Each year over two million secondary-school students across Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia sit coordinated tests known as the WASSCE. In a new CGD working paper, undertaken by researchers from CGD and IEPA-Ghana, we look at English and maths papers in West Africa’s leading high-stakes exams and show that they can vary significantly in difficulty from year-to-year. If exams are not comparable over time then this has implications for countries that rely on results as they make education policy and for fairness for the candidates who sit them.
CGD Policy Blogs
CGD’s education program is launching the Partnership for Research on Progress and Resilience in Education (PREPARE), a consortium of research institutions who will work together to produce rigorous evidence on the most important education challenges posed by COVID-19. In this blog, PREPARE partners discuss their plans to produce data and evidence that will help answer pressing education policy questions both in their countries and globally, as education systems rebuild from the pandemic.
There may be no government response that can fully mitigate COVID-19’s impact and maintain fairness for 2020’s exam candidates. But high-stakes exams are unfair every year, not just during a pandemic: large differences in home support and access to resources are not new. Exams reinforce income inequality, create perverse incentives in the classroom, and limit the number of students who could benefit from more education.
COVID-19 Has Forced Exams To Be Suspended Across West Africa. Should They Be Overhauled Before They Restart?
Earlier today the West African Secondary School Certificate Examinations were suspended due to the threat of COVID-19. The cancellation does provide an opportunity to take a closer look at the exams and make sure that—when students do return—they will face a fair test.
Grade repetition is a familiar topic in Ministries of Education but is rarely discussed as a policy issue in global education. This is surprising in the context of global discussions about education financing, since the cost of many children repeating grades can be astoundingly high.
South African Schooling: The Enigma of Inequality provides an incredibly detailed account of inequality in South Africa’s education system. And it does a remarkable job of using government and survey data, along with detailed accounts of policy negotiation and reform, to explain why it is that the more things seems to change, the more they stay the same.
The ‘Learning Adjusted Year of Schooling’ (LAYS) concept, introduced last year by the World Bank, seeks to combine access and learning outcomes into a single measure, allowing funders to compare directly across different kinds of interventions. We like the idea and applaud innovation in measurement, but think LAYS still has some way to go before it’s really ready to be used as a robust measure by funders.
There are just eleven years to go to achieve the many targets under SDG4 and recent reports suggest things are woefully off-track. The UN General Assembly—taking place in New York this week—will be the platform for the announcement of various new initiatives and big funding pledges hoping to fast-track progress toward that goal. With the spotlight on the global education aid architecture, we analysed the latest aid data from the OECD and UNESCO Institute for Statistics to see what it tells us about how much aid is going to education, where it is allocated, by who, and through what channels.
Within the field of global education, we hear repeated arguments that African research is undervalued and does not get the visibility it deserves. In response, Addis Ababa University, CGD, DFID, and the REAL Centre hosted an event aimed at elevating the evidence on African education. Here are the takeaways.