Announcing a new GPE initiative to strengthen national learning assessment systems

As part of GPE’s Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative, the Analysis of National Learning Assessment Systems (ANLAS) is a resource for partner countries to build effective and sustainable learning assessment systems. ANLAS provides a toolkit for countries to systematically gather and analyze information about their national learning assessment systems with the aim to inform the development and implementation of improvement strategies as part of the wider education sector planning process.

October 31, 2019 by Ramya Vivekanandan, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat, and Ursula Schwantner, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
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6 minutes read
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Grade three students share a textbook with the teacher looking on. Ecole Patti, like most schools in Niger, uses the traditional curriculum, in which students learn in French throughout their school careers. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Grade three students share a textbook with the teacher looking on. Ecole Patti, like most schools in Niger, uses the traditional curriculum, in which students learn in French throughout their school careers.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

We are extremely pleased to launch the Analysis of National Learning Assessment Systems (ANLAS), a global good and resource for countries to build effective and sustainable learning assessment systems.

Developed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on behalf of GPE, ANLAS is a toolkit for countries to systematically gather and analyze information about their learning assessment systems, with the aim to inform improvement strategies as part of the wider education sector planning process.

ANLAS is a core component of GPE’s Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative. The ANLAS toolkit was developed and refined on the basis of piloting in three partner countries: Ethiopia, Mauritania and Vietnam.

Why is it important to analyze learning assessment systems?

Learning assessments are essential tools for all education systems. They can generate high quality data on learning and achievement that are used to monitor equitable educational outcomes, inform evidence-based policymaking reforms, and improve teaching and learning practices. At the global level, SDG 4 has reinforced a focus on learning assessment to establish and monitor education quality and learning progress.

A good learning assessment system:

  • is determined by its context, such as legislation and policy, institutional arrangements and governance structures, funding and leadership
  • is consistent with other elements of the education system, such as with learning standards and curriculum, and national education priorities
  • has assessment programs of good quality
  • is regularly reviewed and constantly improved.

GPE views high quality learning assessment systems as key elements of robust education systems. As such, countries that apply for GPE implementation grants are required to have a system or mechanism in place to capture learning data and to monitor student learning outcomes, or a time-bound plan to develop such mechanisms. GPE monitors  countries’ progress in building good quality learning assessment systems through Indicator 15 of its Results Framework.

What is the content of ANLAS?

ANLAS is a comprehensive, qualitative analysis with a focus on three dimensions:

  • Context of the national learning assessment system
  • Quality of the assessment programs administered, including national and international large-scale assessments, national and sub-national examinations and classroom assessment
  • Coherence of the assessment system with the wider education system.

Each dimension has several key areas, with defined quality objectives against which the key areas are evaluated. Based on this information, aspects that require improvement are identified, and recommendations are made about how the key areas can be improved.

The ANLAS model

ANLAS model
Source: Australian Council for Educational Research, “ANLAS. Manual,” 2019, 4.

An important cross-dimensional element of ANLAS is the application of knowledge and demonstration of 21st century skills – that is, skills that are considered important to succeed in today’s knowledge-based society in which innovation and technology are predominant. Assessing the application of knowledge and demonstration of skills is in contrast to approaches that solely focus on the demonstration of factual knowledge and routine procedures. Using ANLAS, countries can examine the extent to which 21st century skills are an integral part of the national assessment system.

The three dimensions of the assessment system – context, quality of assessment programs, and coherence – and the cross-dimensional element of application of knowledge and 21st century skills -- are integrated in the ANLAS model to favor the use of assessment data in education policy and practice, with the ultimate aim to improve learning.

How is ANLAS implemented?

ANLAS is conceptualized as a country-led, participative process that is implemented by a national team, led by a team leader, and guided by a steering committee. The two main methods for completing the qualitative analysis in ANLAS are document review and consultations with key stakeholders in the education system and in the assessment system.

The time required to undertake the analysis varies, depending on the resources and needs of each country. However, a period of six months is an indicative timeframe, with a national team of eight to 12 members working on ANLAS part-time. The time required for many of the processes of ANLAS is variable, depending on the country context.

GPE encourages countries to conduct this analysis as part of the broader education sector analysis and planning process to ensure that the findings feed into the development and implementation of strategies included in the education sector plan (ESP). In other words, and as an example, ANLAS can be undertaken as a precursor to or as part of an education sector analysis process such that the key findings and recommendations can be subsequently reflected in an ESP. However, ANLAS can also be conducted during other phases of the policy cycle, such as during joint sector reviews or mid-term reviews.

The ANLAS toolkit consists of the ANLAS Manual and a set of tools to support the implementation process and to guide the analysis. Countries can adapt them to best fit the national context.

The experience of pilot countries

To support debate, broad adoption and use of the findings and recommendations resulting from ANLAS, reporting and dissemination are essential. Each country that conducts the analysis develops dissemination products (including a national report) and a strategy to support the use of the findings and recommendations.

Ethiopia for example found that its current assessment system provides relevant data for the key stages of primary and secondary school education. Aspects that require improvement were identified in relation to education policy priorities and learning standards and curriculum. They included a stronger focus on teaching, learning and assessing 21st century skills and assessing language skills including listening, writing and speaking. The integration of data from the national learning assessment and classroom assessments into the national education management information system (EMIS) and resulting reports was also an important recommendation from the analysis.

In Vietnam, the analysis revealed that assessment frameworks and instruments, sampling, field operations and data management are well established. However, improvements are needed in organization and resources, data analysis and reporting and dissemination. A number of concrete recommendations were formulated, many of them focused on training and capacity building (e.g. specialized courses and post-graduate programs in educational assessment and evaluation, technical training on sampling and data analysis for new staff).

In Mauritania, ANLAS resulted in several recommendations, including the creation of a comprehensive learning assessment framework for all levels of education, the development of modules in learning assessment for initial teacher education programs and undertaking the necessary steps to participate in regional and international assessments.

How can a country undertake ANLAS?

The ANLAS toolkit is made available by GPE as a global good.

ANLAS can be initiated by a unit or agency of the government, typically involved in education sector planning, or assessment, monitoring and evaluation. It can also be proposed by a development partner and subsequently initiated by the government. Since ANLAS is designed to be embedded into the broader education sector planning process, it is essential that senior representatives from the education planning unit are involved in the initiation and throughout the implementation of ANLAS.

Interested stakeholders in GPE partner countries that wish to undertake the analysis should discuss the opportunity with the Coordinating Agency in the country.

For further information on the approach and tool, please contact Ramya Vivekanandan, Thematic Lead for Learning Assessment Systems at the GPE Secretariat

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