Policy & Assessment

Gates Foundation Takes Ed Data Focus International

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in its latest "Goalkeepers Report" pushed for greater use of assessment data in education, pointing to success in Vietnam, which has proven to be an outlier in math, reading and science test scores. Goalkeepers is a campaign for tracking progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

This year's campaign focused its education coverage on the how well young people globally are achieving minimum proficiency in core subjects, and the innovations that are helping them do that. Vietnam stands out, in particular, according to the report. Although the country's gross domestic product per capita is relatively low, its "15-year-olds outperform students from wealthy countries like the United Kingdom and the United States on international tests." When Vietnam's test scores are plotted against GDP, the results reside high and outside the norm in math, reading and science.

While ongoing research continues to explore why that is, wrote Ashish Dhawan in his article for the report, there are three "key traits" that explain at least some of the success. Dhawan is the chairman of Central Square Foundation, a non-profit in New Delhi working to deliver a quality education for all children in India. According to Dhawan, Vietnam holds "very clear expectations about the foundational skills in math and reading that every primary school student should master." Also, teachers themselves "believe that all children, no matter how poor, can and must learn" and "hold themselves accountable for results." Last, schools "analyze data routinely to track progress and change course when necessary."

How Vietnam scored on international tests in 2015, compared to other countries, per capita GDP. Source: "Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data 2018," Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

How Vietnam scored on international tests in 2015, compared to other countries, per capita GDP. Source: "Goalkeepers: The Stories Behind the Data 2018," Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

The focus on applying data is nothing new. When the foundation announced last year that it was investing $1.7 billion into education programs around the world, Bill Gates emphasized that data played a big role in identifying precisely where the problems and solutions exist at a local level and driving "continuous improvement."

Gates told reporters in a recent press briefing that his foundation would support development of new data systems for comparing student outcomes around the world, according to reporting by Phys.org, a science news service. Currently, he noted, too few countries collect enough data points to be able to identify where their "learning crisis" is. The latest Gatekeeper report stated that under a third of countries (28 percent) track data on three important measures related to education: the percent of young people in grades 2 and 3, at the end of primary school (grade 5), and the end of "lower secondary" school who achieve at least a minimum level in reading and mathematics, by gender.

The Goalkeepers report is openly available on the Gates Foundation website; recordings of a live presentation of the goals is available on Facebook.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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