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Understanding & Evaluating Assessment Tools for Evidence-Based Policy Making

Pakistan, like many countries, faces the challenge of providing equitable access to education to a growing student population while still ensuring that these students learn the necessary skills to fully contribute to society. Since it first gained independence in 1947, Pakistan’s education system has been transformed several times with the intent of increasing access to quality education. Most of the changes thus far, however, have been of a cosmetic nature. As a result, Pakistan has only advanced minimally toward improving the efficiency and effectiveness of its education system. 

As a part of Pakistan’s more recent education reforms, the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training established the National Education Assessment System (NEAS) to help address assessment issues at the national level. The four key objectives of the NEAS are: 1) to inform policymakers; 2) to monitor standards; 3) to identify factors affecting student achievement; and 4) to enhance teachers’ use of assessment data to improve student achievement. To gauge quality education, there is a need to provide valid and reliable data to inform policy and practice. For this purpose, NEAS is the mandated organization at national level to provide data related to educational achievements. The NEAS undertakes sample-based national assessments for Grade 4 and 8 and in 2016 will carry out its sixth cycle in the subjects of language (Urdu, Sindhi and English), mathematics and science over a sample of 30,000 students in 1,500 schools across the country.

The NEAS recently organized a capacity development workshop on “Understanding and Evaluating National Achievement Testing Tools for Evidence Based Policy-Making” from 25 May to 2 June 2016 as part of its annual work plan, and welcomed 120 participants from eight federal states across the country. The workshop aimed to enhance the professional development of Lead Master Trainers (LMTs) and to ensure standardization procedure of 3,300 test administrators training who will be responsible for conducting the national achievement test (NAT) in sample schools in November-December 2016.

The LMTs have a key role in the assessment cycle as they are responsible for further training of 3,300 test administrators in their respective provinces and areas. Because test administration is one of the most important steps of the national assessment, the training sessions of test administrators will be conducted in all federal states of Pakistan before NAT in November 2016.

During the workshop, participants stated their awareness that assessment plays an important role in better understanding students’ learning outcomes, their motivation to learn, and how teachers can best teach them. They also felt that the workshop gave them a better understanding of large-scale national assessment and assessments of Grade 4 and 8 students, as well as collecting background information and learning to be more proactive in collecting valid and reliable data from the sample schools. The participants further stated that the structure and content of the workshop was motivating, useful and relevant to the nature of their work. In addition, sessions on role-playing provided the participants an opportunity for hands-on exercise and enabled them to experience the test administration process in a very practical way. The workshop was further enriched with a presentation by Dr. Syed Kamal-Ud-Din, Director of NAES, which introduced significant features of the workshop and highlighted the innovative steps being taken for the forthcoming NAT.

In the closing ceremony, a Chief Guest, Mr. Muhammad Humayun, Federal Secretary of the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training stated that the Government of Pakistan is working to enhance the quality of education in the country.

The Federal Secretary also highlighted the importance of student assessment and its reflection in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Furthermore, in the second group closing ceremony, Engr. Muhammad Baligh ur Rehman, Minister of State for Federal Education and Professional Training, congratulated Dr. Syed Kamal-Ud-Din and his team at NAES for organizing a successful workshop with high attendance and engagement of participants. He also stated that the workshop gave the opportunity to share regional expertise and experiences on conduct of national assessment among participants of the various provinces and regions.

According to the Minister of State, “the government will hold the national education assessment survey in the country this year without the financial and technical support of international partners”, recognizing the importance of these assessments in understanding student learning outcomes and providing data for evidence-based policy-making. He further expressed that in order to compete globally, the government had decided to participate in the forthcoming round of the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) in 2019. “This will enable us to see Pakistan’s standing through an international platform among different developed and developing countries,” he added.

 

Written by: Dr. Syed Kamal-Ud-Din  [kamalshah.neas@gmail.com], [National Education Assessment System  (NEAS), Ministry of Federal Education & Professional Training, Islamabad Pakistan]

Related links:
1. NEAS website 
2. NEAS Pakistan Facebook