Assessment of literacy and foundational learning in developing countries

This review examines the quality and range of tools used to measure literacy and foundational learning in developing countries. It covers the assessment of language and literacy skills in children from age 3 to 14 and includes assessment tools from studies published between 1990 and 2014, rated as ‘Moderate’ or ‘High’ in methodological quality.

There are several assessments that have been successfully implemented at scale, including tests of symbol knowledge, reading accuracy, reading fluency and reading comprehension. Language characteristics and cultural factors significantly affect how pupils respond to test items. It is therefore important that assessments should always suit the context in which they are administered in order to ensure that the data they produce is valid and reliable. The way that results are communicated influences the actions that will be taken as a result. Reporting is therefore an important stage in the assessment process. The Systems View of Reading highlights the importance of assessing multiple skills simultaneously to reflect the way that children learn.

It is important that learning measures are designed in a way that ensures that the results they produce reflect the skills that they pertain to measure in a reliable manner. To do this, careful consideration needs to be given to whether theories and approaches developed for other languages, school systems and socio-cultural contexts can be applied to the local population. Efforts should be made to develop affordable tests so that the benefits of assessment can be felt by a broader group, including the poor and marginalised. Further to this, assessment tools should be placed in the hands of teachers to enable them to develop a better understanding of what is happening in their classroom and what they can do to improve it. This direct feedback can help in a way that at-scale assessment cannot. This being said, the mechanisms by which teacher-led assessment can lead to better practice and improved learning needs to be better understood.

The main report can be downloaded here.

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