Home | 2011 Workshop

Learning Outcomes: National Systems
August 17, 2009 – 3:30 p.m.

Presenters:Jeff Davis, American Institutes for Research
Mike Fast, American Institutes for Research
Robert Davidson, USAID Ghana
Robert Burch, USAID Egypt

Moderator:Patrick Collins, USAID Office of Education

This session discussed a range of assessment models used by USAID staff and project evaluators. Main topics included program overviews, success, and the challenges of testing and assessing education programs. Presenters discussed experiences with national testing systems in Namibia, Honduras, Ghana, and Egypt, demonstrating the range of processes that have been used to create and improve systems. One common theme throughout the discussion was the issue of testing “21st century skills,” such as critical thinking and problem solving.

In 2005, AIR assessed part of AED’s basic education program in a two-year linkage with Namibia’s National Institute for Educational Development. AIR is now working with the Directorate of National Examinations and Assessment in a move from limited program assessment to national assessment for grades five and eight for all students. The Ministry of Education (MoE) plans to align curricula and tests with international standards. In Honduras, the emphasis has been on a standards-aligned assessment system. The Honduras Improving Student Achievement Project (MIDEH) focuses heavily on formative assessment with the use of monthly standards, pacing guides, and more frequent standardized tests, to help teachers keep students on track. An independent National Assessment Institute is working to ensure the sustainability of the systems being established by the project and the MoE.

In Ghana, the Basic Education Comprehensive Assessment System (BECAS), which the MoE administers with USAID support, has tested 1.5 million students in 16,000 schools and replaces a previous (unsuccessful) national assessment effort. The national testing has uncovered a number of weaknesses including a lack of adequate funding and documentation of learning gains, wide ranges of capacity in MOE personnel, and difficulties in developing, administering and interpreting the tests. These notwithstanding, USAID and other donors are working with the MoE to use the BECAS in conjunction with data from other sources to identify and target areas for improvement. Egypt has taken more extreme measures to ensure that results of national assessments relate to national standards: they release to the public one-third of the items in the Critical-thinking Achievement and Problem-Solving Skills (CAPS) test administered to a sample of students in grades 4, 8, and 10. Releasing the CAPS items openly allows teachers and administrators better opportunity to know what is expected.

Key take ways points from this discussion include the idea that national assessment efforts should reinforce the paradigm shift in education from rote learning toward the types of skills that today’s markets demand and USAID should support national systems of assessment in an effort to ensure assessments and national curricula are closely aligned. It is possible to develop test that will achieve this end in collaboration with host country MoE and this work will also increase the capacity to the MoE to develop standardized tests for assessment of education.

To view the presentations, please click on link below:
AIR, Davis : Open
USAID Ghana, Davidson : Open

For questions related to the 2009 Education Workshop,
please contact Rebekah Levi at rlevi@jbsinternational.com