Supporting the comprehensive analysis of national learning assessment systems

GPE is piloting a new approach to help partner countries strengthen their learning assessment system. It all starts with a good diagnostic.

February 14, 2019 by Ramya Vivekanandan, GPE Secretariat, and Ursula Schwantner, Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER)
5 minutes read
A classroom at Hidassi School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Credit: GPE/Midastouch
A classroom at Hidassi School in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Credit: GPE/Midastouch

The agenda around the Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG 4) to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030, has reinforced a focus on quality in education systems worldwide.

To establish, monitor and improve education quality, data on learning outcomes are crucial. At the global level, learning data allow us to investigate trends and uncover issues of global relevance.

For a few years now, the international community has signaled the existence of a far-reaching “learning crisis”, underpinned by figures from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) released in 2017, showing that more than 617 million children and adolescents worldwide are unable to read a simple sentence or perform a basic math calculation. The data also show that this alarming situation exists in spite of the fact that more than two-thirds of these children and adolescents are actually in school.

This has focused increasing attention on the need to assess learning at the global, regional, national and local levels, in order to gain relevant data on the extent to which students are learning. This will allow us to use this data to inform evidence-based decision making in education policy and to improve teaching and learning practice.

What constitutes an assessment system?

Learning assessments in various forms and scope have become an important tool for policymakers and practitioners to gain information on student learning.

At its core, learning assessment is simply the process of gathering and evaluating information on what students know, understand, can do and what progress they are making, to make informed decisions about next steps in the educational process.

Learning assessment systems include various modalities of learning assessments – from large-scale assessments at the national, regional or international level, to public examinations and classroom assessments.

Each has a specific purpose, ideally embedded in an overarching goal to jointly provide relevant, high quality data in important learning domains, at key stages of school education, and for relevant levels of the education system.

Assessment systems are also made up by the policies and structures within the education system, providing the context for the assessment programs to be developed and implemented and the data to be used to inform evidence-based decision making in education policy and practice.

Cover of the ANLAS toolkit

GPE invests in assessing learning

For the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the strengthening of learning assessment systems is a strategic priority, both because of its relevance to improving learning outcomes and to ensuring effective and efficient education systems, which are two of the three key goals of the GPE strategic plan for2016-2020 (GPE 2020).

The work on learning assessment features both in GPE’s implementation grants in partner countries, over 70% of which include components focused on various aspects of learning assessment systems, and GPE’s Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative at the global level, which aims to strengthen learning assessment systems and to promote a holistic measurement of learning.

A4L focuses on three core activities, including support to regional assessment networks focused on learning assessment, and research and tool development to promote the measurement of the so-called 21st century skills.

The other key activity is focused on the development of a tool to support comprehensive analysis of national learning assessment systems, known as the Analysis of National Learning Assessment Systems (ANLAS).

The key objective of ANLAS is to strengthen national learning assessment systems in GPE partner developing countries.

ANLAS provides a framework and tools for countries to undertake a comprehensive analysis of their national learning assessment systems, with the aim of identifying areas of improvement.

The expected outcome of ANLAS is a set of recommendations to inform the development and implementation of improvement strategies as part of the wider education sector planning process.

The development of ANLAS

Following a formal procurement process, the GPE Secretariat commissioned the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) to develop ANLAS under its oversight. The ANLAS development process includes three phases:

  1. development of the ANLAS toolkit (July 2018 to January 2019)
  2. pilot implementation of ANLAS in three GPE partner countries (January to April/May 2019);
  3. revision and refinement of the ANLAS toolkit based on observations and experiences from the pilots (May to June 2019).

The pilot implementation of ANLAS is an important part of the consultative development process and successful uptake of ANLAS. The piloting will test both the content of the ANLAS toolkit and the process of using these resources to analyze the national learning assessment system and make recommendations to improve education sector plans.

The ANLAS approach

ANLAS is diagnostic in nature, allowing to identify detailed aspects and recommendations for improvement. Successfully implemented, ANLAS will lead to the development and implementation of improvement strategies via the education sector planning cycle.

Concrete recommendations resulting from ANLAS may relate to the development of effective policies and efficient structures that are aligned with the requirements of the education system. Building the assessment system may also include strategies such as the reform of existing learning assessments, or development of new assessment programs, in order to jointly provide relevant data of adequate quality to inform evidence-based decision making in education policy and practice.

The diagnostic function, the cross-sectional consideration of 21st century skills and the integration of the analysis and findings into the education sector planning process are key features of ANLAS.

Taking a ‘systems-perspective’, ANLAS allows to investigate and evaluate three focus areas:

  1. the context of the learning assessment system,
  2. the coherence of the assessment system in relation to important areas in the education system and the different assessments in place, and
  3. the quality of these assessments.

An important element of ANLAS is 21st century skills, which is an increasing priority for countries around the world to better equip students for the workforce, and life in general. These skills are tools that can be universally applied to enhance ways of thinking, learning, working and living in the world.

Prominent examples include critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, metacognition, collaboration, communication and global citizenship.

In the second part of this blog tomorrow, we will review how ANLAS is being piloted in three countries.


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Hi - any chance we can a view of the testing instrument for 21st Century skills?

Hello Angela, thank you for the question. To clarify, ANLAS does not involve any "testing" of any areas, including 21st century skills. It is rather a suite of analytical tools to assess the overall assessment system, including the integration of 21st century skills in that system. To this end, there are a number of questions that examine the ways in which 21st century skills are reflected in the system. The final ANLAS toolkit will be published on the GPE website once it is finalized after the piloting and revisions that are taking place over the next few months. We are happy to provide any further information you may need.

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