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Although the number of countries conducting national, regional, or international assessments has significantly increased over the past two decades, the use of learning assessment data in policy-making and planning remains limited, particularly in developing countries. Such data are often disregarded or considered only superficially and so fail to constructively inform planning activities.

To better understand the reasons for this, IIEP-UNESCO is launching a new research project that will explore how countries in sub-Saharan Africa use learning data in planning and what factors lead to its use.

The importance of these questions has been underlined by the Education 2030 Agenda placing learning outcomes at the core of the monitoring of international education targets. Learning assessment systems will have a key role to play in the agenda. Indeed, SDG 4 emphasizes the importance of measuring learning outcomes for improving policies.

The research project will contribute to international efforts to improve the use of learning data, focusing on a range of large-scale assessments, in the following categories:

  • international (e.g. PISA, PIRLS, TIMSS),
  • regional (e.g. SEACMEQ, PASEC),
  • national (e.g. NAPE),
  • citizen-led (e.g. UWEZO),
  • non-nationally representative assessments (e.g. EGRA, EGMA).

The study will also take a broader look at the information ecosystem that surrounds learning data, analysing how data are interpreted together with other available evidence – both quantitative (e.g. household surveys, EMIS) and qualitative (e.g. project evaluations, national/international studies). IIEP-UNESCO is convinced that high-quality learning data need to be interpreted alongside other reliable evidence, as well as considered in the light of national contexts, in order to inform policies in meaningful ways.

The study will pay particular attention to the following elements, which have been less examined in the available literature:

  • political economy (e.g. actors’ interplay and power relations, competition of diverging agendas),
  • institutional analysis,
  • interaction of various barriers and enabling conditions,
  • use of learning assessment data coming from different sources.

This qualitative study will comprise a number of case studies conducted in six to eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Beginning with field observations and interviews with key stakeholders, the research will go on to provide a context-sensitive comparative analysis, from which practical tools will be developed for both ministries of education and international agencies. It also aims to generate concrete recommendations for participating countries on how to improve their use of learning assessment data in various phases of the planning cycle.

If you would like to know more about the project, please consult a summary of its research proposal here!