GPE support to regional networks on learning assessment: a key legacy of the Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative

A major component of GPE’s recently concluded Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative was the support to two regional networks on learning assessment: the Teaching and Learning: Educators’ Network for Transformation (TALENT) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP) in the Asia-Pacific. GPE has just released a brief that summarizes the accomplishments of these networks.

May 11, 2021 by Ramya Vivekanandan, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat, Davide Ruscelli, UNESCO Dakar, and Mark Manns, UNESCO Bangkok
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5 minutes read
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A teacher and her students in the third and fourth grade classroom, Khokkham Primary School. Khokkham Village, Pak Ou District, Lao PDR. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
A teacher and her students in the third and fourth grade classroom, Khokkham Primary School. Khokkham Village, Pak Ou District, Lao PDR.
Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

With the recent successful conclusion of GPE’s Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative after three years of implementation, the time is opportune to reflect on the key outcomes and learnings of the initiative.

With an objective of supporting country-level efforts to strengthen national learning assessment systems and promoting a more holistic measurement of learning, A4L was implemented over the 2017-2020 period. The successes of the initiative were highlighted in a recent independent summative evaluation.

As noted in the evaluation, a major component of A4L was the support to two regional networks on learning assessment: the Teaching and Learning: Educators’ Network for Transformation (TALENT) in sub-Saharan Africa and the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP) in the Asia-Pacific.

GPE has just released a brief that summarizes the main activities and key outputs achieved by these networks through A4L support, analyzes the outcomes to which this support has contributed and how this is situated vis-à-vis GPE’s broader support to strengthening learning assessment systems.

Two regional networks on learning assessment

NEQMAP was established in 2013 by UNESCO’s Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (UNESCO Bangkok) to support better alignment between assessment, curriculum and pedagogy through capacity development, research and knowledge sharing across the region.

TALENT was established in 2016 by the UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa (Sahel) in Dakar as part of the process of strengthening regional coordination on SDG 4, and to serve as a platform for promoting knowledge sharing, knowledge generation and capacity building in the areas of teaching and learning assessment.

Both networks are comprised of member institutions from governments of the two respective regions as well as other stakeholders in the area of learning assessment, such as universities, NGOs, regional and subregional organizations.

Investing in capacity, research and knowledge sharing

Through A4L support, the two networks were able to engage GPE partner countries in strengthening national capacity, producing quality research and sharing knowledge on learning assessment over the 2018-2020 period.

On capacity development, TALENT and NEQMAP each organized four regional workshops, which aimed to strengthen national capacity in various dimensions of learning assessment. The workshops covered a range of topics such as system alignment, formative assessment, reporting, use of large-scale assessments, the development and use of national assessments, data quality, contextual data and measuring transversal competencies.

Both networks also organized online learning courses focused on assessment of 21st century skills, a topic attracting increasing interest in both the Asia-Pacific and in sub-Saharan Africa.

The support from GPE also enabled both networks to conduct wide-ranging research, which has expanded the knowledge base on learning assessment in their respective regions.

The research activities included mapping studies, thematic reviews, case studies and cross-country research on a number of topics. Themes covered included:

  • assessment of 21st century skills or “transversal competencies,”
  • assessment in relation to issues such as gender, language and disability,
  • the use and impact of assessment
  • assessment in times of crisis, namely the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting school closures around the world.

Increase in knowledge and capacity on learning assessments

As networks bringing together diverse countries from across their regions, TALENT and NEQMAP also engaged in various knowledge-sharing activities. These included the establishment or enhancement of knowledge portals on learning assessment, webinars and special seminars, newsletters and annual convenings.

The brief provides links to all of these resources as well as to the research outputs and capacity development workshops, providing countries and practitioners the opportunity to benefit from what the two networks produced through A4L support.

Through these activities, the participating countries and other stakeholders had the opportunity to gain technical knowledge, share best practices and engage in peer learning. The A4L evaluation highlighted the capacity development workshops in particular, noting that they were found to be “relevant, responsive and aligned” with country needs and interests, and to promote “systematic knowledge exchange between countries.”

Given the well-documented challenges in partner countries’ capacities in learning assessment, the ability to gain insights from different models and frameworks and to make connections to support their work proved extremely valuable.

In addition, there is evidence that some countries have used the knowledge gained from their engagement with the networks to promote policies and reforms at the national level. For example, participants from Bhutan and Cambodia noted that their participation in the NEQMAP workshops informed the development or enhancement of their national assessment frameworks.

Learning continues to be a priority in GPE’s new strategy

These outcomes from the A4L support to TALENT and NEQMAP have complemented GPE’s broader support to learning assessment systems at the country level. Between 2016 and 2020, learning was the largest investment area for the partnership, and a thematic study revealed that 31 out of 36 grants active in 2018 supported interventions in this area.

It is thus not surprising that GPE partner countries continue to make progress in strengthening their learning assessment systems. Amidst this landscape, the regional assessment networks have served as vital platforms for the partnership to collate and share information and to engage with partner countries on assessment issues.

Looking ahead, GPE’s strategy (GPE 2025) places a strong emphasis on improving learning, while the new operating model offers several opportunities to advance this priority.

Building from the A4L accomplishments, TALENT and NEQMAP will continue to be important strategic partners in strengthening learning assessment systems in the two regions and in enhancing GPE’s global work in this area.

For further information on A4L and GPE’s work in learning assessment systems, please contact Ramya Vivekanandan. For further information on TALENT, please contact Davide Ruscelli. For further information on NEQMAP, please contact Mark Manns.

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