Making use of assessments for creating stronger education systems and improving teaching and learning

Autor(es): Clarke, Prema

Organisation(s): UNESCO

Date: 2017

Pages: 42 p.

Serie: Background paper prepared for the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report, Accountability in education: meeting our commitments


The education sector uses learning assessment data as an accountability measure for quality education and to guide sector reform. This paper begins with an overview of assessment systems across countries in terms of their experience, coverage of school populations and subjects, and institutional responsibility. The use of assessment data in education reform in three groups of countries is then reviewed. The first group includes countries with established systems of assessment. Countries with established systems provide rich examples of how the use of assessment data can positively impact student learning reflected in higher PISA and TIMSS scores. In these countries, based on an initial and critical alignment of curricula objectives with assessment content, test data are systematically used in three components relevant to the functioning of schools– infrastructure and instructional aids management, personnel management and support, and school oversight and support. Harmonization across these three components and coherence across the entire system positively influence teaching and learning in the classroom. The second group comprises those countries with evolving assessment systems. In evolving systems, information on the status of two of the components is weak (personnel management and school oversight) and therefore, the basis and direction for using assessment data appropriately to improve teaching and learning are unclear. The third group of countries operates learning assessments in federal systems with dispersed authority structures. In federal systems, when the national level is authorized to support harmonization and coherence at sub-national levels, there is potential for the use of assessment data for accountability and improvement in sector performance. The paper ends by highlighting three facets in the reform experience of countries successful in creating harmonization and coherence for quality teaching and learning. First, the availability of appropriate and in-depth analyses on the status of infrastructure, personnel and schools facilitates and steers harmonization and coherence (balanced knowledge base). Second, depending on the history of education, technical capacity and political, socio-cultural and economic contexts, the process of harmonization is expedited by prioritizing what requires more attention than others (negotiating embedded constraints). Finally, countries exhibiting a high degree of adaptability, adopting different strategies and amounts of time to ensure coherence across the system (deliberate but adaptive sequencing) are more poised toward improved student learning.

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