This paper reviews the evidence on the impact of learning assessments on education policy and teaching practice across East Africa. The study focuses principally on Uganda, and then considers the experience in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda to highlight common issues and suggest examples of best practice. It particularly examines national examinations at primary and secondary levels, national sample assessments, citizen-led assessments, donor-led early grade assessments, and regional secondary assessments.
This think piece notes that, in Uganda, a range of assessments of learning provide a detailed, national picture of the performance of the education system. The results show that many students are not reaching expected levels of learning, and this knowledge has informed the education debate. Assessment managers have been less effective at stimulating improvements in education policy or teaching practices to influence learning outcomes. This is due to a range of reasons, including weak school accountability systems, lack of focus on follow-on interventions to act on findings, and limited political engagement.
While highlighting some successes and innovations from across East Africa, the think piece identifies common themes that could inform future developments: the purpose of each assessment needs to be clear and realistic; the main purpose of the assessment needs to drive the frequency and content; national examinations could be used more systematically for school accountability to improve learning outcomes; there needs to be deeper strategic engagement with governments, donors and implementing organisations to act on the findings of assessments; and targeted, ongoing programmes to support teachers are crucial if assessment data is to be used to influence classroom practice.