The United Nations Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group recently released its report on “Mobilising the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development”. Revolutionizing education data may indeed capture our imagination, but there are less complex and arguably more effective ways to measure new education targets post-2015, especially as regards learning.
While calls to create a global platform to compile data on learning outcomes certainly have merit, we argue, however, that much can be gained from simply enhancing national assessments and capacities instead. Global monitoring may be strengthened by building linkages among international and regional assessments, but enhancing existing assessment practices in countries may better serve efforts to improve student learning.
A wealth of data on learning outcomes already exists. Before considering a new global framework of expanded cross-national assessments, whose impact on improving classroom learning may be tenuous, we suggest first examining whether or not countries already have systems in place they can be used to monitor learning. A cursory look shows that considerable progress has been made in this regard already.
The importance of learning and the need to measure its progress have grown throughout the 1990s and 2000s. Most attention has focused on countries which have participated in international assessments (such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS) and regional assessments (such as LLECE, PASEC and SACMEQ) of student achievement. As will be reported in the 2015 EFA Global Monitoring Report coming out in April next year, however, along with international and regional assessments, there has also been a sharp growth in the number of countries conducting national assessments over the last 25 years. In the pre-Dakar period from 1990 to 1999, 70 countries conducted at least one national assessment, while double that number (142) did so between 2000 and 2013.