Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Post-2015 global development learning goals

It is difficult to know what objectives there will be for education when the United Nations Millenium Development Goals come to an end, but there are some clues.

The Brookings Institution is a non-profit public policy organisation based in Washington DC who say on their website that they are proud that many consider them to be the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank in the world.

"UNESCO and the Center for Universal Education (CUE) at Brookings joined efforts to convene a Learning Metrics Task Force to investigate the feasibility of identifying common learning goals to inform the post-2015 global development policy discourse and improve overall learning."

Phase1 of the project dealt with `What learning is important for all children and youth?`

Phase 2 is attempting to determine `How should learning outcomes be measured at the global and national levels?`

"Based on recommendations from technical working groups and input from broad global consultations, the task force will make recommendations for learning competencies and measures at the early childhood, primary, and post-primary levels." (Note that for this exercise, "learning" is not just literacy and numeracy but is conceived more broadly.)

"These recommendations will be designed for use globally, building off and complementing efforts to measure learning that are already underway at local, regional and national levels."

Local levels refer to formative assessments in classrooms and other types of assessments used to capture the learning progress of children`s learning outside of the formal school system. [So we know what Curriculum for Excellence is really about - preparing the education system so that children`s performances can be more easily measured and compared globally. That includes those broader conceptions of what learning is.]
The Task Force recommendations are currently scheduled for release in September, no doubt, to coincide with the global meeting in Paris this year to decide the world`s future.

To see who attended the Learning Metrics Task Force meeting in September 2012, try the link below. You will see that Pearson is sitting in the wings.  This is the company who will be developing the Framework for PISA 2018, a test which is recognised as the benchmark for assessing education systems worldwide. They were recently caught spying on students` social media in New Jersey .

As if transforming education in order to data mine children around the world, by a group of self-appointed experimentalists was not repugnant enough, there is a cautionary tale about Big Data and the World that Counts.

What is the link between data and decisions? We are told that "an explosion in the volume of data" will ultimately lead to "more empowered people, better policies, better decisions and greater participation and accountability, leading to better outcomes for people and the planet" (p. 6). This is not a theory of change. It is a statement of belief and hope.
I have not seen much scholarly evidence proving the thesis that politicians make bad decisions because they do not have enough data. Nor has anyone walked me through the political economy models that predicts how better data makes for better decisions. What has been convincingly shown in scholarly work is that political priorities mirror statistical priorities, and that the activities of states leave a fingerprint in the statistical record. In research on the use of global indices, there is some evidence of the "Hawthorne effect" – namely that actors change their behavior to meet external expectations when they are being observed. However, there is equally convincing evidence of global monitoring results in bad statistics because producers of administrative statistics are incentivized to misreport to appear to reach targets.

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