Program Aims​​ To Assess Learning Levels in Education

Cambodia is participating in an international program to assess education quality in schools and aid recovery after pandemic-fuelled school closures
Students study in a classroom in Cambodia in 2020. Kiripost via UNICEF Cambodia/Antoine Raab
Students study in a classroom in Cambodia in 2020. Kiripost via UNICEF Cambodia/Antoine Raab

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport (MoEYS) has signed up to a global scheme that aims to assess education quality in schools and students levels of learning, and aid post-Covid recovery in the sector.

The MoEYS started involvement in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in June and the results are expected to be ready in early 2023, UNICEF said in a joint statement with the ministry.

The program aims to assess education quality in schools, a significant step towards understanding student learning outcomes. It also takes stock of what learners know, gauging the readiness of Cambodia’s youth for the future and orienting post-Covid-19 recovery efforts.

The PISA tests the ability of 15-year-old students to use their skills in and knowledge of reading, mathematics, and science to overcome real-life challenges.

Since its inception in 2000, it has become a global standard in assessing school performance and progress, and has played an important role in shifting policy focus from education inputs to learning outcomes in government decision and policy-making.

MoEYS’s Minister Hang Chuon Naron said the government is looking forward to better understanding the learning levels of students as it is critically important to ensure interventions are correctly targeted.

“MoEYS is investing heavily in early grade learning, teacher upskilling and digital education, which will help us overcome the learning challenges caused by the Covid-related school closures,” Naron said.

“Equitable access to quality education plays a critical role in strengthening the development of human capital in Cambodia and ensuring that all children can build the essential knowledge, skills and abilities they need to shape their future in the years to come,” said Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia.

Carmen Moreno, EU Ambassador in Cambodia, said that quality data and research are critical for good policy-making.

“We can really tackle problems when we can define them clearly. Data, especially research that is comparable across borders, helps us understand the issues better,” Moreno said.

“To ensure public money is spent efficiently, we shall assess if the interventions and policies in place reach the results we expected. Again, data and evidence give us the power and help us decide if the proposed solution goes in the right direction, so we spend money for results,” she added.

The initiative is led and partially funded by MoEYS with additional financial contribution from the European Union (EU), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Swedish Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and UNICEF.

The PISA data will enable the MoEYS to target its interventions and identify how best to deliver quality education to all learners and help students recover from learning loss due to the pandemic.

The recent analysis of the Grade 6 National Assessment clearly identified the severe learning loss suffered by students because of Covid-19-related school closures, the statement said.

It added that understanding children’s current learning levels helps education sector stakeholders measure progress over time. More importantly, it provides evidence-based data for decision makers to better support schools, teachers and students to direct and inform the path of learning recovery and ultimately to improve future teaching and learning.

Rebecca Black, USAID’s Acting Mission Director in Cambodia, said that the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had in deepening inequalities across the globe. Investing in education, and in particular taking appropriate and immediate action to address the severe learning loss felt by children as a result of Covid-related restrictions, is critical to arrest and reverse this trend.