Independent curriculum and assessment bodies

Helpdesk Query:

Produce a report focused on the pros and cons of having an independent (external) curriculum and assessment body? Is it more efficient or effective outside a Ministry of Education?

Summary:

Limited evidence was identified which directly addresses the benefits and disadvantages of having an independent curriculum and assessment body at national level. Suggestive evidence from Latin America indicated that external assessment institutes have some advantages due to their higher level of autonomy including improved staff capacity; ability to sustain long-term plans and reduced impact of political pressures.

Other assessment bodies which are external to individual Ministries of Education, although often closely linked, are those which develop large-scale, system level assessments implemented across multiple countries. These include international student assessments, regional collaborations for assessment, donor-led and citizen-led assessments. These provide high quality data on system performance and contributing factors and can have a powerful impact on policy and practice.

Studies from Cyprus and South Africa highlight the potential for powerful political influence of governments on curriculum development. This could be an argument for the development of independent curriculum bodies.

Much of the debate around the structure and governance of curriculum development and assessment is focused, not on whether there should be an independent body at national level, but on the related question of the balance of decision-making power at national and local level. Evidence on decentralisation and school autonomy in curriculum development and assessment is therefore also included in this report.

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