Toolkit to strengthen national learning assessment systems: now in French and Spanish

First released in 2019, the Analysis of National Learning Assessment Systems (ANLAS) is a resource for partner countries to build effective and sustainable learning assessment systems. The toolkit is now available in French and Spanish, and the national reports of the three pilot countries are also now available.

November 23, 2020 by Ramya Vivekanandan, GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
Student reads a textbook. Couronne Nord 1 Primary School, Niamey, Niger. Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch
Student reads a textbook. Couronne Nord 1 Primary School, Niamey, Niger.
Credit: Credit: GPE/Kelley Lynch

With the massive disruptions to schooling worldwide caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the consequences on children’s learning have been a major cause for concern in the international education community. The pandemic has exacerbated a learning crisis that predated it, with 53% of all children in school in low- and middle-income countries unable to read and understand a simple story by age 10.

We know that we cannot tackle this crisis if we do not have a full understanding of its depth and breath. For this reason, countries have increasingly emphasized the need to monitor and track whether and how much children are learning. This has led some countries to establish new programs of national assessment or to renew or revise existing programs.

In the case of others, they have chosen to engage (some for the first time) in cross-national measurements of learning, such as PASEC or SEA-PLM. Countries are also critically examining the way that they administer exams and the way teachers assess learning every day in the classroom.

But these efforts cannot succeed if quality learning assessment systems (LAS) are not available. Such systems are situated in a broader enabling context, are consistent with other elements of the education system, have assessment programs of good quality and are regularly reviewed and constantly improved.

A year ago, GPE launched a tool for supporting countries in undertaking comprehensive diagnostics of their LAS: the Analysis of National Learning Assessment Systems (ANLAS).

Developed in partnership with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), ANLAS is a toolkit for countries to systematically gather and analyze information about their LAS, 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, due to conclude at the end of this year.

New resources: language versions and country reports

In order to enable additional countries to use ANLAS and thereby engage in a critical analysis of their LAS, the toolkit has now been translated into French and Spanish. The French translation was undertaken in partnership with the Conférence des ministres de l'Éducation des États et gouvernements de la Francophonie (CONFEMEN).

GPE has also published the national reports of the three partner countries which piloted ANLAS in 2019: Ethiopia, Mauritania and Vietnam. These reports offer interesting insight into the challenges faced by partner countries in building strong LAS and measures that can be taken to address them.

Each report, authored by a dedicated national team under the coordination of a focal point, reveals what aspects the country identified for improvement and the recommendations they propose for making these improvements.

In Ethiopia, for instance, there is an active assessment landscape. There are annual examinations of Grade 10 and 12 students as well as a National Learning Assessment in Grades 4, 8, 10 and 12. The country also administers early grade reading and mathematics assessments, and teachers assess learning in the classroom.

Nonetheless the report highlights several aspects for improvement, such as limited use of assessment data and the need for a stronger focus on teaching, learning and assessing 21st century skills. The report suggests measures such as the allocation of appropriate budget for effective assessment practices and the integration of learning data into the country’s EMIS and resulting reports.

The piloting in Mauritania, supported by CONFEMEN, revealed that the country is confronted by a lack of legislation and policy orientation on assessment as well as irregular, ad-hoc administration of large-scale learning assessments.

The report suggests a number of measures, 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.

While Vietnam has had a long history of engaging in various forms of assessment (including cross-national assessments such as PISA, PASEC and SEA-PLM), the budget for many of these exercises is covered by projects and loans. There is also a lack of guidance on classroom assessment, and teachers and education managers are said to lack knowledge and experience in this area.

Recommendations include the need to develop strategic long-term plans to cover the costs of the various assessment programs and updated guidance and training on classroom assessment.

Following their experience with the ANLAS toolkit, the three countries have been working to ensure that the findings and recommendations feed into their broader processes of education sector plan development and implementation.

Expanding the use of the toolkit

Other countries wishing to explore and make improvements to their learning assessment systems are invited to use ANLAS, which is now available as a global public good in three languages. The analysis 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.

Countries that pursue ANLAS will find that it is highly consultative and designed to facilitate an in-depth understanding of the core issues facing the country’s system.

It is also action-oriented, with specific reporting and dissemination products intended to ensure that the findings and recommendations of the analysis can be conveyed to decisionmakers in an accessible way. Such a process can support countries to strengthen their LAS and thereby be better equipped to monitor and improve their children’s learning.

For further information on the approach and tool, please contact me at Ramya Vivekanandan.

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