Yangyel Lhaden

The National Education Assessment Framework (NEAF), launched yesterday in Thimphu, is expected to help Bhutan Council for School Examinations and Assessment (BCSEA) assess and monitor Bhutan’s school education system.

National Education Assessment was being carried out since 2004 but there was no framework to assess indicators relevant to Bhutanese school education system. In 2017, BCSEA conducted Programme for International Students Assessment for Development (PISA-D) which revealed that the average solution rate in Bhutan was 45.34 percent in reading literacy, 38.84 percent in mathematical literacy, and 45.10 percent in scientific literacy.

The result, however, was dropped because Bhutan had registered late for PISA-D which gave limited time to prepare and adapt questions in Bhutanese context.

The Bhutan Education Blueprint (BEBP) 2014-2024 mandates that the country participate in an international assessment and to tune its national assessments to the international benchmarks. It also calls for revamping the assessment system to attain desired competencies at various levels, as the assessment system in Bhutan has enabled students to replicate only content knowledge.

NEAF addresses the issues that the earlier NEA cycles faced and provides information on instrument development, sampling procedures, assessment designs and data analysis, among others. It outlines the assessment programme and explicitly states the characteristics and principles upon which the assessment is built.

Principal Education Monitoring Officer of BCSEA, Arjun Kumar Gurung, said that NEAF was the result of many consultation meetings among the stakeholders “to develop a robust framework to mitigate the challenges in conducting valid and reliable national education assessment.”

Among others, the NEAF is expected to help gather reliable data to identify trends and growth in educational achievement over a period of time, provide timely feedback to guide policy development and intervention design and provide independent review of students’ achievement in relation to curriculum standards.

The assessment also aims to address equity with inclusion of children with disabilities.

Education Minister Jai Bir Rai said that there was a need for nationally-routed, globally-accepted assessment in the country and NEAF would help monitor the health of education and behavior of youth and advise interventions.

“Education ministry also plans to access teachers, as they are equally important in quality of education and nurturing students,” Lyonpo Jai Bir Rai said.

National education assessment will assess the students of key stages three, six, and nine on cognitive domains of English reading literacy, English writing literacy, Dzongkha Reading Literacy, Dzongkha writing literacy, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy.

Students would also be assessed, among others, on values and attitudes and “21st century competencies” aligned with nine student attributes identified by BEBP.

National education assessment will be conducted in 2021 in a three-year cycle model for grade three students. This means, in 2024, same batch of students in grade six would be accessed with new batch of grade three.

Systematic sample would be used to identify representative sample size and report on the subgroups of interest.

The gap between the grades will be same as the number of years of interval in each cycle. This model will ensure that  the same cohort is tracked to identify long-term interventions in school education in Bhutan.