Over a two-week period, roughly 800 participants from around the world are involved in the IIEP Learning Portal’s e-forum, Inclusive and equitable quality education for all: Towards a global framework for measuring Learning? As part of this e-forum, Dr. Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) offered a special presentation on the new UIS global Learning Assessments Database, an open data source that already contains information on 120 assessments in 54 countries, with more to come! Read on to learn more about how and why to use this important new resource.
What is the UIS Learning Assessments Database and where can you find it? The Database is a free online resource available at this link, which provides standardised information on public examinations and national learning assessments conducted around the world. Users can access the Database to search for or browse information on examinations and assessments according to different criteria, such as the subjects assessed or the source of funding. Once users have identified particular examinations or assessments of interest, they can access further details about each one through the associated UIS Catalogue of Learning Assessments, also a free open access resource at this link
Why did UIS create this resource? The UIS is responding to the new data needs emerging from the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda, with a particular mandate to focus on education (Goal 4). Due to the pressing demand for new measures of education finance, quality, learning outcomes, and equity, the UIS has been consulting with a wide range of partners at the international, regional and global levels. “There is a lot of discussion everywhere about the low levels of learning in many countries around the world,” Dr. Silvia Montoya explained in an interview. “But up to now, we just had a very general understanding of how countries are measuring learning, what data they gather through assessments, and how they are using it.”
The UIS aimed to change that situation through an effort to gather and catalogue the extensive array of tools for measuring learning that are being used around the world. “Our first goal,” Dr. Montoya emphasized, “is for countries themselves to know what others are doing in terms of assessment. The Database and Catalogue are great tools for countries to see how much is possible—because others are already doing it—and how they could achieve this sort of systematic measurement of learning themselves. And this can also show the international community that countries are really capable of making progress in this area. After all, 80% of countries already have some type of national or cross-national assessment!”
Who is the target audience? Both the Database and the Catalogue can be used by a variety of people, with the main target audience being government Ministries and Departments of Education around the world. “The first people to be interested in this resource, I would expect, are those from an Office in charge of Education Planning or the Assessment Unit,” Dr. Montoya commented. “This site will help those who produce and use this sort of information to learn more about the details of what is happening elsewhere and the alternatives available.” Dr. Montoya also commented that the Database and the Catalogue will be useful to researchers who are investigating learning issues in a particular context, or who are trying to gain a cross-country perspective on how different aspects of learning are being measured. “Donors and citizens themselves,” she continued, “may also be interested in seeing for themselves what is going on in their own countries and around the world.”
How can you use it? UIS conducted consultations with a variety of stakeholders regarding what sort of information they were most interested in and how they would like to access it. From that process emerged a series of pre-defined tables of information available through the Database. Users can select one of these tables to view a list of assessments organized by categories such as stakeholders and source of funding, implementation years, target population, the school subjects assessed, the test format and item type, the measurement model, and information about how the data has been disaggregated and disseminated. Users can also enter more detailed filters or search terms in order to see a more specific list of examinations or assessments. Finally, if they want to see detailed information about a particular assessment or assessments, they can move to the Catalogue and search by keyword, year, country, or region.
Opportunities for participation: The UIS is still in the process of collecting information about assessments around the world, and keeping the Database and Catalogue up-to-date will be an ongoing task. “Our goal is to include all assessments since the year 2000,” Dr. Montoya explained. “We welcome stakeholders to assist us in this effort by informing us about new assessments to be included.” Those who have information about examinations or assessments that should be featured in the Database and Catalogue can write to email@example.com to share resources and provide details. The UIS is also currently conducting a global consultation on monitoring learning outcomes post-2015. For more information on the consultation, click here, or participate directly in the consultation’s ongoing online survey.
Next steps: The UIS is playing a central role in determining how progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 should be measured. “The challenge,” Dr. Montoya explained, “lies in developing a single cross-national measure of reading and mathematics that is administered in all countries at the end of primary and lower secondary education. This currently does not exist, yet it is essential as a first stage towards monitoring SDG Target 4.1, which calls on the international community to ‘ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes.’” Under its mandate on issues of measurement, the UIS has brought together leading experts from OECD, UNESCO, IIEP, UNICEF, and the World Bank, as well as from member states and civil society, to engage in several discussions around monitoring learning outcomes. This expert group has proposed the development of a Global Snapshot of Learning at the end of primary and lower-secondary education. “By connecting the results between different learning assessments,” Dr. Montoya explained, “the snapshots will help countries make the greatest use of their existing learning assessments.”
The UIS Learning Assessments Database and Catalogue are clearly key resources for the effort to attain the Sustainable Development Goals in education, connecting what is already happening around the world with new efforts to measure global progress in learning. Stay tuned for more news on this and other upcoming initiatives
Created by Catherine Honeyman