Riyadh (UNA-OIC) – The International Conference on Education and Training Evaluation, which is organized virtually by the Education and Training Evaluation Commission (ETEC) under the patronage of Chairman of the ETEC Board of Directors Dr. Ahmed Al-Issa, kicked off in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday.
The two-day conference is held under the theme “Improving Learning Outcomes and Supporting Economic Growth”, in partnership with the G20 Saudi Secretariat
In his opening speech, Al-Issa expressed gratitude and appreciation to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the continuous and unlimited support to the education and training sector in general and the ETEC in particular, and for supporting its development projects aimed at evaluating education and training and improving their quality. He added that this international conference, which is organized by the ETEC every two years, has become a global platform, through which different ideas and visions about the mechanisms of evaluating and improving education and training are developed.
The ETEC chairman noted that much of the anxiety related to the quantitative aspects of education has disappeared, while the challenge of education quality remains daunting. He cited the scientific evidence that education economist Eric Hanushek will present at the conference on the link between education and economic growth, and how the quality of education related to the performance of each country’s students in international tests is the real influence in supporting the economy. He also explained that the number of years of education or enrollment rates in educational institutions is no longer as influential as they were in the last century.
The Saudi official indicated that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have changed, as after they were aimed at improving enrollment rates in education, they have focused on quality, and that honest evaluation will remain the starting point towards improving the quality of education.
Al-Issa explained that education in Saudi Arabia enjoys special care, so the resources allocated to education have not been affected during the coronavirus pandemic, and spending levels remained the same, but rather education resources have been enhanced to shift towards distance education, which necessitated providing information and communication technologies and remote communication programs. He pointed out that the quality of education is a fundamental pillar of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, stressing that this vision prompts the human being to be the main engine of economic, social and cultural development.
For his part, ETEC President Dr. Husam Zaman reviewed the Commission’s experience during the pandemic in the continuation of the evaluation processes, and its interest to accelerate the digital transformation of all its work. He noted that the continuation to hold the conference reflects the ETEC’s keenness on investing in the year of the Saudi G20 Presidency, and highlight the Kingdom’s pioneering and international efforts to battle the pandemic in various fields, especially in the field of education evaluation and improvement of the quality of its outputs.
On the implementation of the achievement test remotely, Dr. Zaman thanked the bodies that participated within the National Committee for Digital Transformation for their cooperation in making the matter successful. He noted that there were many lessons learned from implementing tests remotely, most importantly are the reduction of the direct and indirect costs without compromising the quality of implementation and shortening the time for announcing the test results, as well as remote testing platforms provided many analytical indicators, which contributes to developing the tests psychometrically.
The ETEC president also reviewed the Commission’s second experience on implementing institutional and programmatic assessment visits remotely and preparing their requirements, as the ETEC switched to using virtual visits in light of the pandemic conditions, suspension of work and travel difficulties.
He further shed light on the summary of an evaluation study that was carried out by the ETEC during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the aim of determining the quality of alternatives to teaching, learning, training, evaluation and accreditation processes in light of the pandemic. In addition to identifying the most important challenges that education and training institutions faced in switching to distance education during the pandemic, and recommendations were made for the sustainability of the quality of education and training operations.
Director for Education and Skills at the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Andreas Schleicher emphasized how difficult it is to evaluate what we cannot see or cannot measure in the field of education evaluation. He wondered about the possibility of transferring the application of what we have learned from a nation’s experience to another nation. Another, pointing out that Singapore’s experience confirms that the answer is positive.
Schleicher also affirmed that the family is very important to children and the educational system as a whole, to make students believe in their ability to change educational results and outputs, and to influence the quality and distribution of knowledge and skills. He, noted that evaluation and evaluation are related to work skills that people possess, the learning environment in the school, educational structures, as well as how to allocate and distribute resources and policies.