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Use of learning assessment data and the political economy of actors: Lessons from Sub-Saharan Africa

Thu, April 18, 3:15 to 4:45pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Street (Level 0), Regency B

Proposal

Multiple reasons might explain a limited use of learning data in education policy and one of the most frequently quoted is a lack of good quality and comparative data. Other barriers have also been frequently identified in the literature, as for example poor dissemination of the results, low technical capacities, financial issues, etc. In some countries, especially low capacity ones, these reasons are at the core of the explanation of the poor use of learning data but this is not necessarily the case in others where additional variables enter into play. This presentation will explore these other variables based on lessons from an international comparative study on the use of learning data in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It is important to explore these more dynamic elements as they might help to understand and ‘unblock’ the ineffective use of learning data in many countries. For instance, the way actors perceive the intended use and usefulness of learning data might largely influence its use. In addition, constraints that policy-makers face, such as a need to reconcile diverging demands coming from stakeholders, short timeframes and financial issues, might also be important. The general culture around the use of evidence can also have some impact. The interaction between different stakeholders might be one of the key explanatory elements as well. Moreover, national political contexts may shape the use of learning assessment data. Benveniste (2002: 89) argues that: ‘the evaluation of student achievement is not just a technical tool for the diagnosis of conditions that may afflict the education sector. Assessment is also a political phenomenon that reflects the agendas, tensions, and nature of power relations between political actors’.

This panel presentation will therefore focus on these elements and address the following questions drawing from the literature and pilot studies conducted in a number of Sub-Saharan Africa countries:

• How do countries use learning assessment data in policy and planning?
• What factors lead to the observed use of learning data? How does the interaction of actors and an institutional setting influence the latter?
• What is the influence of international frameworks when it comes to the use of learning data?
• What are the emerging lessons for global and national actors?
• How could a cooperation between Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America countries contribute to reinforcing a more effective use of learning data?

Particular attention will be paid to analytical approaches from political economy and institutional analysis. Political economy approach will allow exploring how diverging stakeholders’ interests and incentives, that are themselves a result of a broader institutional, social and political context of the country, influence the use of learning data. Institutional analysis elements will allow analysing the official norms, rules, and regulations that govern the use of learning data and the actual practices that can be observed.

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