NEQMAP Highlights from 2017: Research and Knowledge Sharing
2017 was another year of growth and expansion for the Network on Education Quality Monitoring in the Asia Pacific (NEQMAP), for which UNESCO Bangkok serves as the Secretariat. The NEQMAP ‘family’, which had 18 members in early 2014, has now grown to become a network of 48 members from 26 countries/jurisdictions, representing different sub-regions of the Asia-Pacific. Most of the member institutions are representatives of government organization or Ministry of Education, which is an indication of great interest and commitment from the countries in the area of monitoring of education quality, particularly learning assessment. The NEQMAP Steering Group (SG) has also been expanded to seven members with joining of Dr Ursula Schwantner (Australian Council for Educational Research /ACER/) and Dr. Nordin Abd Razak (Universiti Sains Malaysia). We are pleased to welcome and have them on board.
In terms of the NEQMAP activities, this year, more emphasis has been put on research/analytical works as well as knowledge sharing activities. The NEQMAP Secretariat, in close collaboration with its members, initiated and completed several regional research. In 2015, UNESCO Bangkok launched a regional programme called “Learning Enablers in the Asia Pacific” (LEAP), under the banner of NEQMAP. One of the activities of the programme was to carry out a regional study which aimed to better understand the extent to which countries analyze and utilize their assessment data as well as to identify conditions that impact student learning outcomes. The study has been completed and the regional report “Analyzing and Utilizing Assessment Data for Better Learning Outcomes”, which is a synthesis of 10 country case studies, has been published online.
With adoption of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 4.1 and 4.7, issues around the assessment and measurement of 21st century skills have become a topic of great interest for many. In light of this, NEQMAP has continued its effort and works in this area in 2017. As a continuation of the previous study “Assessment of Transversal Competencies: Policy and Practice in the Asia-Pacific”, the NEQMAP Secretariat, in partnership with the Brookings Institution and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), launched a mini case study “Current Tools to Assess Transversal Competencies” in 8 countries/jurisdiction in the region. The study aimed to identify the tools that are used by the countries to assess transversal competencies (also known as 21st century skills) at both school and national level. To wrap up the research, the study final review meeting was organized on 14 December 2017 in Bangkok, where the country researchers shared their experience and findings from the survey study.
NEQMAP has also continued its collaboration with ACER in producing a series of topical case studies on the use of assessment data in education policy and practice, which aims to gather examples of practices and strategies that have been successfully implemented by countries of the region. The first case study of the series, which discusses the case of the Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) was published last year. The second in this series, which focuses on experience from the National Assessment of Student Achievement (NASA) in Nepal, was commenced this year, in collaboration with the Education Review Office of Ministry of Education of Nepal, a NEQMAP member institution and the report will be published early 2018. In addition, the NEQMAP Secretariat has been working on finalization the regional synthesis of the mapping study on learning assessment as well as the regional study on School-Based Assessment, the report of which will be available by mid-2018.
Knowledge sharing is another key component within NEQMAP activities. In this regard, since last year, the NEQMAP Secretariat has been organizing a series of webinars focusing on various topics related to learning assessment and quality of education. Two webinars were organized within this year. The first one was on “Transversal Competencies & their Assessment: Perspective from the Asia-Pacific”. The webinar was joined by Dr. Esther Care from the Brookings Institution, who highlighted the findings of the regional study on Assessment of Transversal Competencies and Dr. Samuel Kai Wah Chu of the University of Hong Kong, who shared the experience of Hong Kong, China in this regard. In October 2017, the NEQMAP Secretariat, in collaboration with the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), organized a webinar on “IEA and its International Large-Scale Assessment Programmes” which introduced the IEA’s activities and international comparative studies such as TIMSS, PIRLS and ICCS. It was also joined by the colleagues from the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) who shared the Korean experience with TIMSS and its implication on national policy and practice. Both webinars were well received by the audience and the members. In addition, the NEQMAP’s biannual e-newsletter and knowledge portal continued to play key role in keeping the members updated and engaging them in the network activities.
NEQMAP’s contribution to the 3rd Asia-Pacific Meeting on Education 2030 (APMED III), a regional meeting organized by UNESCO and other partner organizations, was another highlight of the year. For many countries in the region, the breadth of SDG 4.7 has made it challenging to understand and implement. Thus, the focus of APMED III was on mainstreaming SDG 4.7. In particular, the NEQMAP Secretariat organized the sessions and led the discussions on role of learning assessment in mainstreaming SDG 4.7 in national policy and practice.
The NEQMAP annual meeting provides a great platform for members to come together to share knowledge and experience, and to exchange ideas and opinions. This year was special as it marked the 5th anniversary of the NEQMAP annual meeting, which was held on 12-13 December, preceded by the SG meeting on 11 December. The 5th annual meeting was the largest in terms of the number of participants and was rich in content and discussion. More than 50 participants including delegates from member, non-member and partner institutions joined the meeting to reflect on the past one year and plan for the year to come. The organization of the meeting was made possible through the generous support from GPE.
As we move forward with the SDG4-Education 2030 agenda, NEQMAP will continue to play an increasingly important role in supporting UNESCO’s member states in the Asia-Pacific through its capacity development, research and knowledge sharing activities. Many interesting activities, including regional workshops, a series of webinars and a special seminar on various topics related to learning assessment, are in the pipeline for 2018.
The achievements and success stories of NEQMAP, thus far, would not have been possible without a strong network of dedicated and active members. Therefore, we would like to end this reflection piece with sincere gratitude and appreciation to all NEQMAP members who have extended a continued support and commitment for the development of the network in the past years. We are looking forward to further collaboration in 2018!
Tserennadmid Nyamkhuu, UNESCO Bangkok
NEQMAP Secretariat [email@example.com]