ACER India has conducted a series of workshops to increase Bhutan’s expertise in national assessment item development, questionnaire design and sampling procedures. Anu Radha Sharma reports.
The Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA), Royal Government of Bhutan, commissioned ACER India to support the development of Bhutan’s National Education Assessment Framework (NEAF) to measure the quality of education at key stages of learning ─ Grades III, VI and IX.From 2018 to 2021, ACER India is supporting the development of the NEAF and helping to strengthen institutional capacity building in conducting large-scale educational assessment surveys. ACER India is providing technical support for conducting the National Educational Assessment (NEA) in literacy and numeracy for Grade III. Additionally, ACER India is supporting the development of processes, systems, protocols, manuals and methodologies with the intention of bringing global good practices in learning assessments to Bhutan’s national assessment system.In the first phase of the project, the ACER India team developed an assessment system that integrates the unique Bhutanese culture and educational aspirations with global best practices of assessment. Three workshops and one online consultation were conducted to arrive at the final assessment framework draft. The first workshop was dedicated to present the findings from the curriculum review in different subjects and introduce key elements of an assessment framework; the second workshop focused on the review of the initial draft of the assessment framework developed by ACER India; and the final workshop was allocated to examine the revised draft. Additionally, an online consultation was organized to relook at the draft and develop the assessment draft. This was further reviewed by Bhutan’s national review committee to finalize the penultimate draft.The outcome of this rigorous process was a draft NEAF, which fulfils the parameters of robust assessment involving 21st century competencies specifically defined in the Bhutanese education context along with inclusive education principles.The second phase of the project was dedicated to institutional capacity building for implementation of the assessment framework. Two onsite workshops (each 6-8 days) were conducted to strengthen the capacities of BCSEA and other key education government officials in large-scale educational assessments in accordance with the ACER philosophy of capacity building, ‘from doing for, to doing with’.The September 2019 six-day workshop in Thimpu focused on the development of contextual questionnaires and establishing sampling processes for the national assessment. On the first two days, ACER India assisted participants to prepare student, teacher, school and Thromde/Dzongkhag questionnaires. Over the next four days, participants were engaged in establishing sampling processes for the assessment. In addition to building an understanding of concepts in sampling and questionnaire development, the workshop provided the participants with an opportunity to get hands-on experience in applying theory to practice through various activities.The October 2019 workshop was also organized in Thimpu. It was focused on designing competency-based cognitive instruments for large-scale assessments with a particular focus on assessing Grade III students. The key areas covered in the workshop were:
- Key principles of item development
- Development of cognitive items in three domains
- Processes for quality assurance of test items
- Development of marking/coding guide/scheme/codebook.
By the end of the two workshops in this phase of the project, the participants felt that the content was important and relevant to the Bhutanese context. They also felt that they would be able to apply the learnings of the workshop to rolling out future assessments. One of the participants pointed out that, ‘This was actual capacity building’.
With the technical support from ACER India, BSCEA is now preparing to conduct a field trial for the Grade III NEA in March 2020. This will be followed by the main survey for Grade III in October 2020.