More children are in school and many countries have reached the targets of the MDGs. However, there are still 120 million children estimated to be out of school. More worrying is that of the children in school, many are not learning. It is estimated that 130 million children who are in school cannot read, write or do basic math (EFA GMR 2014). There is a serious learning crisis in many countries. The importance of carrying out learning assessments has been embraced by governments, international organisations, and other stakeholders. International assessments like the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show there are good policies and practices that lead to improved learning. PISA gathers contextual data in addition to the learning assessment and the findings are that individual, school-level and systemic factors alone explain 85% of the performance variation among schools in different countries. This is also true in lower middle-income countries as well.
CEI staff have been involved in national, regional and international learning assessments for over 15 years across Southern Africa and the Pacific. The team has worked closely with the World Bank in the Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) program. The program is designed to systematically look at the entire education system to improve learning. In addition, the staff have strong experience in regional assessments in Southern Africa and the Pacific. At present, a CEI staff member is working in a pilot project for benchmarking policy reforms that lead to better learning in three countries in the Pacific. A regional learning assessment tool was developed and administered in all countries. A particular focus has been to provide support to the assessment departments in the three countries.