Large Scale Assessments

May 2016

We are happy to share with you our first issue of the EdKnowledge Series, a monthly newsletter that shares knowledge on key thematic areas in the education sector. Through this newsletter, we hope to facilitate discussion on important issues like Assessments and Evaluation, School Leadership and EdTech.

The first volume of EdKnowledge is focused on Assessment and Evaluation in school education. As part of our ‘Expert Voice’ section in this newsletter, we welcome questions you may have on Assessments, to be answered by researchers and experts in this space. Please send in your questions, views and feedback to


  • Introduction to Large Scale Assessments: Educational Initiatives has developed a series of working papers providing valuable context on assessments in India. CSF’s report Guidelines for Large Scale Assessments also serves as a guide to the steps involved in assessment design, implementation, analysis and result dissemination.
  • Large-Scale Learning Assessments: A Handbook for the Indian Context: NCERT and RMSA-TCA, supported by ACER, have developed a comprehensive handbook to serve as a guide to planners, managers, policy makers as well as academic and technical staff engaged in large scale assessments. The handbook provides an introduction to the thirteen key areas of a robust large scale assessment.
  • Oral Reading Assessments: The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) led a collaborative project to formulate recommendations to guide practitioners when selecting, conducting and using oral reading assessments. The aim is to highlight basic principles that should be applied in the different stages of oral reading assessments—from planning and design to implementation and use of the resulting data.
  • Impact Evaluation MOOCs: This list, collated by J-PAL Global, provides information on MOOCs on impact evaluation skills. It covers a wide range of skills, from programming, to statistics, project management, and research protocols.
  • IIEP Learning Portal:UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) has put together a Learning Portal to help education planners evaluate and improve the quality of their programmes.

Expert Voice

In this volume, Sridhar Rajagopalan, co-founder, Educational Initiatives and Ratna Dhamija, India Manager, ACER share their perspectives on large scale assessments.

What are the different types of assessments in an education system (classroom assessments, examinations, large scale assessments)? What specific role does a large scale assessment play in this system?

Both Sridhar Rajagopalan and Ratna Dhamija highlight that assessments can be high stakes or low stakes. While a classroom assessment allows a teacher to better understand her student’s progress, a large scale assessment can provide several insights, e.g. allowing the system to understand performance against benchmarks, monitor trends and sub-group performance. Read more here.

The use of assessment data will be informed by the ultimate purpose of a large-scale assessment. How should states go about defining the purpose of their assessment? Can the purpose of this assessment evolve as the capacity for assessment in the state grows?

Sridhar emphasises that the challenge is that neither useful insights nor the ultimate purpose can be achieved unless the questions in an assessment and the assessment itself are designed well. There is a need to understand the technicalities of assessment much better than it is understood currently. Ratna also says that the objective of assessments should be linked with the education priorities or the initiatives launched by the state. Read more here.

How can a state build a comprehensive roadmap for large scale assessments? What should be the key elements of such a roadmap?

ACER has created a comprehensive 13-step approach to assessments, from setting policy goals to analysis for reporting. According to Sridhar, there should ideally be a plan to develop capacity which happens in parallel with a technical agency conducting the assessments and analysis. Read more here.

News and Updates

  • Smriti Irani, the HRD minister, recently tweeted plans for restructuring the National Assessment Survey (NAS). NAS will be done annually in all schools from classes 1 to 8 and will be competency based. NCERT is also designing a portal with videos to make learning outcomes more comprehensible.
  • Niti Aayog, in a presentation made to the PMO in March 2016, recommends that NAS be made an annual exercise, and that the focus of school education policies be driven by learning outcomes.
  • NCERT, under RMSA, has released results of the first NAS for Class X – its first assessment of student learning levels at the secondary stage. The summary report can be viewed here.
  • The results of Delhi’s State Learning Achievement Survey (SLAS) point to the low-level of achievement of students in the national capital. While 56% of the Class 2 students are able to attempt Mathematics test correctly, the number reduces to 28% in Class 8. The survey, conducted by SCERT for Classes 2, 5 and 8 in May last year, also included details about the children’s families, availability of resources and activities at home.
  • The Government of Maharashtra, in its 2015 Government Resolution, highlighted the need to regularly test and support the acquisition of grade and age-appropriate academic competencies in order to ensure that no child remains below grade level. To achieve this, the government has laid out the Pragat Shiksha Maharashtra (PSM) programme which will test each student for achievement of age/grade appropriate competencies through assessment tests, and plan remedial programmes according to the competencies of subjects where the student needs help.

Opinion Pieces

  • A recent Ideas For India e-symposium, by Rukmini Banerji and Ashok Kotwal, brought together key findings from recent research on school education in India, and experience-based insights from different stakeholders within the academic and civil society. The ideas presented in this series aim to provide important inputs into the formulation of the new education policy.
  • Alejandro Ganimian, J-PAL, writes on 10 years of ASER and the lessons it offers for developing countries
  • Anurag Behar argues that the effective use of assessment in education is for feedback into the learning process by helping teachers and students teach and learn better, rather than as a primary systemic lever for improvement in education.
  • Justin Sandefur, Centre for Global Development, makes a case for global standardised testing. Sandefur argues that standardised testing is an egalitarian concept which forces school systems to include all children. He also explains the roles and limitations of international assessments like PISA, as well as citizen-led efforts like ASER.