To improve education results, countries need efficient systems to monitor what and how students are learning.
A learning assessment system includes policies, guidelines, programs, activities, entities, institutions and instruments used to produce data on learning outcomes. The system provides robust evidence for education policy and practice with the ultimate aim to improve education quality and learning outcomes.
An estimated 53% of children in low- and middle-income countries cannot read proficiently by age 10, a basic skill necessary to lead productive lives.
Developing countries use a variety of learning assessments, from classroom-based tests administered by teachers to participation in large-scale assessments such as TIMSS or PASEC, but they still face challenges in using assessment data to inform their policies and practices.
Several targets monitored by SDG 4 aim to improve learning outcomes, and the indicators to track these targets necessitate quality learning assessment systems.
The Global Partnership for Education provides expertise and financing to help developing countries build stronger learning assessment systems.
GPE in action
GPE supports strong learning assessment systems through the following interventions:
Incentives for better assessments: Partner countries applying for a GPE implementation grant must have a system or mechanism to monitor learning outcomes, a time-bound plan to develop one, or use the GPE grant to build one. The results-based portion of the grant is linked to demonstrated progress toward sector results, including gains in learning.
Tracking learning assessments and outcomes: GPE monitors the quality of learning assessment systems through Indicator 15 of its Results Framework, which examines the proportion of partner countries with learning assessment systems meeting quality standards within the basic education cycle. Indicator 1 of the Results Framework tracks the percentage of partner countries that reach improved learning outcomes.
Research and knowledge exchange: Through the Global and Regional Activities (GRA) program, GPE financed initiatives to catalog learning assessment data and build national capacity to strengthen learning assessment systems. A key theme of the Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) is learning assessments.
The KIX paper identified gaps in global public goods and, in response, four areas for investment:
- supporting national learning assessment institutions (capacity building, exchanges)
- building expertise throughout the education system, from teachers to ministries (guidelines, upskilling)
- supporting learning assessment systems for the most marginalized (fragile countries, vulnerable learners)
- better use of learning assessment data (good practices, exchanges)
Assessment for Learning (A4L)
With support from two foundations, GPE is implementing the Assessment for Learning (A4L) initiative. The initiative works to strengthen national learning assessment systems and to promote a more holistic measurement of learning at global and regional levels.
A4L includes 3 components:
- Analysis of National Learning Assessment Systems (ANLAS): Working with the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), GPE has developed a comprehensive toolkit to support partner countries’ comprehensive analysis of their learning assessment systems. The ANLAS toolkit was developed, piloted in Ethiopia, Mauritania and Vietnam, and is now available for other countries.
- Support to regional networks on learning assessment: GPE is providing support to the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia-Pacific (NEQMAP), coordinated by UNESCO Bangkok for the Asia-Pacific and the Teaching and Learning Educators’ Network for Transformation (TALENT), coordinated by UNESCO Dakar for Sub-Saharan Africa. Through A4L support, the two networks have organized a series of technical workshops on learning assessment aimed at partner countries in their respective regions. They are also coordinating cross-country research on related topics and conducting knowledge sharing activities.
- Landscape review on 21st century skills aiming to inform the potential role that GPE can play in promoting the integration of 21st century skills in the education systems of partner countries. As a related effort, GPE is also lending support to the Optimizing Assessment for All (OAA) initiative of the Brookings Institution, through which countries are working collaboratively to develop classroom-based measures of 21st century skills.