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The impact of national and international assessment programmes on education policy, particularly policies regarding resource allocation and teaching and learning practices in developing countries

What do we want to know?

There is a documented global rise in the number of countries undertaking national (Benavot & Tanner, 2007; UNESCO, 2008), as well as regional and international learning assessments (Kamens & McNeely, 2009). Much of this growth, especially in national learning assessments, has occurred among developing countries. Assessment programmes constitute a significant investment for these countries, and can have multiple purposes. To date, however, little is known about how these assessments have affected policies and practices in developing countries.

This review synthesised evidence by employing a framework synthesis approach to accommodate the anticipated diverse types and quality of literature. The use of an initial conceptual framework effectively guided analysis to consider established evidence as well as policy considerations. At the same time, the use of a preliminary conceptual framework allowed for the development of new evidence to emerge, as on a global scale, little is known about the impact of these assessment programmes in economically developing countries.

What did we find?

Half of the literature about the impact of assessment programmes referred to national programmes, followed by equal numbers of regional and international programmes. Literature on national programmes was identified mostly from countries in South America, followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The most frequently cited goal of assessment programmes was to measure and ensure quality of education. Data from assessment programmes were most often used at the agenda setting, implementation and evaluation stages of the policy cycle. They were less frequently utilised during the policy formulation stage. Assessment programmes most frequently impacted education policies aimed at increasing teacher quality through in-service professional development and improved teacher preparation. System level policies regarding curriculum standards and reform, performance standards and assessment, were also often affected by the use of assessment data. Three-quarters of the literature on international assessments reported an impact on curriculum standards. Conversely, little has been reported on the impact of assessment programmes on teaching and learning practices.  

What are the implications?

The primary stakeholders of this review are those involved in the planning and funding of large-scale assessments and using data from them in developing countries. The results of this review are intended to guide the use of assessment data and participation in assessment programmes.

How did we get these results?

The review examined the available literature on the use of data from large-scale assessments in education policy-making in developing countries. An extensive literature search initially identified close to 1,500 records. Ultimately, 54 studies were included in this review, with 73 countries represented out of 151 countries that fall under the review’s definition of an economically developing country.
The EPPI Centre reference number for this report is 2104.

This report should be cited as:
Best M, Knight P, Lietz P, Lockwood C, Nugroho D, Tobin M (2013) The impact of national and international assessment programmes on education policy, particularly policies regarding resource allocation and teaching and learning practices in developing countries. Final report. London: EPPI Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.
ISBN: 978-1-907345-57-9

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