From education to employment

Software giants call for reform of global educational assessments

Three leading software manufacturers have launched plans to transform global education with a new multi-sector research project aimed at improving assessment.

Cisco, Intel and Microsoft will examine assessment methodologies and technologies, effective learning environments, and replicable ICT-enabled teaching in the hope of creating new versions of the international benchmarks: PISA and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Anoop Gupta, Corporate Vice President, Technology Policy and Strategy for Microsoft, said: "Reforming assessment is essential to enabling any systemic change in education. And change on a global scale is required to equip students of today with the skills they need to succeed in the workforce of tomorrow."

The research study, first unveiled at the recent Learning and Technology World Forum, has been backed by the International Association of the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and the OECD.

A spokesperson for Microsoft explained: "The primary focus of this project is the large international assessments, such as PISA and TIMSS, which impact schools in all OECD and other countries.

"By impacting and better aligning these assessments it will directly affect the skills and competencies that students arrive into further education, the skills and competencies that employers expect the education system to deliver, and requirements for further education to enhance these skills and competencies as part of their courses and student experience.

"Keep in mind that Microsoft, Cisco and Intel are not determining what is wrong with current educational assessment, nor do they presume to have a definition what 21st century skills are. It is the purpose of the project that Barry McGaw is heading up to define 21st century skills and explore how to measure them.


"That said, Microsoft, Cisco and Intel do see the need to make sure that schools teach the skills and knowledge that students will need in the workforce. The alliance companies and their respective customers saw an unmet need and a risk of market failure in this critical area.

"The project will focus on assessment because the structure of current assessments worldwide mirrors, and also profoundly shapes, what is taught in schools and how it is taught. The imbalance between the skills students learn through school and what they’ll need in the workplace must be resolved if education systems are to address the economic and social needs of the 21st century.

"By helping establish an internationally recognised method of assessing those skills, we hope to stimulate interest around the world in new approaches to teaching and learning; and an exemplar assessment framework that individual countries can use or draw on with confidence."

Mr Gupta added: "Through this collaboration, we hope to inspire others to join the mission because we believe that, together, we can make greater impact towards ensuring students of today are better prepared for the workforce of tomorrow."

Seamus Hegarty, Chair of the IEA said: "This reflects the changes in learning environments and the potential of technology to enhance the teaching and learning process."

Jason Seebaruth

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