Building Consensus on Measuring Learning

Why focus on learning?

The benefits of education — to national development, individual prosperity, health and social stability — are well known, but these benefits are significantly greater when the children who go to school are actually learning. Despite commitments and progress in improving access to education at the global level (i.e., Education for All [EFA] Goals and Millennium Development Goal [MDG] 2), learning levels are still low. According to the 2013/4 EFA Global Monitoring Report, at least 250 million primary school age children around the world are not able to read, write or count well, even for those who have spent at least four years in school.

It’s estimated that 171 million people could be lifted out of poverty if all students in low-income countries completed school with just basic reading skills (United Nations Secretary-General, Education First, 2012). However, it is impossible to understand the full scale of the crisis because measurement of learning is limited, and unlike the measurement of access, difficult to assess at the global level.

Why now?

To advance progress for children and youth around the world, it is critical that education and learning are recognized as essential for human development. As EFA and the MDGs sunset in 2015, and the UN Secretary-General promotes Education First, the education sector has a unique window of opportunity to raise the profile of international education goals and ensure that learning becomes a central component of the global development agenda. To do this, the global education community must work collectively to define global ambition on improving learning and practical actions to deliver and measure progress.

How did the task force work?

The Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF) was convened by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Center for Universal Education at Brookings in July 2012. For the first 18 months, the task force’s main objectives were to catalyze a shift in the global education conversation from access to access plus learning, and to build consensus on global learning indicators and actions to improve the measurement of learning in all countries. With a common commitment to a highly consultative process, the initiative was structured around three phases and corresponding questions:

  1. Standards: What learning is important globally?
  2. Measures and Methods: How should it be measured?
  3. Implementation: How can measurement of learning improve education quality?

The task force of 30 member organizations from around the world collected input from 3 technical working groups of 186 experts and consultations engaging more than 1,700 individuals in 118 countries. Through this process of public consultation, participants and contributors informed the final task force recommendations presented in Toward Universal Learning: Recommendations from the Learning Metrics Task Force. (This and other reports in the Toward Universal Learning series can be accessed here in multiple languages.)

Briefly, the final LMTF 1.0 recommendations are as follows:

  1. Paradigm Shift: Shift the focus and investment in global education from access to access plus learning.
  2. Learning Competencies: Provide children and youth with opportunities to develop competencies across seven domains of learning starting in early childhood through adolescence.
  3. Learning Indicators for Global Tracking: Track a small set of key learning indicators at the global level, including traditional indicators such as literacy and numeracy, as well as new indicators to be developed.
  4. Support Countries: Support countries in measuring and improve learning in these as well as additional domains based on national priorities.
  5. Equity: Use assessment data to identify and address inequities, particularly within countries.
  6. Assessment as a Public Good: For indicators tracked at the global level, make assessment tools, documentation and data available as a public good.
  7. Take Action: As a global community, take action collectively to ensure children’s right to quality education.

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