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Advocacy needs in implementation of 21st century skills in education systems

Thu, April 18, 10:00 to 11:30am, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Pacific Concourse (Level -1), Pacific J

Group Submission Type: Formal Panel Session


Sustainable Development Goal 4.7 has supported and stimulated increased interest in education for sustainability and global citizenship. This interest has been demonstrated through many countries identifying 21st century skills goals for student learning, many reforming their curricula, and some exploring assessment options to support the new learning goals. There are several challenges that confront these countries including disconnects between different parts of the education systems - learning delivery section, curriculum development section, assessment section; lack of deep understanding of what teaching and learning of 21st century skills might look like in the classroom; and lack of assessment expertise in this particular field of measurement. These challenges are being confronted not only in countries that are presumed by virtue of performance on international large scale assessments to have high educational standards, but also in countries that either perform less well, or do not engage in such assessment programs (UNESCO, 2016). There are several initiatives under a loosely termed Measure What Matters theme that are seeking to support development of assessment expertise in 21st century skills at ground level and from within education systems. This panel provides the opportunity to explore and evaluate one of these initiatives.

When countries engage in regional or international assessment programs, one dominant model has been of international sets of experts designing the program, establishing its target groups and target assessment domains, and then instructing countries how to follow procedures. Countries have typically contributed to localization or contextualization processes, but otherwise primarily been involved in fieldwork such as data collection. Although some international or regional large scale assessment programs vary this approach somewhat, it is rare to see a ground-up approach being implemented. The Optimizing Assessment for All (OAA) initiative has adopted a regional to country to regional structure in efforts to support building of assessments of 21st century skills.

The Optimizing Assessment for All (OAA) initiative, designed to enhance assessment of 21st century skills, operates out of two networks of countries facilitated by UNESCO Education Bureaus. The networks are TALENT based in Dakar, Senegal, and NEQMAP based in Bangkok, Thailand. The networks are convened to support collaboration between countries to enhance their teaching and assessment capabilities. The design of OAA rests on working with TALENT and NEQMAP for regional convenings and support, as well as working more intensively with small groups of countries to develop classroom-based approaches to assessment of 21st century skills or social-emotional skills. Accordingly, there are multiple layers of organization, engagement and advocacy required for implementation at the regional to national level; and multiple layers also within country between technical teams, the higher level policy groups, and the school and teacher groups.

This panel brings together three perspectives from OAA participants regarding implementation challenges and lessons learned regarding assessment and learning of 21st century skills. The first perspective focuses on mis-alignments between national policy and classroom; the second is a country level perspective that provides an in-depth look at some of the challenges of implementing an approach for assessing and teaching 21st century skills in Cambodia, and the third discusses lessons learned in a collaborative model for building shared expertise in a newly emerging field.

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