Queen Rania Foundation

ASSESSMENTS TO SUPPORT EARLY GRADE ARABIC LANGUAGE LEARNING

The fourth in a series of conversations on Advancing Arabic Language Teaching and Learning explored challenges and opportunities in monitoring the trajectory of children’s development of literacy in the early grades. Consideration was given to assessment practices related to the development of literacy skills in the early grades of school, and the use of various assessment approaches to understand young learners’ progression and needs.

This note summarizes the key points and recommendations on these topics from the World Bank’s report on Advancing Arabic Language Teaching Learning: A Path to Reducing Learning Poverty in MENA.

Key points

  1. Appropriate assessment of student progress and achievement from the start of formal schooling all the way to graduation is fundamental to enhancing learning.
  2. There may be a lack of awareness across governments and the public of the severity of the problem of low learning outcomes in the Arabic language in MENA countries.
    1. Governments without well-functioning national assessment systems to track student performance, monitor Arabic language learning standards, and a national literacy strategy are left in the dark.
    2. Absence of effective national assessment systems may contribute to the disconnect between beliefs about the effectiveness of Arabic language teaching and learning and the actual outcomes, as shown by international assessments of student learning such as Early Grade Reading Assessments (EGRA), the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
  3. Diagnostic assessments in earlier grades can help guide teachers in their planning of lessons and support to individual students and groups of students. They can also support selection of students for remedial support. Several MENA countries have used EGRAs. Whether a nationally developed reading assessment, an existing or adapted EGRA, or a commercially available assessment tool is used, linking to curriculum standards supports interpretation of the results.
  4. Not being able to adequately assess student progress may result in teachers moving on through the curriculum before students have mastered the prerequisite skills. This is particularly important for reading given that it is a gateway to further learning and opportunities for children.
    1. Parents may have limited or inaccurate information on their children’s achievements, thereby not knowing when additional support for their child is needed.
    2. Ministries of education may be unaware of overall achievement levels in relation to expected standards, or whether these are improving or declining, or whether certain groups of students require additional attention and support.
  5. National and international student assessments: Some countries have developed and implemented sample-based, large-scale assessments of Arabic at the primary-school level to gauge national and sometimes subnational levels of reading achievement. In the MENA region, these tend to have been intermittent and unpublished.

Recommendations

  1. Informal classroom assessment: To help teachers “check for understanding” daily, build activities into lesson plans, determine student understanding of new concepts using good questioning techniques, and apply reading assessments periodically. Teachers need to know the degree to which their students are attaining the subskills that makeup reading in line with the curriculum standards. A good understanding of children’s levels of reading skills, and of their interests and experiences, can help teachers and parents engage and motivate reluctant readers by providing appropriately levelled reading materials.
  2. Diagnostic assessments: Encourage teachers to use diagnostic assessment to understand learners’ needs, guide lesson planning, and identify children requiring additional or specialist support. Provide clear guidance on the actions that teachers and parents should take based on the outcomes of such assessments.
  3. To check for the attainment of key reading skills, brief screening checks can alert teachers and parents to aspects of reading and writing that the child may be struggling with. A simple screening check can be an alternative to the in-depth EGRA, implemented informally in regular classes, and giving “just-in-time” information to teachers and parents on children’s progress toward becoming readers. These can be aggregated to inform those responsible for curriculum, teacher training, education policies, and so forth.

The Conversation