WATCH: Leveraging assessment to improve learning around the world

We’ve got kids in school, but we need to now focus on making sure that there’s learning outcomes, for them, for their families, for their communities, for their nations.

 – Chiraz Shakera, UNICEF

Under the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), the global education community focused on access to education and had remarkable success. Forty million children went to primary school in 2015 that would not have in 2000. We failed to emphasize, however, the learning opportunities once children made it to the classroom; despite expanded educational enrollment, only four in 10 children in low- and middle-income countries are on track to achieve minimum secondary school skills by 2030.

This video highlights the work of the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF), a coalition of organizations and government agencies that emphasized the importance of learning and using assessments to improve learning. The LMTF was co-led by the Center for Universal Education at Brookings and the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, and between 2012-2013 it published several reports on what every child should learn, on how to create a global framework for measuring learning, and on how to implement assessment to improve learning. In its second phase of work, from 2014 to early 2016, the LMTF worked with a group of 15 Learning Champions to put its recommendations into practice.

The Learning Champions came from a diverse group of countries—Argentina, Botswana, Canada, Colombia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Rwanda, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, and Zambia—but were united by their discontent with how educational success is currently measured and hoped that better alternatives could be generated through working together. From Colombia to Kenya, the current narrow focus on literacy and numeracy skills was a major theme of the Learning Champion discussions.

“I think the new thinking here is and the new understanding is that these are teachable, learnable skills. They are not just human attributes I am born with, they are a core, essential part of learning.

 – Annie Kidder, People for Education

“A holistic approach is necessary for all children, and in today’s world it’s not just a textbook education that works.”

 – Rosy Shakya, Sammunnat Nepal

“The Learning Metrics Task Force is giving a holistic approach, where we are not just looking at academic, we are looking at the talents that children have, and what else can they do, even as they go out to fit in the society and the global village, the world.”

 – Elisheba Khaeri, Uhuru Primary School, Kenya

The U.N. more recently adopted targets, the Sustainable Development Goals, bring a greater focus to quality of education than the MDGs, but we need new strategies and scaling of successful programs if we wish to ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promoting lifelong learning. The LMTF has ended, but its members and partners continue working to improve the use of assessments for learning:

“We don’t want to see this flame run out… the way we see it in the long run is really for us to have a tool that resonates within the African continent—learning assessment for Africa by Africans that resonates with Africa. We need to own it, and the only way we can own it for us to now take it and run with it, and run we will.”

– Oley Dibba-Wadda, Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)

Initiatives like the Network for African Learning Assessment at ADEA, Assessment for Learning at the Global Partnership for Education, and the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning at the UNESCO Institute for Statistics will help to carry the work of the LMTF forward long past its sunset.

“There’s a broad consensus now that youngsters should have a broad balanced, curriculum, but this is not yet happening. In most schools, in most countries, kids still have a narrow, restricted curriculum. And that’s the piece we’ve got to focus on from here on; things are beginning to happen, but it’s going to take a long time.”

– Seamus Hegarty

To learn more about the Learning Metrics Task Force, please visit its project page and read the LMTF Phase 2.0 Final Report.

Videographer: Jason Corder, Corder Productions
Video Editor: Molly Blank, Dispatch Films