Senegal’s participation in the international PISA-D assessment, which was officially inaugurated in Dakar on January 16, 2015, signals the country’s commitment to ensuring that its youth receive quality education and acquire the competencies needed for a global economy.
“This offers our country the opportunity to improve its evaluation system and align with international standards by comparing Senegalese students with those of other countries in the world to better understand what has been acquired in terms of knowledge, skills, and competencies. This will also allow us to readjust teaching methods in order to achieve significant improvements in the quality of student learning,” said Serigne Mbaye Thiam, Senegal’s minister of education.
As countries are increasingly differentiated between those with sound education systems that produce individuals with high-value competencies, and those without, it is crucial for countries to participate in international assessments such as the PISA-D in order to evaluate these competencies, benchmark their performance, and produce concrete data that can inform policy decisions designed to improve education systems.
More specifically, the PISA-D evaluates whether or not students have the competencies required for the 21st century and lifelong learning. It also allows comparisons across education systems and facilitates the sharing of successful approaches to address systemic problems. In addition to benchmarking, such assessments also provide policy-related evidence. Countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Mexico and Tunisia, for example, have used the results of the PISA to better target weaknesses in their education systems leading to significant improvements in student learning outcomes.
By incorporating PISA-D into its national evaluation system, Senegal will be able to measure the returns on investments made in education. With the recent implementation of a free ten-year compulsory education – this assessment will provide an opportunity to see the impact of that reform.
Senegal’s participation in PISA-D will build on national and regional efforts. The Conference for Education Ministers of Francophone States (Conférence des ministres de l’Éducation des États et gouvernements de la Francophonie or CONFEMEN) has already endorsed the shared goals of the Education Systems Analysis Program (Programme d’analyse des systèmes éducatifs de la CONFEMEN or PASEC) with PISA, stressing the importance of such evaluations for French-speaking countries in Africa and elsewhere. Senegal has already benefited from strong evaluation programs conducted by its National Institute for Study and Action for Development in Education (INEADE) and the stakes and challenges are increasing as the country is shifting from a focus on basic knowledge acquisition to the development of core competencies for globalization.
“Effective policies on education quality require a clear vision and accurate data obtained through routine monitoring of achievements and progress, which is where the PISA-D comes in as a very valuable assessment tool,” noted Raja Bentaouet Kattan, Program Leader for human development at the World Bank Group.
Capacity building under the PISA-D initiative will ultimately result in high-quality evaluations, which, in turn, will enable better strategic, pedagogic, and policy decisions.
The value of PISA-D for Senegal is to accelerate the pace of improvement of its education system rather than merely rank the country. While the original PISA assessment is geared towards OECD countries, PISA-D in particular seeks to increase developing countries’ use of the international assessment. The three-year project aims to determine the manner in which PISA can contribute to the improvement of evidence-based public policies in Africa, Asia and Latin America. PISA-D differs from PISA in that the survey instrument and approaches will be adapted to developing countries’ contexts and will measure competencies for the 15-year-old cohort both in and out of school. In addition, it will include capacity building to enable countries to implement this complex international survey and allow them to benefit from peer-to-peer learning from similar countries around the world.
Quality education is one of the cornerstones of Senegal’s development and economic growth. In strengthening its education system, the country ensures a better economic and social future for its people.