RISE Working Paper 16/010 - The good, the bad, and the ugly - testing as a key part of the education ecosystem

Abstract

To improve the quality of education systems, we need good information about learning outcomes to guide and inform policy decisions. Without good, accurate information, logical decisions can be made that can be disastrously wrong. Unfortunately, the world of education has proven this point on many occasions. This RISE working paper will highlight this issue in relation to testing, assessment, and measurement.

In order to answer the question, “What works to improve education systems to deliver better learning for all at scale in developing countries?” we need to first acknowledge that in many of the education systems in these countries, there is either no effective monitoring of learning or the current testing regimes are part of the problem.

This paper will attempt to address the issues surrounding educational measurement and how this plays out in ways that are relevant to education systems that are struggling to improve quality of learning. This is not just a case of gaining good information to guide and evaluate reform in these systems; the assessments need to be considered an integral part of the system. The evidence shows that examinations and tests are powerful drivers of behaviour and need to be closely aligned with the desired education outcomes to achieve good quality learning. Understanding how poorly designed assessment and accountability systems undermine education systems, and conversely how to integrate well-designed measurement within the system, is an important step in improving learning outcomes. 

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