The use of learning assessment data

Learning assessments, conducted on a large-scale at the international, regional, or national level, have increased over the past two decades in schools worldwide. Through this research programme, IIEP-UNESCO explores the way in which countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America use the results of these tests in the planning cycle.


Use of learning assessment data

617 million children do not reach minimum levels of proficiency in reading or arithmetic, even though two thirds of them go to school. Therefore, for many pupils across the world, schooling does not produce real outcomes.

While learning assessments may be in vogue, the data that result from them are often neglected by states or taken into account in a superficial way. The objective of this research by IIEP is to produce knowledge and formulate recommendations to improve practices in the use of the results of learning assessments.


Why research the use of learning assessment data?

The Education 2030 Agenda places the results of learning at the heart of monitoring the international education objectives. It also underlines the importance of assessing these results to improve policies. However, many education systems around the world do not systematically evaluate their pupils’ learning outcomes – or, on the contrary, increase the number of studies at the national, regional, or international level without any coordination. In any case, learning assessment data appear to be increasingly numerous and accessible, but do not contribute to the conception of educational reforms.

Learning assessment data is particularly valuable to inform the planning cycle, if the data are of high quality, interpreted in its national context and analysed in conjunction with other types of data on education. Through this research, IIEP is participating in international efforts aimed at improving the use of learning data.

Ieva Raudonyte – Researcher at IIEP-UNESCO

Three questions on learning assessment data

This research programme aims to answer the following questions:

  1. How do national regulations plan to make use of learning assessment data? What is the level of knowledge of these measures among different stakeholders?
  2. How do countries use learning assessment data in the different phases of the planning cycle?
  3. Which factors determine the effective use of learning data?


IIEP pays particular attention to the following aspects, which have received little attention so far:

- Political economy (actors’ interplay and power relations, competition of diverging agendas),
- institutional analysis,
- use of learning assessment data coming from different sources,
- obstacles and conditions favourable to the integration of this data in the planning process.

How will our research help IIEP’s audiences and partners?


This research project feeds into IIEP’s training programmes by producing up to date knowledge on the use of learning assessment data in the conception of educational policies.

>> This is particularly the case for the specialised course “Using learning assessment data to follow the progress of SDG 4” - but also for the 3rd module of the Advanced Training Programme (ATP), aimed at education planners

Technical support to states

The objective of this programme is to formulate recommendations that are specific to countries participating in the study, in order to improve their practices in using learning assessment data. Centred on making use of data on learning outcomes in the planning cycle, our research focuses on their use in each of the following phases: sector analysis, preparation of an education sectorial plan, implementation, follow-up, and evaluation.


IIEP’s objective is to develop a synergy with different partners in order to improve the use of evaluation data. In particular, this research was disseminated in partnership with TALENT, a network of education actors in West and Central Africa coordinated by UNESCO in Dakar, Senegal. Consultants from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) also contributed to the research through data collection in sub-Saharan Africa.

This project specifically addresses IIEP’s 2nd and 4th priorities for the period 2018-2021.


Find out more about IIEP’s 2018-2021 strategy

Our methodology and research areas

This research is based on a qualitative approach – implemented through a series of semi-structured interviews, group discussions with key actors, and direct observations – in parallel with an analysis of existing resources and documents. It studies the use of data produced by large-scale evaluations at the following levels:

  • International (eg. PISA, PISA-D, PIRLS, TIMSS),
  • regional (eg. SEACMEQ and PASEC in Africa; LLECE in Latin America),
  • national.

The study also explores the way in which this data relates to the use of other data, such as the results of exams.


Activities and publications

Sub-Saharan Africa

This project, led by a research team at IIEP in close collaboration with the countries studied (read the executive summary), takes the form of a series of case studies. It explores learning assessment systems in six countries and leads to the production of policy briefs for each of them:

Latin America

The research team in the IIEP-UNESCO office in Buenos Aires has also addressed the question of the use of learning assessment data in the formulation of educational policies in Latin American countries. Conocer màs sobre la investigación « Uso de resultados de las pruebas de aprendizaje en el diseño de las políticas educativas de América Latina »


Online learning series: the use of learning assessment data (three webinars in English and French)


Global documents


Executive summary

Working paper

Synthesis report


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