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Is it possible to capture quality and equity in education? Challenges and opportunities in the context of post-2015 debate

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


In the context of post-2015 debate, both quality and equity have acquired a great deal of centrality in structuring the next global education agenda and the formulation of related goals and targets. However, it is not clear yet how quality and equity, as guiding policy principles, will translate into specific targets and a concrete battery of indicators and measures. In relation to quality, many organizations are tempted to use ‘learning outcomes’ as the best proxy of educational quality; consequently the role of international students assessments and other standardized testing metrics are perceived as the key instrument to capture and measure quality. Moreover, the formulation of equity indicators needs more complex and specific data, which is far from globally available yet. Because of these and other shortcomings, many consider that a ‘data revolution’ in education is necessary.
However, in this paper we argue that, before the data revolution is advanced, we need to step back and unpack the concepts of quality and equity in education as a way to find out which is the most relevant data we need to track educational progress. To this purpose, we will analyse how different normative definitions of both concepts condition the options and possibilities of measurement. We will also question if quality and equity can be analysed as separate concepts or whether a holistic approach in the formulation of educational indicators is more appropriate. The objective of the paper is twofold. First, it presents the main challenges and opportunities in the measurement of quality and equity in education by exploring the potential benefits, unintended consequences and trade-offs between national and international scales. Secondly, it reviews the data collection efforts that this endeavour would require.