National learning assessments are not comparable across countries due to differences in curriculum objectives, coverage of constructs and sub-constructs, assessment frameworks, and items used.
The Policy Linking methodology is a non-statistical method that uses judgment to align and match items from the national assessment with the Global Proficiency Framework (GPF). This process establishes the internationally comparable global benchmarks based on the descriptors of each benchmark specified in the GPF.
The Global Proficiency Framework is a useful global reference defining proficiency levels for reading and mathematics that learners are expected to demonstrate at the end of each grade level, from grades 1 to 9, as common reference. The four levels outlined in the GPF – Below Partially Meets, Partially Meets, Meets, and Exceeds Global Minimum Proficiency – form a common scale from low to high achievement. The GPF helps to detect gaps/misalignment and provides a global reference for revising standards, curricula, materials, teacher training, and assessments.
Three major tasks – alignment, matching and setting benchmarks – have to be done in a workshop of 5-6 days with 15-20 panelists (teachers), curriculum and assessment experts of each grade/subject, to identify and set, if feasible, the required benchmarks for international reporting on SDG indicator 4.1.1(*): Proportion of children and young people (a) in grades 2/3; (b) at the end of primary; and (c) at the end of lower secondary achieving at least a minimum proficiency level in (i) reading and (ii) mathematics, by sex.
To produce reliable benchmarks for international reporting, the Policy Linking Toolkit (PLT) specifies five criteria. These include ensuring a sufficient number of national items are aligned with the GPF; samples are nationally representative; and national assessments are administered according to minimum quality standards. If the criteria are not met, the workshop will be considered a capacity building activity.
The Policy Linking methodology was proposed during the Global Alliance to Monitor Learning (GAML) meeting in 2017, piloted in 2019 for the first time, revised in 2020 and piloted again in 2021–2022. The PLT was then revised in January 2023.
(*)The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is not using Policy Linking results to report on SDG 4.1.1 as the tool is still in a piloting phase.