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FEATURE STORY December 16, 2019

READ – Russia’s Initiative to Improve Learning Outcomes is More Relevant than Ever


Russia has regularly demonstrated strong results in international assessments of education, including the most recent OECD PISA tests, thanks to concerted efforts to support better teaching and learning outcomes among the population.

But Russia has also played an important role in helping boost education results globally.

In 2008, the Russian Federation initiated the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) program, one of the first partnerships between the country and the World Bank, with a view to helping improve learning outcomes around the world through better measurement of student learning.

A decade later, the READ program is more relevant than ever. Many countries around the world continue to face a learning crisis – whereby hundreds of millions of children each year reach young adulthood without even the most basic skills. These young people are thus not equipped with the skills needed to succeed in increasingly competitive, technology-driven, and evolving labor markets. The long-term consequences for individuals and society are significant.

As such, the READ program has three main goals, associated with its three subprograms: 1) provide support on student assessment to developing countries, through the READ Trust Fund, 2) develop the capacity of Russia as an emerging donor in education, through the READ Reimbursable Advisory Service, and 3) facilitate Russia’s international development in education, through the Center for International Cooperation in Education Development.

To learn more about how READ is helping improve student learning, experts from Russia and countries around the world gathered in Moscow on 5-6 November 2019 to attend a conference titled Ten Years of Russia Education Aid for Development (READ): Impacts on Russia and the World.

Conference participants heard how fifteen countries across four regions – Europe & Central Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and Africa – have to date received targeted support from READ to improve their student assessment systems. With this support, nearly twenty assessment tools have been created, or revised. In Mozambique, for example, an assessment of early grade reading (Provinha) has been developed and administered across the country.

Nine new assessment-related policies have been developed, or adopted. Ethiopia, for example, has introduced a new school inspection framework and designation of budget lines for key assessment activities.

Over 40,000 policymakers, teachers, and practitioners around the world have been trained in key areas of student assessment. For instance, six country delegations were invited to Russia to study the country’s experience in establishing graduate degrees in student assessment – this subsequently led to formalized partnerships between universities in these countries and in Russia.

Currently, Russian experts are helping peers in Uzbekistan to prepare for the country’s first participation in an international assessment, PISA 2021. Similarly, experts in India recently agreed to pursue a peer learning arrangement with Russia, ahead of the same important assessment.

Through the READ program, several learning assessment resources have been made freely available to the public, designed mostly for teachers, policymakers, and assessment practitioners around the world. SABER-Student Assessment tools, for example, have been used to evaluate student assessment systems in over 60 countries. National Assessments of Educational Achievement publications have been translated into six languages to support the development of national assessment systems.

The Student Assessment for Policymakers and Practitioners eLearning, developed with support from the READ Trust Fund, is also a useful resource for learning about student assessment. More recently, the Public Examinations Examined publication – which looks at current issues related to high-stakes examinations – was launched at the READ conference in Moscow.

It is estimated that nearly 300 million children worldwide have benefitted from better education thanks to improved learning assessments supported by the READ program.

But, despite the progress achieved over the last ten years, many countries around the world still lack timely and accurate information on levels of student learning, which leads to poor education outcomes that limit people’s future opportunities for employment and earnings.

The READ program can help address these challenges by extending much-needed support to developing countries to enhance learning assessment.