Sri Lankan Students and International Large-Scale Assessments

Posted by on December 14, 2020  /  0 Comments

Trends In International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress In International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) are international assessments that monitor trends in student achievement in mathematics, science, and reading. Currently 70 countries participate in the assessments, which have been conducted at regular intervals since 1995. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Programme for International Student Assessment. PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges. 

With a growing number of countries taking part in International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSAs) such as TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA, it is timely to question their relevance for Sri Lanka.

ILSAs provide a strong evidence-base to fuel education policy making, having often drawn attention to three pressing issues in education: i) the poor quality of student learning; ii) inequality in student learning; and iii) inequality in the distribution of learning resources across schools and geographical areas. Such assessments could affect a range of education-policy related areas, such as agenda setting, policy formulation, policy implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.

If Sri Lanka is to achieve the aim of cultivating productive, informed and innovative citizens, as has been envisioned in the PTF report, it is important that we have a base of education achievement data to compare with international assessment data. Does the Government of Sri Lanka plan to participate in international assessments programs such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS?

The Report of the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Education and Human Resources Development on the 2020 – 2030 National Policy and Strategic Plan on STEM Education notes the necessity of evidence-based decision making when it comes to improving the quality of education in Sri Lanka. It cites PISA as a “good example” of a data-collection tool that has become widely accepted in governance, and highly recommended by the World Bank and donor agencies. The report notes the importance “conduct[ing] an international examination such as PISA in Sri Lanka to benchmark students in the international context” (pg. 66). However, such a commitment should be based on the understanding that Sri Lankan students must participate in the same international tests as others around the world, such as PISA, and not simulations of these assessments.

Has the Ministry of Education ever held discussions with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) about what participating would entail?

The evidence bases that these assessments provide are not only important for the (re)allocation of education resources but are increasingly important to monitor and report on progress towards SDG 4.

The Ministry of Education could start preparing a 2-3 year plan with a clear road map chalked with milestones on how this could be achieved. What resources would be needed? Which development partners would need to be enlisted? What other factors would need to be taken into consideration to effectively participate?



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