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How to assess whether students are learning in school? 17 African countries examine their national learning assessment systems

The Teaching and Learning Educators’ Network for Transformation (TALENT) under the coordination of UNESCO Dakar organized a regional workshop on learning assessment systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The workshop was held in Dakar, from 6 to 8 of December, and witnessed the participation of various experts, academics and high level ministerial officials from 17 different countries of Sub-Saharan Africa [1] , as well as representative of the major international learning assessment programmes [2] , international organizations and think tanks [3] , other UNESCO offices and institutes and some members of the TALENT task team [4] .

The event aimed at increasing the knowledge on national and international learning assessment programmes, identify needs and gaps at country level, highlight best practices, for adaptation and replication and promote international and pan-African cooperation.

Participants agreed on some common recommendations to foster quality education at national and international level through the improvement of learning assessment. From a system perspective the group agreed to focus on the strengthening of existing policies and frameworks guiding all types of assessment at national level; building capacity of education managers for the oversight and management of the learning assessment process (including support to teachers for remedial actions); and guarantee sustainability of the assessment through alternative and innovative ways of financing.

To ensure that the teaching process and the assessments of learning respond to the curriculum, a specific emphasis has been given to pre-service and in-service opportunities for teachers to get acquainted with all types of assessment, build items for classroom exams and effectively integrate the national curriculum into teaching. The set-up of national learning assessment technical coordination bodies and the strengthening of assessment officials and curriculum developers’ capacity have also been listed as priorities.

Quality assurance of the various types of assessment has been a major concern of participants. To ensure that the results and the data collected are ultimately contributing to the improvement of education policies and curriculum for an enhanced learning of students, the participants have identified some strategic areas to focus on, such as: the design of specific tools to capture and analyze “21st century skills”; enhance capacity of education planners and statisticians for the analysis and utilization of learning assessment data; the refinement and re-design of existing tools to produce more useful results for planning.

The event was supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Global Partnership in Education (GPE). The TALENT network will continue to support and work with existing initiatives to improve quality of teaching and learning in the SSA region with a series of workshops in 2018/19.

[1] Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, The Gambia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sao Tome e Principe, Senegal, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia. [2] PASEC, SEACMEQ, PISA-D, IEA, PAL-network, ELAN, RAAMA [3] Global Partnership for Education, Brookings Institute, OIF. [4] ANCEFA, ADEA/NALA, CONFEMEN and PASEC, REESAO, UNICEF-WCARO.

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