Using assessment data to improve educational planning

14 January 2019

Learning assessment data is like gold. “If you do not use it is like you are hiding away a treasure,” said an education official from the Ministry of Education in the Gambia during a recent IIEP-UNESCO research mission.

However, despite the potential power of learning data, this is all too often the case. Over the past couple of decades, standardized national learning assessments have proliferated across the globe. More countries are also participating in regional or international large-scale assessments. Yet, the information obtained from these assessments often falls short of actually informing educational policies and plans.

A new research project on finding the missing link in the use of assessment data

In this context, IIEP-UNESCO has launched a new research project looking at the use of learning assessment data in the planning cycle. Over the next few years, IIEP and partners, including USAID, will investigate this issue in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including the pilots already underway in the Gambia and Guinea. IIEP’s office in Buenos Aires, in partnership with the National Institute for Evaluation of Education (INEE) in Mexico, will also implement a parallel project with the adapted methodology in Latin America countries.

Why these countries?

IIEP selected the Gambia as one of the first countries because of its recent investments into improving its learning assessment system, as well as its efforts to put the data to use.

In Guinea, the research is taking place alongside IIEP technical support to the development of the country’s new education sector plan. This provides an opportunity to see first-hand how learning data is informing education strategies and plans.

The pilot missions, which took place in December 2018, included interviews with a range of stakeholders including officials from the planning and evaluation units, regional offices, and international and civil society organizations. The researchers also observed events, which brought together a range of education actors to discuss education policies.

Learning data is key to making stronger policies to achieve SDG 4

This research project is rooted in the idea that learning assessments have much to offer to the planning process. Better use of data is also key to the achievement of the fourth Sustainable Development Goal for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning for all. Learning data also plays a role in monitoring progress towards the achievement of the Education 2030 agenda.

One of the project’s central objectives is to inform national and international actors about current practices and influences in how learning data is used. To this end, the project will explore how different stakeholders interact, and how their different agendas and interests influence the use of data at various points in the planning cycle. The project is also looking at historical legacies, planning cultures, human and financial resources, among others as a way to uncover what is blocking data from truly informing policies and plans. 

The project will also generate policy recommendations for the participating countries with the aim of improving the use of learning data in the planning cycle.