From June 10th until12th the Cambodian Technical Team organised the training of over 250 Test Administrators and School Coordinators at Battambang University, Battambang. All SEA-PLM participant countries implement a standardized training to those selected to coordinate and administer the tests to students and questionnaires to students, parents, teachers and principals. This is to ensure the same steps and script is applied consistently across all schools.
Learning assessment, described by Director of Education Quality Assurance Department (EQAD) Mr. Ung Chinna as the current "pop-star of education" in Cambodia, is receiving increased emphasis at the policy level, promoting the better use of information generated through assessment to form the basis of education reform across relevant departments and key stakeholders. SEA-PLM plays an important role in this transition. Through providing capacity development to EQAD staff in how to manage large-scale assessments at international standards, the team are able to apply these standards to national and international assessments, and increasingly advocate for the need of assessment from the national to school level.
It is also through the support of major partners such as UNICEF that this growing focus and capacity in using learning assessments to identify gaps and inform educational reform is achieved. UNICEF Cambodia is a vital partner for SEA-PLM in Cambodia, contributing both funding and organisational support to its implementation.
The training, mostly delivered by Technical Team Manager Mr. Sar Sarin, was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, UNICEF Country Office, SEAMEO Secretariat and the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER).
H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education Malaysia and SEAMEO Council President welcomed the delegates to the 4th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers (SDEM) and invited them to listen to some expert perspectives on Sustainable Development Goals specifically on Inclusive and Equitable Education and Lifelong Learning, Technology and the Future of Education as well as Partnership and Collaboration for the Future of Education.Â In his remarks, he pointed out that the forum is directed to cover issues and progress that support the implementation of the SEAMEO Education Agenda and 7 Priority Areas toward the achievement of UN Sustainable Development Goal No. 4.
The 4th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers was led by the SEAMEO Secretariat in collaboration with UNESCO Bangkok Office. There were roundtable sessions with highly respected speakers to deliver thematic keynote presentations.
In this session, Mr. Shigeru Aoyagi presented UNESCO's views on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by outlining three key messages;
He reiterated that the SDGs must be reinterpreted critically in light of the new challenges of current times and the shifting demands from the job market. He urged SEAMEO members to discuss, deliberate and determine the next key recommendations that will consider these issues.
This session was followed by a roundtable discussion led by Ms Azlina Kamal, an Education Specialist of UNICEF Malaysia as the moderator. The session aims to get the reflections, insights as well as experiences on the said theme from the panelists H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, Malaysia; H E Assoc Prof Dr Khamphay Sisavanh, Deputy Minister of Education and Sports, Lao PDR; H E Dr Leonor Magtolis Briones, Secretary of Education, Philippines; and H E U Win Maw Tun, Deputy Minister of Education, Myanmar.
In this session, Dr Fengchun Miao, Chief of the Unit for ICT in Education, UNESCO Headquarters presented the future of education to address leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to achieve SDG 4 - Education 2030 by outlining the issues include:
In this opportunity also, UNESCO extended an invitation to audience to participate in 2019 UNESCO ICT in Education Prize with the theme "The Use of AI to Innovate Education, Teaching and Learning", on 31 October 2019.
This session was followed by a roundtable session led by Dr Chantavit Sujatanond, SEAMEO RIHED Director as the moderator. The session aims to get the reflections, insights as well as experiences on the said theme from the panelists H E Dato Seri Setia Awang Hj Hamzah bin Hj Sulaiman, Minister of Education, Brunei Darussalam; Dr Totok Suprayitno, Head of Research and Development Agency, Ministry of Education and Culture, Indonesia; H E Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, Singapore; and H E Prof Dr Phung Xuan Nha, Minister of Education and Training, Vietnam.
In this session, Mr Francisco Benavides, UNICEF Education Advisor, UNICEF EAPRO delivered the topic of partnership focusing on how partnerships and collaborations will help us in the future. Instead of trying to stress on the importance of partnerships, he seeks to bring to the floor some elements or evidences of how some partnerships can lead to successful results or failures in educational reforms. The first part of the presentation is to link this partnership approach. The key points discussed are as follows:
He spoke on governments with strategies that will benefit children. He underlined that clear vision and strong leadership from all sectors are crucial to create a strong partnership and collaboration. There is no question about the importance of having a vision that is embraced and led by a group of people leading which in this case are the ministers of education.
After the session a roundtable discussion led by Mr Hyun Mook Lim, Director, UNESCO APCEIU as the moderator. The roundtable discussion aims to get the reflections, insights as well as experiences on the said theme from the panelists H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, Malaysia and SEAMEO Council President; H E Dr Nath Bunroeun, Secretary of State, Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Cambodia; Ms Duriya Amatativat, Deputy Permanent Secretary for Education, Thailand; H E Mr Maria Olandina Isable Caeiro Alves, Ambassador
Ms Bernadine Caruana, Counsellor (Education & Science), Australian High Commission, Malaysia; and Ministry of Education and Training, Australia shared her perspective on the future of education and future work and the drive to build 21st century skills. She mentioned that bringing in technologies and innovations can only be done through partnerships. She added that the speed of change is so great that if we are not working together nor building on each other's knowledge would be a loss. Working together to gain faster outcomes is for the betterment of the nation.
Mr David G Ferron Priestley, Counsellor for Education in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore and India, Embassy of Spain in Canberra; and Ministry of Education and Vocational Training, Spain talked about the aspects of EU Post ET 2020 which has similar goals like SEAMEO. He focused on the Post ET 2020 Strategy which is based on the Gothernburg Pillar of Social Rights. He identified five significant aspects that guaranty equality, quality, and equity. The five aspects include education, artificial intelligence, life-long learning, and languages.
At the end of the session, the SEAMEO Secretariat Director, Dr Ethel Agnes Pascua Valenzuela presented the Strategic Dialogue of Education Ministers of Education: Commitment to Action which had been presented to the ministers which testify the commitment of the SEAMEO members.
The document testifies the commitment of the SEAMEO Ministers of Education which contains the SDG goals presented in the conference as well as AI and situations in each member country.
The document also conveys a commitment to action among the SEAMEO member countries as well as affiliate institutions and partners on three key areas:
To close the 4th Strategic Dialogue for Education Ministers, H E Dr Maszlee Malik, Minister of Education, Malaysia thanked everyone for their participation and attendance. The keynote speeches and roundtables were presented highlighting three important themes. The first roundtable focused on the SDGs and the quest for more inclusive and equitable learning. He thanked the Deputy Ministers of Education from Lao PDR, the Philippines and Myanmar for sharing their educational programmes which moved towards universal access to free basic education. He closed his remarks by stressing that the success of SDGs hinges upon the ability to collect and analyse data successfully as well as ensuring that education is a collective responsibility from every level of society.
The Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and the United Nations Child Fund (UNICEF), as well as the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), the technical consortium of SEA-PLM have spent many years working with participating countries to develop, trial and improve the technical and logistical procedures and roles needed to successfully implement the large-scale regional assessment.
This being said with SEA-PLM being embedded within national education systems the practicalities of preparing for the assessment differs slightly in each country, depending on its individual education structures and mechanisms.
To take a closer look at the in-country roles and functions of SEA-PLM we head to the Philippines who implemented main survey data collection during February. With the involvement of 16 regions, 119 Divisions, and 176 schools the archipelagic nation has had to be meticulous in its approach for preparing all relevant parties for the first round of SEA-PLM.
For each participating country, aÂ Technical Team Manager (TTM) and Technical Team (TT) including positions such as school contact person, logistics coordinator, sampling coordinator, coding coordinator, data manager, and administration staff are appointed.
At the heart of SEA-PLM coordination in the Philippines sits the Bureau of Education Assessment (BEA) of the Department of Education (DepEd), with Chief Education Program Specialist Ms. Gretchen Cordero assigned as Technical Team Manager. Responsible for the coordination of all activities at the national level and the supervision of the Technical Team, Ms Gretchen is coordinating not one but three large-scale learning assessments. A priority of this year is to look into our system of assessment and see how our students are faring compared to other countries in the region.
Core tasks of the Technical Team include the selection and training orientation of School Coordinators and Test Administrators, the translation, review, printing, and distribution of test booklets and questionnaires, student sampling and quality monitoring.
Ms. Gretchen commented that overall the preparation process had run smoothly, a minor challenge however was that half of the test booklets had to be printed in-house due to procurement processes. This meant a lot of late nights for my staff to ensure that all booklets were printed in time!
Similar to the Technical Team there are multiple roles required at the front line of school testing. Two essential positions are that of the School Coordinator (SC) and Test Administrator (TA). In the case of the Philippines, the additional position of District Testing Coordinator (DTC) plays a significant role in supporting School Coordinators and preparing schools for testing.
DTC Ms. Remylinda T. Soriano explained to us how she had coordinated the orientation session with teachers, parents, and students ensuring they understood the purpose of SEA-PLM and what would be required from them on the testing day. With the testing day finally upon them, Ms. Remylinda shared what a happy day it was and how proud the school was to have been selected to represent the Philippines.
For security purposes test booklets and questionnaires are not delivered to the school until the testing day meaning that parents, teachers, principals, and students all complete the test and questionnaires on the same day. The task of assessment material delivery and collection is that of a National Quality Control Monitor (NQCM). NQCMs are from the central level and also fulfill the purpose of school observation, filling out standard checklists and reporting back to the Technical Team.Â
When the testing day finally arrives it is the Test Administrators moment to shine. Test Administrators are selected from different schools than those participating in the assessment and all undergo training to orient them towards their role. One Test Administrator Mr Benjamin Cruz Junior described the testing process to be straightforward, with the detailed instructions and script provided it is simply a matter of following it.
It is because of these people and many more that national data collection for SEA-PLM is made possible. A core priority of SEA-PLM is the capacity building of national teams to prepare and implement learning assessments at an internationally recognised standard. In the Philippines, the impact of the preparation, training and support process of these key roles, as well as the utilization of existing DepEd structures and mechanisms have all contributed to the strengthening of local capacity and the successful collection of school data for SEA-PLM.
The first regional assessment of the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) entered its final stretch on the 28th January, with Myanmar being the first country to begin data collection in schools. This large-scale survey will take place in Myanmar, Philippines, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia during 2019 according to the different school calendars.
Led through the cooperative tradition among Ministries of Education in the region, SEA-PLM is a project jointly managed by the Southeast Asian Ministers for Education Organisation (SEAMEO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). With the shared vision of improving and redefining learning outcomes, SEA-PLM provides metrics that are founded within the regional context and inclusive of 21st Century skills.
The implementation of the first assessment is the culmination of 5 years' worth of research, capacity building, and field trials, all to develop a suitable set of assessment and survey instruments specifically designed for the region. For each of the participating countries, approximately 3500 grade 5 students enrolled in an average of 150 schools are randomly selected to represent their country. The Australian Council of Education Research (ACER) an independent technical operator is used to select schools and students, providing technical support to national teams as they prepare and implement the assessment.
Deputy Director of the Department of Myanmar Examinations Mr. Aung Htike has been working as a SEA-PLM Technical Team Manager since June 2015 and is highly experienced in the management of large-scale learning assessments. Leading a Technical Team made up of 35 members from seven different Departments and Universities across Myanmar, Mr. Aung with his team coordinated the first assessment in 202 schools across the country. To successfully achieve this huge undertaking, Myanmar uses the Six C approach; Commitment, Capacity, Communication, Collaboration, Consistency, and Coordination.
Over a three-week period, 5715 students undertook standardized tests in Myanmar language in reading, mathematics, writing, and global citizenship. One Myanmar teacher shared how she could not sleep the night before the test because she felt so nervous and excited to be chosen to participate. To paint a fuller picture of the factors contributing to learning outcomes the principals, teachers, and parents of selected students also complete background surveys. While all tests and questionnaires are anonymous and not designed to assess the individual performance of students or teachers, it is still a nerve-racking experience to be chosen to represent your country.
An important element of SEA-PLM is to ensure comparability and consistency of the meaning of test items between countries. Questions are similar in all participating countries and have been designed in collaboration with national and international experts, reflecting the disciplinary domains and cognitive processes considered important to have been achieved by students by the end of primary school.
The road to developing comparable and suitable test items and assessment tools have been a long and complex one.Â In order to design suitable metrics, surveys and assessment tools were trialed during 2018 in 7 different countries on reduced school samples. In Myanmar, Mr. Aung and his team participated in this process by joining in multiple capacity building workshops and implementing field trial assessments in 35 schools during November 2016.
Countries have committed considerable human and financial resources to this assessment because they can see that it has something very important to offer them. SEA-PLM will generate key data on each country's context on how students perform in school and what factors are affecting learning outcomes. From these gaps in national education policy and systems can be identified and improved.
What is impressive about SEA-PLM Mr. Aung says is that it both assesses the four different domains and that the items of these four domains are specifically tailored for Southeast Asian students, allowing them to apply their knowledge and learnings in real life situations.