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Is a ‘data revolution’ on learning needed? Critical views and alternative approaches

Fri, March 13, 8:00 to 9:30am, Washington Hilton, Floor: Concourse Level, Lincoln West


The emergent global development project on sustainable development, to be confirmed at the UN next September, will turn in part on establishing new data to monitor progress, hold governments to account and distinguish between more or less effective policies. The UN Secretary-General’s Independent Expert Advisory Group recently released a report (November 2014) describing today’s world in which data are bigger, faster and more detailed than ever before. It called for a revolution in the ways in which new data are integrated with traditional data.

The education sector is not immune to such calls for a data revolution. Many see this as an opportune moment to revolutionize education data. Several agencies and organizations have advanced proposals to establish, or contribute to, a global platform to monitor education progress over time and across countries. The data would focus on educational outcomes—particularly learning related--throughout the life course including through large-scale learning assessments.

This presentation will cast a critical eye at the nature and unintended consequences of the proposed data revolution in learning. It will point out that 1) a wealth of data on learning outcomes already exist; and b) much can be gained from simply enhancing existing national assessments and capacities. Before a new (and expensive) global framework of cross-national assessments is established, whose impact on improvements in classroom learning may be tenuous, donors and interested parties should examine assessments systems already in place and how they can be improved to bring about substantive change in schools and classrooms where learning actually occurs.