A Roadmap with Workable Tools to Measure Learning Achievements Worldwide

Report from the third meeting of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (11-12 May)

By David Coleman, Senior Education Advisor, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (and Chair of the GAML Strategic Planning Committee), and Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)

This blog was originally published by the Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

The world community is that much closer to having answers to one of the most fundamental questions in education: who is – and who is not – meeting agreed educational standards?  The answer to this question will allow involved actors to more accurately respond and take action: how do we prioritize energy and resources to achieve learning for all? 

Members of the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) met recently in Mexico City to take the next set of steps in building a learning assessment roadmap.  Meeting members represented an impressive range of multilateral, regional, bilateral, civil society, research and technical agencies.

Two goals to monitor how much students are learning

GAML has two objectives: to support national strategies for learning assessment, and to ensure international reporting on the sustainable development goals by all UN Member States. The ultimate goal is improved learning worldwide.

GAML members at the Mexico meeting focused on achieving these twin objectives, and considered the decision-making processes and governance structures GAML will need to best support the ambitions of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

GAML’s work is critical in building a global consensus on the “minimum proficiency levels” students should reach at the Grade 2/3 level, at the end of primary, and at the end of lower secondary (SDG 4.1). The GAML partnership is playing an important technical coordination role across the breadth of SDG 4 targets and indicators with a learning focus.

GAML helps to harmonize assessment tools

This third GAML meeting was an opportunity to review progress on a range of tools and initiatives.  For example, the UIS is mapping the frameworks used by national learning assessments to bridge their differences and commonalities.

Other tools were discussed. To help countries with international reporting, the Evaluation of Alignment in Content (EAC) identifies the areas in which national and regional assessments align to a common reporting scale, enabled by the related Learning Progression Explorer.

And given the priority associated with SDG indicator 4.1.1 (minimum proficiency levels at three educational steps), the UIS presented a coding scheme to map mathematics assessment frameworks. A reading assessment framework is under development.

Progress reporting was provided on the Catalogue of Learning Assessments (CLA) tool, which has two modules: one to collect basic information on the assessments a country uses to monitor learning, and a second to collect the data produced by these learning assessments. A separate tool will be developed to evaluate the robustness of assessment systems and to identify capacity-building needs.

Ensuring good quality data on learning

GAML members also discussed the Assessment of Data Collection (ADC) process, which aims to ensure the quality of SDG 4 data. The ADC will be supported by assessment experts within countries and from regional networks and assessment agencies.

These experts will examine every aspect of a   learning assessment, from the sampling process, through the analysis of data stage, and on to the transparent communication of results. Best practice will, in turn, be defined by a Good Practice in Learning Assessment (GP-LA) tool. 

The quality of global data depends directly on national data. So it is essential that countries are able to improve the quality of their data through capacity development, supported by the standards and tools developed by GAML.

GAML itself, as a meeting point of a wide range of involved partners, needs to be clear and efficient in the tools it seeks to develop, and needs to communicate effectively with stakeholders from the school level to the global level on the best ways to assess learning. GAML’s newly formed Strategic Planning Committee will have a key role in strengthening these governance, oversight and communications functions.  

So what are the next steps?  The progress and recommendations emanating from the third GAML meeting have been presented to the Technical Coordination Group (TCG) on SDG 4 – Education 2030 Indicators, which will in turn report to the Education 2030 Steering Committee in June. The next GAML meeting is scheduled for late October. In the meantime, GAML members, and particularly GAML taskforces, will be busy working on the tools to support one of humanity’s most cherished goals: learning for all.  

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