Quality of education, comparability, and assessment choice in developing countries

Wagner, D.
Date of publication: 
Wed, 2010-12-01


Over the past decade, international development agencies have begun to emphasize

the improvement of the quality (rather than simply quantity) of education in

developing countries. This new focus has been paralleled by a significant increase

in the use of educational assessments as a way to measure gains and losses in

quality. As this interest in assessment has grown, low-income countries have begun

to adopt and adapt international and other assessments for a variety of uses,

including the comparability of national quality with other countries, improved

ways of measuring reading achievement and further attempts to reach marginalized

populations within a country. The present paper reviews a number of international,

national and ‘hybrid’ assessments, and considers their merits in terms of how

learning is measured, as well as their credibility, sampling and scaling

methodologies. The new hybrid assessments, for example, provide innovative

opportunities for early intervention for children in their local languages. They also

put a premium on local validity over international comparability. The review

concludes that there is no single assessment with a dominant scientific superiority,

nor is strict comparability across populations or nations a requirement. Rather,

different assessments have different policy and practical purposes, and can be used

in important and differing ways to improve educational quality. Educational

decision makers working in developing countries have important assessment needs

and priorities, and will have to choose carefully in order to address them.