ERCE assessment: launch of the fourth study on learning in Latin America

Written on 17 Oct 18 by Learning Portal Team

Planned for final implementation in 2019, the fourth edition of the Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (ERCE) is currently being piloted under the lead of UNESCO’s LLECE across Latin America and the Caribbean.

The global agenda for education set three years ago has mobilised countries and partners around the goal of providing quality education for all. As part of the tasks required for the successful implementation of SDG4 and its targets, monitoring learning progress is crucial for accountability and to encourage the exchange of good practices between countries. Large-scale studies on learning achievement at an international level are key tools for gathering substantial evidence on student performance in literacy and numeracy and have the potential to contribute to more relevant and effective policymaking for better education quality.

Among these international instruments, the Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE) takes stock of the progression of the Education 2030 Agenda within the region. Seated in the UNESCO Regional Office for Education in Latin American and the Caribbean, LLECE recently initiated the Fourth Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (ERCE) that will be implemented in 2019 in 18 countries across Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Uruguay.

In order to test the study instruments on a large scale before the final application in 2019, the evaluation is being piloted in both northern and southern Latin American and Caribbean countries, in accordance with their academic calendars. Among the countries in the Northern Pilot programme, Cuba and the Dominican Republic carried out a test last May, followed by Mexico in June. As for the countries that follow the southern hemisphere academic calendar, the pilot programmes will be implemented between August and November.

From TERCE 2013 to the preparatory phase for 2019

The last edition of the regional comparative and explanatory study (TERCE) was implemented in 2013 across 15 countries, with more than 134,000 students in third and sixth grade being evaluated in reading, writing, mathematics, and sciences (the first three in both grades, and natural sciences only in sixth grade). Additionally, a series of context questionnaires served to gather information among students, families, teachers, and principals, to account for explanatory factors associated with learning.

Although the results from this third edition showed significant progress in terms of coverage across regional education systems, the study also highlighted important challenges related to quality and equity. The associated factors addressed in the report – such as characteristics of the students and their families; characteristics of the teachers, pedagogical practices and classroom resources; and characteristics of the schools that relate to learning achievement – provided some insights on this issue. Indeed, learning achievement is positively related to the socio-economic background of the families, parental support, the encouragement of reading, and prior participation in pre-school. Conversely, student absenteeism and belonging to an indigenous group appeared to be associated with lower academic performance, when compared with students that had better attendance scores and that did not belong to an indigenous group.

As part of the preparatory phase of ERCE 2019, workshops have been organised on data collection and analysis in Dominican Republic, Bolivia, and Ecuador. This series of workshops will continue until the publication of ERCE’s results. The training sessions provide an overview of the tasks associated with the implementation of the assessment, such as: recording data in a large-scale evaluation; review of measurement models to calculate test scores to evaluate student performance; and managing human and material resources to plan and implement the data collection and analysis process. The sessions have included professionals from participating countries, UNESCO assessment specialists, public officials from the respective Ministries of Education, as well as specialists from the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Other technical and financial partners working on the project are UNICEF, the Organization of Ibero-American States, and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation. The next workshop is planned for November to be held in Buenos Aires. Future workshops will look beyond data collection and analysis, and discuss usage and its potential influence to guide policy.

An important new feature of this fourth edition of the regional study is the inclusion of questions to measure students’ socio-emotional skills, in accordance with the targets established on the E2030 Education Agenda. Claudia Uribe, director of the Regional Bureau for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago), emphasises that ERCE 2019 will contribute to the fulfilment of the E2030 Education Agenda: “LLECE is working alongside these countries to monitor learning outcomes beyond basic skills in recognition of the importance of taking into account other aspects of learning that are critical to meeting the challenges of today's world,” she said.

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