PublicationsTopic index of systematic reviewsKnowledge pagesAssessment and monitoring in LMICs
Assessment and monitoring in low-and middle-income countries

National assessment

One review [1] found that 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 used during the policy formulation stage. Assessment programmes most frequently affected 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.  

Assessment and monitoring

A realist synthesis [2] found that:

  • Assessment may improve the quality of teaching and learning when the following mechanisms are triggered by specific conditions prevalent in the local school context:
  1. Trust in the pedagogical authority of the assessment approaches is triggered by system- and school-level support for teaching tied to assessment approaches.
  2. Teachers’ close attention to results in ways that improve teaching follows from customised guidance around interpreting results.
  3. Incentives prompt teachers’ desire for reward and improvements in teaching quality when incentives are focused on individual (not collective) performance and are perceived as being of high value.
  4. Parental oversight of the quality of teaching and learning promotes student performance gains when individual student incentives are perceived by parents as being of high value.

Key barriers to assessment activities that aim to improve teaching and learning can include:

  1. School staff fearing the consequences of poor performance.
  2. Lack of individual teacher incentives.
  3. Lack of training and support to enable school staff to use and interpret assessment results effectively.
  • Monitoring could lead to improvement in school management and school performance when one or more of the following conditions are prevalent in the local school context:
  1. Interpreting information: Sustained effects on school management and student attendance when there is consistent and clear feedback about results that is accompanied by training to interpret results across district, sub-district and school levels.
  2. Accuracy of information: Timely and accurate reporting of school- and district-level information occurs when those at higher levels of the system place value on understanding system performance rather than rewarding positive results ('reality testing').
  3. Local school development planning: This is likely to be effective when school leaders and teachers are given the opportunity and ability to learn from failure.
  4. Acting on information: School management committees use information effectively to improve school conditions when parents develop capacity for interpreting results and pressure schools to improve teaching quality and learning.
  5. Parental involvement: Service delivery and learning outcomes improve when parents participate in monitoring activities.
  • Inspection generally has a limited impact on systems and school-level outcomes. Key barriers to successful inspection may include limited co-ordination between the Inspectorate of Education and other national stakeholders, or some specific attributes of inspection feedback (e.g. disrespectful tone of voice, or recommendations out of school’s control) and inspectors providing the feedback (e.g. lack of credibility of inspectors).

1. The impact of national and international assessment programmes on education policy, particularly policies regarding resource allocation and teaching and learning practices in developing countries (2013)

2. Under what conditions do inspection, monitoring and assessment improve system efficiency, service delivery and learning outcomes for the poorest and most marginalised? A realist synthesis of school accountability in low- and middle-income countries (2017)

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