outcomes in developing countries.

Reasons for poor quality student outcomes include:

  • Inappropriate curricula and pedagogy
  • Distorted beliefs about the benefits of education
  • Weak teacher incentives
  • High pupil teacher ratios (PTRs)
  • Teacher absenteeism
  • Lack of time spent teaching and learning in the classroom and a high percentage of overage children

Global research on why children are in school but not learning highlights:

  • Teachers lack of knowledge regarding how to teach to standard
  • The learning materials are often lacking or of poor quality
  • There is insufficient and inadequate management of time
  • There is inappropriate assessment of student learning
  • There is insufficient instruction in the children’s mother tongue
  • There is a need to articulate clear and achievable learning goals
  • Negative consequences of an overambitious curriculum
  • Tremendous diversity in each grade level which creates challenges to effective teaching
  • The need for effective and useable methods for teaching-learning
  • Building home support for children’s learning
  • Intestinal worm infections increasing student absenteeism
  • Education costs and lack of subsidies
  • Silent exclusion: children who are nominally enrolled in school but not learning


PDF - 360 KB

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