Measuring global education goals: How TIMSS helps
Educational response to the COVID-19 crisis
stay connected and collaborate with and learn from one another, across and within countries.
The year 2020 has been marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a worldwide crisis that led to a level of educational disruption greater than anything seen before. According to UNESCO, more than 90% of all learners were affected by school closures caused by COVID-19 at the early peak of the disruption. At the onset of the pandemic, UNESCO supported and facilitated policy learning, knowledge building and sharing through different initiatives and policy fora—for example, the Global Education Coalition, which provides a platform for collaboration and exchange to protect the right to education during the education disruption and beyond, the Global Education Meeting, which provides a platform for exchange among high-level political leaders, ministers, policy-makers, multilateral organizations, development partners and global education actors to protect and reimagine the future of education and the achievement of SDG 4. As the crisis amplifies inequalities, and policy-makers are required to make decisions on real-time basis, what COVID-19 has taught us is the need for quick and reliable data. It has also never been more important to
gather information frommultiple sources onwhat learners know, what they can do with what they have learned, and provide information on the processes and contexts that enable learning, as well as identifying factors that may be hindering progress in learning. More recently, there has also been a growing interest in learning assessment for accountability, todetermine theextent towhicheducation systems yield the desired learning and social outcomes. SDG 4 is a significant departure from the Millennium Development Goals in that there is a much greater emphasis on learning outcomes as opposed to participation. This imposes new challenges for data collection and reporting. The Education 2030 Agenda requires efficient and accurate systems to measure progress towards SDG 4 commitments. International learning assessments can make important contributions tothisprocessbycollectingcross-nationaldatathatassess progress towards learning goals, creating a common language for defining and discussing competency levels in learning. Further, these data also provide important measurements of quality education, complementing the commonly used proxy indicators such as student-teacher ratios, percentage of trained teachers or expenditure per student as a percentage of gross domestic product. IEA’s studies are recognized for focusing on the highest qualityandcomparabledata, andthewealthof contextual data from studies such as TIMSS can offer insights at a time when education is facing uncertainty. Among some of the data collected from TIMSS includes how crowded teachers reported classrooms to be; students reporting arriving at school hungry; school hygiene; availability of computer resources; teacher professional development, especially relating to the integration of information and communication technology in teaching and learning; and student resources at home and if they have a quiet place to study. Fortunately, TIMSS 2019 data collection started in the first half of 2019, before any traces of the COVID-19 pandemic, andwas largely unaffectedby school closures. Thismeans that TIMSS can provide an effective baseline measure, for example of student performance or attitudes, against which to gauge how changes implemented during and after the pandemic may have affected students and schools.
Role of ILSAs in monitoring SDG 4
In 2015, UN Member States adopted a new set of ambitious goals to address poverty, inequality, disease, unsustainable patterns of consumption, climate change and other development challenges by 2030. The SDGs propose a comprehensive framework to ensure that no one is left behind. The SDG 4 aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all’, and its corresponding targets promote a renewed and broader focus on inclusion and equity. SDG 4 also expresses a clear concern with the outcomes of educational processes—in terms of both effective acquisition of basic competencies as well as of relevant learning for civic participation, social and cultural life, and employment. This global commitment has important implications for education policy, planning and practice, and particularly in areas that are critical to improving learning processes and outcomes. Such areas include teacher education and continuous professional development; curriculum development and the design of teaching and learning materials; school management; pedagogical approaches; and learning assessment. Learning assessment refers to a wide range of methods and tools used to evaluate, measure and document learning outcomes and learning progress. Assessments
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