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Optimizing Assessment for All

Measuring 21st century skills

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Optimizing Assessment for All (OAA) is a project of the Center for Universal Education at Brookings. OAA seeks to strengthen education systems’ capacity to integrate 21st century skills into their teaching and learning, using assessment as one important means of building that capacity. A central theme underlying the project is the need to shift minds toward the constructive use of assessment by all stakeholders.

As we previously catalogued¸ there is a global movement in education. Countries around the world are including breadth of skills in curricula to prepare individual students for the complex challenges of the current century. We verified this through a global mapping project undertaken as part of Skills for a Changing World, and we have recently updated the map for OAA. This global mapping study explores the breadth of skills movement and identifies how national education goals and policies reflect changing perspectives on ways to equip students with skills for the 21st century – including literacy and numeracy but going well beyond these to include competencies such as collaboration, problem solving, and creativity.

Our study looked at aspirational statements, general policy documents, and curriculum materials to examine how countries translate their commitment to breadth of skills into practice. In our updated version we have three categories: breadth of skills present in aspirational statements and/or general policy documents; breadth of skills present in curriculum documents; breadth of skills progression present in curriculum documents. Each category reflects our data on steps countries have taken to consider and include the skills within their system. Lighter color represents inclusion at aspirational and policy level; mid color represents where data have shown some integration of skills within curriculum; and dark colour represents evidence found of a learning progression perspective to the integration of the skills within curriculum. Of course, several countries did not include breadth of skills in their online education documentation, and we were unable to access information for other countries. We have a total of 153 countries in our research.

As you can see from the image below, the movement is truly global – there are no geographic or economic patterns in terms of depth of inclusion of breadth of skills. Commitment can be found from Europe to East Asia, and across all three categories. The movement and how it is documented thus is not merely occurring in education in high income systems or in systems where students perform at a high level on international large scale assessment. Countries across a wide range of economic and social conditions are looking for effective ways to address changing needs of their students.

In OAA we take the perspective that many countries are confronted with similar challenges, and that our best way to approach these is to work —togetherthis means developing pedagogical and assessment approaches together, and learning from each other.


Workshop 1
OAA is a collaborative project of the governments of Nepal, Cambodia, and Mongolia with the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. The first major convening of the collaboration took place through a regional workshop in Kathmandu, Nepal on May 28-June 1, 2018. The workshop was hosted by Dr. Lekha Nath Poudel of the Education Review Office within Nepal’s Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology. Experts attended it from the Education Review Office as well as teachers from local Nepali schools who are contributing to the work. The National Technical Teams from Cambodia and Mongolia, as well as technical partners and the Brookings team, will be attending this technical workshop designed to explore and develop assessments of 21st century skills and qualities. This workshop is the first in a series of three workshops for the project, each hosted by the participating countries in turn. The Nepal Government is the inaugural host.

The Nepali education vision is to “contribute to the development of self-sustainable, competitive, innovative, and value-oriented citizens” (School Sector Development Plan 2016/17-2022/23) and states the importance of competencies such as critical thinking, creativity and analysis. OAA directly addresses these educational goals for Nepali students. Nepal, Mongolia, and Cambodia are all countries that have made explicit their goals, which are strongly aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals through aiming to achieve both access to education and high quality learning experiences and outcomes.

The focus of the first workshop was the development of assessment frameworks for these 21st century competencies that are informed by country-specific curriculum reviews. As part of the week’s activities, the participants also visited schools in Nepal as an opportunity for the visiting international national teams to understand the classroom contexts for Nepal. Understanding the classroom contexts was essential in developing formative assessment tools that can provide information for teachers and students about how students are progressing in their learning of 21st century competencies and the next steps for teaching and learning.

OAA is being coordinated through the offices of the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia Pacific, based at UNESCO Bangkok. Nepal’s Education Review Office is an active and respected member of the Network, contributing research expertise to the Network and benefiting from its collaboration.


Workshop 2

The second of the series of three workshops for the OAA project was hosted by the Education Evaluation Center (EEC) of Mongolia’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Sports. Representatives from the national technical teams of Cambodia, Mongolia, and Nepal gathered in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia from October 8-12, 2018. Joined by colleagues from our partner organization UNESCO NEQMAP, the workshop focused on developing exemplar assessment tasks that capture 21st century skills in the classroom.
The five-day workshop was organized into two main sessions: 1)  the National Technical Teams—with support from the OAA core team—created concepts for assessment task; and 2) classroom teachers from Mongolia undertook an independent review process and provided localization inputs for the developed tasks.

The OAA project has the full support of the Ministry and is the first international collaboration project where the EEC participated. In preparation for the workshop, EEC also hosted a smaller, more teacher-centered capacity building and information sharing workshop from September 5-6, 2018.

For more information on the regional workshops, please see our blogs on Working with countries in Asia to raise awareness of 21st century skills in classrooms and Collaborative capacity building in 21st century skills assessment: Reflections from Mongolia.

OAA Skills Map
Source: skills.brookings.edu
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