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Program aims to mainstream continuous assessment in the education system through capacity building

Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has recently conducted a visit to Zambia led by Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer, to announce the launch of a new AED 1.8 million (USD 489,773) program that aims to mainstream continuous assessment in the education system by building the capacity of personnel in the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education (MESVTEE). The program provides policy makers and teachers the tools and skills they need to measure what children are learning and uses findings to improve the quality of learning, responding to the fundamental questions set by the Learning Metrics Task Force (LMTF).

Dubai Cares has been supporting the LMTF since 2012, contributing to the development of learning metrics for delivering quality education and establishing a defined mechanism to influence the post-2015 education framework. In February 2012, Dubai Cares hosted the second LMTF meeting in Dubai to identify common learning goals in order to improve learning opportunities for children and youth across the world. Currently, Dubai Cares is supporting developing countries with the adoption of LMTF recommendations, enabling them to measure a more holistic set of learning outcomes. In Zambia, the LMTF seeks to support the Zambian government in implementing a framework to improve the quality of schooling across the country, and to provide equal opportunities for young girls to receive an education.

In accordance with the findings of the first phase of the LMTF, in 2013 under the Zambia Education Curriculum Framework, the country implemented its first annual numeracy and literacy competence assessments at primary level.  This marked a major achievement in the development of creating a framework for the Zambian government and education authorities to assess the quality of schooling.

Social and cultural barriers to schooling are more prominent among girls growing up in rural areas in Zambia.  To help address this issue, Dubai Cares launched this program in partnership with Campaign for Female Education (Camfed), an international non-profit organization which invests in the education of girls and young women in impoverished rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

During the field trip leading up to the launch of this program, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares said: “Providing a framework for the assessment of learning is vital as we cannot manage or improve what we cannot measure. Dubai Cares, in coordination with the Examinations Council of Zambia, is committed to providing policy makers and teachers with the capacity needed to accurately measure the learning outcomes of children at every level of their education, and to use these findings to improve the quality of schooling, particularly in rural areas of Zambia where resources are limited.”

“Through a standardized monitoring, evaluation and learning system, children and schools in need of additional support can be identified and all members of the education system can strive towards improving standards and levels of attainment. As part of the second phase of LMTF which we support through this program and our implementing partner Camfed, I am proud to say that more than 5,370 children, 75 teachers and 309 support staff in Zambia will benefit from the program, and the wider impact will be far greater, with an estimated 3.2 million children benefitting indirectly from the investment and framework delivered,” continued Al Gurg.

Dorothy Kasanda, Director of Partnerships, Camfed Zambia said: “Camfed is delighted to partner with Dubai Cares to support the Ministry of General Education in Zambia to improve learning outcomes of school pupils across the country. With the funding from Dubai Cares, we will be helping teachers to integrate continuous assessment techniques into their work. We will train an expert team of trainers at national, provincial and district levels, who will in turn reach teachers across the country. The project will provide a model for learning and replication across the region, and is an important contributor to the Sustainable Development Goal of improving the quality of learning for marginalized children.”

The need for academic assessment in Zambia is particularly important as the country’s education system is struggling to meet the needs of its predominantly rural population.  Nationwide, despite rising enrolment rates in primary schooling from 70% in 2000 to 94% in 2013 as provided by UNESCO statistics, the quality of education in Zambia remains problematic. It is estimated that only 38% of children in primary 5 reach expected standards in mathematics; the figure is just 35% in English language.

The academic achievement of children in rural areas is expected to be much lower as under-resourced schools, undeveloped teachers and a distinct gender bias in rural schools have led to a disjunction in the learning outcomes of boys and girls, and in particular girls from rural communities. As a result of a lack of funding and resources, teacher retention is low in rural schools as teachers struggle to manage the demands of the classroom and the needs of their students without adequate tools to monitor and support their learning effectively.

As part of the program, Dubai Cares and Camfed will work with the Examinations Council of Zambia, the MESVTEE, and other key stakeholders to develop and deliver the necessary training to adequately assess children at primary school level across Zambia, and in particular the Western Province. Activities will include training core support teams at provincial and district levels to create a clear and robust structure for cascade training and coaching. Working with key stakeholders to develop the Quality Assurance Framework for the training will also form a key part of the program, which will provide the support teams with the tools needed to implement ongoing monitoring and assessment in schools.

In addition, the framework will be used to develop a case study for dissemination across other countries in the region. Following the LMTF’s annual conference that took place in Zambia in early February 2016, Zambia has been appointed as the Learning Champion for the Anglophone countries in Africa and will play a leadership role in disseminating knowledge.

- Dubai Cares