New Working Paper on the use of learning assessment data in policy-making

18 April 2019


Kimrawicz /

A review of the existing literature highlights how learning assessment data is used, and what opportunities and risks lie ahead.

A new Working Paper from the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO) provides a snapshot of the available literature on how learning assessment data influences educational policy-making.

Learning assessment data informs and influences education policy-making in a multitude of ways, and of varying degrees at different phases of the policy cycle. The Paper shows that while learning data informs agenda setting, policy implementation, and policy monitoring and evaluation, it is less used in actual policy formulation, according to the available literature. Data is also used more frequently for certain types of policies, including those linked to curriculum, teacher professional development, and teaching methods.

Overall, while the Paper shows some examples of how learning data has informed national policies, its systematic use in policy-making remains limited. Barriers to using learning data in policy-making often relate to these areas:

  • reliability and relevance of the information available,
  • financial and technical capacities to use the data,
  • coordination and dissemination channels to share the data,
  • political and institutional factors.

Putting learning assessment data to use remains a complex process with many associated risks. For example, data could mislead policy formulation if it is misunderstood or used inappropriately. Certain data could be used to support pre-defined agendas and decisions, which distorts their fundamental purpose to inform and enlighten policy. An overdependence on assessment indicators could also reduce what matters in education to a simplified list of indicators that are far from the true reality of education systems today. 

Working Papers: a new IIEP-UNESCO series

This Working Paper marks the first in a new series from IIEP-UNESCO. It is also part of a larger IIEP-UNESCO research project on learning assessment data use in policy-making insofar as how the interplay of actors and their diverging agendas affects how data is applied in educational policy formulation and implementation.

Are you at CIES 2019?

A panel on this Working Paper and the related research will take place on Thursday, 18 April 2019 in San Francisco at #CIES2019. Please join us at 3:15pm in the Hyatt Regency, Street Level (level 0), Regency B.