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Cambodia adopting OECD’s int’l academic assessments

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Students attend class at Bakheng Primary School in the capital’s Chroy Changvar district in January 2021. Hong Menea

Cambodia adopting OECD’s int’l academic assessments

Cambodia will assess student learning through the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to strengthen post-Covid-19 recovery efforts and test the abilities of students over 15 years old to use their skills in – and knowledge of – reading, mathematics, and science to overcome real-life challenges.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport began their involvement in PISA in June this year. The assessments are expected to provide a clearer understanding of student learning outcomes, gauge the readiness of Cambodia’s youth for the future and orient post-Covid-19 recovery efforts in the education sector.

“The results are expected to be published in early 2023,” said a joint press release by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and international partner organisations on September 1.

It explained that PISA tests the ability of students aged 15 and older to use reading, mathematics and science skills in real-life situations. The programme was launched in 2000 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the results are published for all participating nations.

Education minister Hang Chuon Naron said Cambodia was pleased to be part of this global assessment framework.

“We look forward to better understanding the learning levels of our students as it is critically important to ensure our interventions are correctly targeted,” he said.

He added that the ministry is investing heavily in early-grade learning, teacher upskilling and digital education, which would help it overcome the learning challenges posed by the pandemic-related school closures.

Carmen Moreno, EU ambassador to Cambodia, said quality data and research are critical for good policy-making.

“We can really only tackle problems when we can define them clearly. Data, and especially research that is comparable across borders, helps us to understand issues more clearly,” she said.

Moreno said the best way to ensure public money is spent efficiently is to assess if the interventions and policies in place are producing the expected results.

“Again, data and evidence gives us power and helps us decide if our proposed solutions are going to the right places, and if our investment is giving us the outcomes we are aiming for. The EU is proudly partnering with Cambodia in evidence-based policy-making”, she said.

Rebecca Black, acting mission director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), said PISA ideally complements the Early Grade Reading Assessments, which USAID had been carrying out with Cambodian experts to monitor student learning in the primary grades.

“I’ve had the pleasure of following the steady progress of Cambodia’s education system reforms since 2013 … We are proud to be a partner on this important initiative to collect and use data transparently in the education sector,” she said.

Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF Representative in Cambodia, said investing in education – and in particular taking appropriate and immediate action to address the severe learning loss felt by children as a result of pandemic-related restrictions – is critical to arrest and reverse this trend.

“We have seen the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had in deepening inequalities across the globe,” she said.

Foyouzat 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.

Since its inception in 2000, PISA 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.

This is the first time Cambodia has participated in the programme. The initiative is led and partially funded by the education ministry, with additional financial contributions from the multi-country Capacity Development Partnership Fund (CDPF), which consists of the EU, USAID, Swedish Development Cooperation Agency, Global Partnership for Education and UNICEF.

PISA data will enable the ministry to target its interventions, 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, which was also supported by CDPF, clearly identified the severe learning loss suffered by students because of school closures.

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