Breadth of learning opportunities: A fresh approach to evaluating education systems

Now more than ever, countries around the world are orienting their policies toward equipping children and youth with a broad range of skills to succeed in the 21st century. An important step in this process is examining whether school and classroom practices are aligned with the national educational goals, so that different levels of the education system are working together to provide quality learning opportunities to develop breadth of skills in students. The focus, however, tends to be on assessments of learning outcomes, but if no opportunities are available to learn the skills, how can we expect students to perform adequately? What if, in addition to evaluating an education system on the learning outcomes demonstrated by students, we also looked at the opportunities students have to learn a broad range of skills?

The Breadth of Learning Opportunities (BOLO) initiative was designed to fill this information gap. Convened by the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution and Education International (EI), BOLO seeks to develop an alternative and complementary approach to existing evaluations of education quality by providing tools to measure the breadth of learning opportunities that children and youth are exposed in an education system at the national, school, and classroom levels. The tools can be used to document 1) whether opportunities are provided for learning across a diverse group of domains, and 2) how key components of an education system (curriculum, assessments, teacher supports, monitoring, and school resources) align across the different levels of the system to support delivery of breadth of learning opportunities. The initiative has its origins in the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF), which sought to offer recommendations for measuring learning globally that would not result in narrowing of curriculum and instruction.

This report package includes five elements:

  • Breadth of Learning Opportunities toolkit – Three tools which examine the breadth of learning opportunities at Policy, School, and Teacher levels. They are aligned to capture and triangulate the policy, school, and teacher perspectives, and the tools are designed to be adaptable to country context and needs. More information about each of the tools can be found below.
  • Breadth of Learning Opportunities: A fresh approach to evaluating education systems ­– A short overview of the BOLO initiative, including the rationale for the BOLO process, descriptions of the tools and questions the tools may be used to answer, and recommendations for adapting the tools.
  • Breadth of Learning Opportunities: Technical Report – A longer report which describes the BOLO tool development process undertaken in 2016-17. This report describes the technical aspects of the initiative at a sufficient level of detail to allow for review, and potentially, replication of the implemented procedures and technical solutions to challenges which arose during the process. This report will be published soon.

The BOLO toolkit was developed by a consortium of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. CUE and EI convened an international working group to develop the framework and early drafts of the tools, and then worked with governments and partner organizations in nine countries to pilot the tools. EI conducted intensive workshops with teachers in Kenya and Zambia to develop drafts of the tools and pilot them with teachers, and CUE recruited consultants in eight countries, including Argentina, El Salvador, Kenya, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Tunisia, and Zambia, to pilot the policy-level tools. FHI 360 was engaged to design the school-level tools; create enumerator guides, data entry interfaces, and codebooks for all three tools; and provide support with data cleaning and basic descriptive analysis after tool piloting. Full pilots of all three tools were conducted in 2017 by ziziAfrique in Kenya and Centro de Cooperación Regional para la Educación de Adultos en América Latina y El Caribe (CREFAL) in Mexico. The teams at CUE and EI are grateful to the support of everyone involved in the BOLO project.

BOLO Toolkit

What are the opportunities students have to learn a broad range of skills? The BOLO project focused on students’ learning opportunities, as opposed to their achievement, leading to three tools at different levels of the education system: policy, school, and teacher. For each level, the official policies and practices are mapped onto the LMTF Seven Domains of Learning. The three tools capture the perspectives of policymakers, school administrators, and teachers to determine where there are differences among these groups. The triangulation capacity of the tools is an important feature as it can shed light on how different stakeholder groups may experience or perceive the education system.

The data can be analyzed to determine to what extent the curriculum embodies breadth of learning opportunities and to help shed light on potential barriers and bottlenecks to implementation in the classroom. The resulting “map” of domains across the levels of curriculum can be used as a basis for discourse among education stakeholders within a country.

Policy Tool

The policy tool provides a framework to review curriculum and assessment documents at the jurisdictional level, which is defined as the administrative level responsible for setting policies on curriculum. The tool examines the breadth of learning opportunities for students set out at the official level, in one focus grade for each educational level studied. In some countries, the curriculum documents might be developed and sourced at a national level, and in others at a sub-national level; the policy tool is designed to be adaptable to either situation. The current tool examines the extent to which the curriculum covers the LMTF Seven Domains, and how a breadth of learning opportunities approach is incorporated throughout monitoring, assessment, teacher training, and resource provision. The policy tool is designed to be completed by an inter-agency team including government and non-government stakeholders. The tool contains five components: (1) User Information (2) System Information (3) Subjects and Timetable (4) Subject Background – Curriculum Policies for Mandatory Subjects (5) LMTF Domains Mapping

Download policy tool (PDF)

School Tool

The school tool is intended to examine the breadth of learning opportunities for students as evidenced by school-level curriculum policies, available facilities, and government oversight of school instruction. It is intended for completion by school administrators (principals, head teachers, etc.). The school tool contains five components: (1) User and School Information (2) Grade Information (3) Subjects and Timetable (4) Information and Mandatory Subjects (5) LMTF Domains Mapping

Download school tool (PDF)

Teacher Tool

The teacher tool is intended to examine breadth of learning at the classroom and teacher levels, was refined to align with the school and policy tools. In addition to gathering information on what is actually taught in schools and time allocations to the different domains, the tools survey the pre-service and in-service education received, time spent on various activities across the learning domains, types of assessments used, and resources available. The teacher tool contains six components: (1) Background Information (2) Teacher Information (3) Class Information (4) Subjects and Timetable (5) Information on Mandatory Subjects (6) LMTF Domains Mapping

Download teacher tool (PDF)

For more information or to request additional materials, please email [email protected]