HEMISPHERIC EDUCATION ASSESSMENT FORUM
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION OF BRAZIL
NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR EDUCATION STUDIES AND RESEARCH
In April 1998, the II Summit of the Americas was held in Santiago de Chile. On that occasion, the Heads of State and Government of the American countries signed the Plan of Action which stresses the role of education as key for progress, defining priority lines of action in this field. The Plan expresses the hemispheric commitment to Education, emphasizing equity, quality, pertinence and efficiency as the guidelines of education policies in order to offer better living conditions to all the inhabitants of the hemisphere. The Plan also reaffirms the commitment to promote horizontal and multilateral cooperation in matters of education.
On the same opportunity, the Ministers of Education of the countries of the hemisphere set up a group of ten countries to follow up on the activities of the Education Chapter of the II Summit of the Americas.
In July 1998, during the Meeting of Ministers of Education of the Inter-American Council for Integral Development of the Organization of American States (CIDI/OAS), in Brasilia-Brazil, a mechanism was defined to follow-up on the education commitments taken under the Plan of Action. Thus, it was established that the coordination committee would be made up of the original coordinating countries - Mexico, Argentina, Chile and the United States, joined by Brazil and Canada as permanent members; it also obtained the participation of five rotating members, according to geographic distribution: one country from the Andean community, one Central American country, one MERCOSUR country and two Caribbean countries. The follow-up group met for the first time in Mexico, in March 1999.
In addition to the coordination group, another group set up was the Inter-Agency Follow-up Committee for the Education Chapter of the Santiago Summit, made up of the countries from the follow-up group and representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Organization of American States (OAS), the World Bank, Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL) and the United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO).
To carry out the commitments of the Santiago Summit, the cooperation areas established in the Plan of action were grouped into the following lines:
▪ Line 1. Compensation Policies and Programs;
▪ Line 2. Education Assessment and Indicators;
▪ Line 3 and 9. Academic Training and Apprenticeships;
▪ Line 4. Education Management and Decentralization;
▪ Line 5. Training for Work;
▪ Line 6 and 7. Native Education, Bilingual Education and Creating Values;
▪ Line 8. Information and Communication Technologies applicable to Education.
Brazil received the responsibility of coordinating work in Line 2 - Education Assessment and Indicators and Line 8 - Information and Communication Technologies applicable to Education.
Based on the suggestions made by the cooperation and financing agencies, Line 2 - Education Assessment and Indicators was conducted on two aspects: a project of education indicators, coordinated by Chile, with the collaboration of the Regional Education Office for Latin America and the Caribbean of UNESCO (OREALC) and another of Education Assessment, under the responsibility of Brazil.
For the performance of the work, Brazil directly contacted 34 countries which participate in the Summit, asking for information on the activities carried out by each country in the assessment area, and to find out their interest in participating in the activities organized by Line 2.
As a result of the inquiry, which was answered by 19 countries (Argentina, Barbados, Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, United States, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Peru, Saint Lucia, Trinidad Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela), below are the most relevant aspects of the topic:
▪ In connection with National Assessment Systems and other experiences in the area.
In most countries (15), there are National Assessment Systems that cover various education levels and modalities (Preschool, Basic, Medium, Higher, Adult and Special Education).
In addition to experiences in the assessment of the education systems, certain countries use academic aptitude tests for admission to higher education, and assessments of the impact of the programs and projects implemented by the public sector.
▪ Participation in international comparative studies
11 countries participate in international studies (LLECE/OREALC, TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS, WEI, SITES, CIVICA, ETP 2000).
▪ Establishment of education patterns
Of the 19 countries, 9 have carried out related studies, 8 have organized seminars on the topic, and 8 are developing specific projects.
▪ Installed technical capacity
The 19 countries indicated that, at the respective ministries of education there are technically trained human resources, albeit scarce, to carry out surveys for the assessment of their own education systems.
▪ International support
To develop assessment activities, 15 countries have the technical and financial support of international agencies (IDB, BIRD, IEA, OCDE, BDN, UNESCO, USAID, UE).
▪ Interest in participating in Line 2 work
Of the 19 countries, 18 answered positively, and another chose to decide in this respect in the future (Canada).
In addition to the survey carried out, last April a workshop was organized in Brasilia to collect suggestions for the definition of a Line 2 program of action. According to the agenda proposed, on that opportunity possibilities were examined for cooperation in the education assessment area, especially concerning the comparability of the information and strategies to integrate ongoing initiatives within the scope of the Summit of the Americas.
The participants included specialists in education assessment and representatives of Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, United States and Mexico. Also present were representatives of international projects working in the assessment area: Programme for International Student Assessment - PISA, Third International Mathematics and Science Study - TIMMS, Laboratory for Education Quality Assessment of UNESCO/OREALC, Program for Promotion of Education Reform in Latin America and the Caribbean - PREAL, Program for Education Quality Assessment of the Organization of Ibero-American States - OEI and the International Adult Literacy Survey - IALS. Also present were the representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank - IDB, UNESCO International Statistics Institute, the Organization of American States - OAS, and the regional Education Office for Latin America and the Caribbean - OREALC of UNESCO.
As a result of the survey and workshop, three main areas were identified to develop hemispheric cooperation in education assessment: Reinforcement of National Assessment Systems; Technical assistance; Participation in International Comparative Studies.
Although it is now part of daily life in schools and in debates between specialists, education assessment has recently become a relevant topic for governments and society, especially because of the economic crisis and the acceleration of the globalization process, which made investments in education a strategic point, while the resources available for the sector have shrunk. Thus, education assessment started being perceived as a public policy instrument capable to answer certain questions on the efficiency and effectiveness of education systems and results.
This is why, in recent years, most countries of the hemisphere have developed experiences in the assessment area, either by developing a National Education Assessment System or by participating in international studies and assessments.
It is appropriate to stress that almost all the countries which do national assessments and participate un international studies depend on resources originating from loans extended by external financing agencies such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.
From the viewpoint of the National Assessment Systems, in spite of the effort made by the countries, difficulties or limitations persist, which must be taken into consideration. Among them one can cite: limited human resources qualified in the area; small number of countries with training and qualification programs for their human resources; precarious institutionalization of assessment systems in certain countries; lack of continuity in national technical teams, as a result of changes in the political spectrum; reduced participation of the universities and research centers; national technical teams with limited appropriation of new technologies; insufficient utilization of the information produced by assessment systems to formulate education policies; insufficient financial resources, and dependency on external resources.
International cooperation initiatives have been conducted by many institutions, with some outstanding projects that have a significant participation from the countries of the hemisphere, such as the Program for Education Quality Assessment of the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI) and the Latin American Laboratory for Education Quality Assessment of the Regional Education Office for Latin America and the Caribbean - OREALC, and the work done by the Program for Promotion of Education Reform in Latin America and the Caribbean - PREAL.
The OEI Program for Education Quality Assessment, with the participation of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Chile, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela, is designed to develop and consolidate the assessment systems of Ibero-American countries, stressing the training of technical teams. Given the inter-governmental character, the Program has ample representation from the assessment systems of the ministries of education of the countries cited.
The Latin American Laboratory for Education Quality Assessment of OREALC, originally designed as a network of measurement and assessment systems for the quality of education, also has inter-governmental character and has the participation of 15 countries (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Venezuela). The actions of the Laboratory were focused on the assessment of education yield, through a comparative study. Over time, it also directed its activities towards technical support to the human resources of the countries, becoming a technical-political forum on learning and associated factors.
With the passing of time, programs for cooperation and technical assistance, specifically those of OEI and OREALC, although originally their field of action was limited and they became important agencies supporting national assessment systems, they started developing plans of action which sometimes led to duplication in their activities.
The two initiatives mentioned above were expanded by the work done by the Program for Promotion of Education Reform in Latin America and the Caribbean (PREAL), in which 12 countries participate. The Program operates as a hemisphere network related to associated research centers in eight countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, interested in revitalizing education in this region, supporting dialogue on education policy and reform. It has as its members civil organizations, government agencies, international bodies and representatives from the business sector and universities.
The same as with national systems, international cooperation is varied in terms of objectives, approach, implementation, available resources, development level and activities conducted. At the same time, the countries' request for technical cooperation are similar. Consequently, to increase the effectiveness of international cooperation, it is necessary to avoid duplication in activities, and obtain better coordination between the various initiatives taken on by multilateral bodies.
Another way used by the countries to participate in multilateral projects has been through joining international comparative studies. In this sense, the First International Comparative Study on Language, Mathematics and Associated Factors in the Third and Fourth Grades, organized by OREALC, may be considered the most important in the region of Latin America and the Caribbean, being a pioneer by its coverage and by the interest and degree of adhesion of the countries.
In parallel, certain countries of the hemisphere have participated in other projects of comparative assessment, such as the Third International Mathematics and Science Study - TIMSS coordinated by the International Education Association - IEA and the Programme for International Student Assessment - PISA, coordinated by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development - OECD.
Given the absence of coordination and communication channels, the same countries (around 20) are often asked to participate in programs and activities promoted by multilateral bodies, whose agendas sometimes overlap, are disconnected and dispersed. Thus, the countries have difficulties participating in all activities, miss opportunities and inefficiently use the meager resources existing in the hemisphere.
The above reasons may also be factors that limit the participation of the countries in international comparative studies. In the group of American countries, the adhesion to this type of projects is still very limited and unequal.
Considering that there is a trend to step up multilateral cooperation in the next years, based on the increasingly general perception of the players concerning the benefit of the results of assessments, which constitute a powerful instrument to formulate education policies, international cooperation must be planned carefully in order to avoid duplication of intentions, objectives and activities.
In general terms, it is possible to affirm that currently initiatives in assessment in the hemisphere are characterized by:
▪ Limited availability of qualified financial and human resources inside the countries;
▪ Inefficient use of human and financial resources;
▪ Theoretical-methodological fragility in carrying out studies in the area;
▪ Limited utilization of the results of assessments in order to foster the formulation of education policies;
▪ Limited participation of the countries in some type of international comparative study;
▪ Absence of strategies and coordination instruments between the actions carried out in the hemisphere;
▪ Duplication of activities between the various multilateral programs.
Faced with this situation, it is fundamental to have a body coordinating the initiatives carried out; to be a forum for interchange capable of analyzing the technical skills and capacities of the countries and to enhance the financial and human resources existing in the hemisphere.
When international bodies already have an organizational infrastructure and, depending on their own institutional nature, adopt a multilateral perspective, it is suggested that, within the scope of this project, they use their experience, networks of specialists and communication channels in an articulated manner in order to focus and meet in an articulated way the requests of the countries with a hemispheric perspective.
By associating the limits of national assessments with the possibilities offered by the programs developed by international bodies acting in the hemisphere, it is confirmed that the conditions favor more the reinforcement of strategies and multilateral and inter-institutional coordination mechanisms than the creation of a hemispheric assessment system, which was initially proposed for the development of this segment.
Thus, Brazil, as Line 2 coordinating country - Educational, Assessment and Indicators, presents the following proposal, whose main characteristic is that it generates coordination mechanisms: it is a project that intends to systematize actions and standardize procedures, in order to merge the potentials of national systems, of the programs of international bodies and financing agencies operating in the hemisphere, in order to participate in meeting the needs indicated by the countries.
Thus, international bodies would not only assure the continuity of the development of the their ongoing programs/projects/activities, but they would also include on their agendas the task of articulating initiatives in order to optimize the resources existing in the countries, targeting their action under the Summit of the Americas on three main areas.
▪ Reinforcement of National Assessment Systems - development of programs, projects or activities for training of human resources and spreading and utilization of the information resulting from assessments.
For this purpose, efforts are centered on:
For this purpose, the efforts are centered on:
▪ organizing/structuring a communication network that would allow: (i) having access to specialists in the assessment area; (ii) disclosing information on unexplored aspects in order to expand the focus of the debates; (iii) using the human resources existing in national systems; (iv) using the information produced by the exchange of opinions quickly, in a timely fashion.▪▪
▪ Participation in international comparative studies - expansion of opportunities and improvement in the conditions for participation of the countries in studies of this nature.
For this purpose, the efforts will be focused on:
▪ collecting information about the advantages and disadvantages of each international comparative study;
▪ analyzing and debating the various alternatives proposed, so that the countries may decide whether or not it is appropriate to participate in them;
▪ mediating the participation of the countries from a technical and operational viewpoint;
▪ promoting debates about the technical aspects involved in such participation;
▪ guiding the countries to use the results in order to improve the quality of education;
▪ identifying initiatives existing in the hemisphere for the production of qualitative educational indicators;
▪ organizing events to exchange information in the area of educational indicators;
▪ disclosing the activities carried out in the area of educational indicators;
▪ guiding the debates about the indicators of interest for the countries of the hemisphere.
To create the Hemispheric Forum for Education Assessment in order to improve the quality of education in the countries participating in the Summit of the Americas.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FORUM
▪ It is an eminently articulating, negotiating and coordinating entity, with the participation of the countries interested and international bodies which engage in activities in the area of assessment, at hemispheric level;
▪ It is an entity serving the countries which participate in the Summit of the Americas, which will structure its activities according to the needs expressed by the countries;
▪ It will have the following areas of action: Reinforcement of National Systems; Technical Assistance to participating countries; Participation in international comparative studies;
▪ It does not have a formal or physical structure;
▪ It does not represent a direct cost for the countries, except for the expenses arising from participation in specific activities, such as travelling to the country hosting the meetings.
▪ The Hemispheric Forum for Education Assessment may include all countries which participate in the Summit of the Americas interested in the activities developed, as well as international bodies operating in the hemisphere.
ORGANIZATION AND OPERATION
▪ The coordination will be rotative, with biannual frequency;
▪ One country will take responsibility to coordinate the Forum voluntarily or by appointment;
▪ The articulation of the activities of the Forum will be done by the coordinating country, jointly with the international bodies which engage in activities in the three areas of action;
▪ The meetings of the Forum will be held annually;
▪ The meetings will be attended by international bodies carrying out activities in the three areas of action and the financing agencies which support the activities of the Forum;
▪ In order to hold the meetings, the coordinating country must:
- Organize the meeting;
- Call all countries interested in the activities;
- Call international bodies engaging in activities in the three areas of action;
- Call the financing agencies which support the activities of the Forum;
- Be the host country of the annual meetings;
- Disclose the results of the annual meetings to all countries which participate in the Summit of the Americas and to the coordinating countries in Line 2 - Educational Assessment and Indicators;
▪ In meetings, the projects to be implemented will be presented, and the form of implementation will be defined, while articulating the proposed activities;
▪ The coordinating country will be responsible to monitor the activities carried out during its mandate;
▪ The coordinating country will be responsible to evaluate the activities carried out during its mandate;
▪ The coordinating country, during the last meeting of its mandate, will submit a report with an assessment of the activities carried out in this period, and will include on the agenda the election of the country to be put in charge of coordinating the Forum during the following two-year period.
ACTIVITIES PLANNED FOR THE INSTALLATION OF THE FORUM
▪ The proposal to constitute the Hemispheric Forum for Education Assessment will be sent to all countries which participate in the Summit of the Americas, in July 2000;
▪ Presentation of the proposal for the constitution of the Hemispheric Forum for Education Assessment during the First Meeting of the Regional Project of Education Indicators, to be held in Washington, on August 3 and 4, 2000;
▪ Presentation of the proposal to constitute the Hemispheric Forum for Education Assessment during the IXth Meeting of National Coordinators of the Latin American Laboratory for Education Quality Assessment, to be held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, on August 7, 8 and 9, 2000.
▪ Presentation of the proposal to constitute the Hemispheric Forum for Education Assessment during the next meeting of the Follow-up Group of the Education Chapter of the Summit of the Americas, which will be held in Mexico on a date not yet defined.
▪ Holding a meeting with the participation of all countries interested in participating in the activities of Line 2, to debate the proposal and, if approved, to elect the country which will assume the first two-year mandate. Brazil, as coordinating country in Line 2 - Education Assessment and Indicators, will issue the invitation to this meeting, which will be held in the first half of 2001.[Education/tracker.htm]