New Pacific-led assessment on the horizon


The 10th Meeting of the Pacific Islands Literacy and Numeracy Assessment (PILNA) steering committee, endorsed and noted in May the progress of the newly established Pacific Assessment for Lower Secondary (PALS).

The PALS covers a range of knowledge and skills deemed fundamental by Pacific leaders of education as it would lead to the development of students, enabling them to become active contributors to society and become lifelong learners.

The Pacific Community’s (SPC) Educational Quality and Assessment Programme (EQAP) convened virtual consultations earlier this year to determine the scope of PALS and the anticipated timelines for activities for 2023 and 2024.

One of the drivers underpinning the design of the PALS is the regional collaboration on the ‘Blue Pacific’ agenda.

Gemma Escott, EQAP Educational Assessment Specialist, highlighted that “PALS acts to support the Blue Pacific agenda by embedding a scientific theme within each of the assessment domains with a particular focus on climate change and sustainability. This does not just happen within the assessment itself, we are also exploring students’ attitudes to these challenges through the use of the background contextual questionnaires that are administered with the test”.

Analysis of the data will help to develop our understanding of what our students know and enable us to focus on and strengthen this knowledge, equipping our future leaders with the knowledge and skills to tackle these challenges into the future,” she added.

The Steering Committee, consisting of representatives from 15 member countries, after a constructive discussion, agreed that the new assessment would be rolled out at Year 9 level and approved the proposed domains that will be trialled later this year. These domains included science, reading, writing, numeracy, science practical and critical thinking.

Similar to PILNA, PALS will have two components of the assessment. The first component is the traditional pen-and-paper assessment that will be carried out by students, with the second being the contextual questionnaires that will be used to capture students’ attitudes, mindset and self-efficacy. 

The questionnaires will also follow the traditional pen-and-paper mode for the pilots and may move to an online version as the assessment develops.

Vanuatu’s Director for Tertiary Education and Chair of the Steering Committee, John Kaltau, explained that “we have passed a motion to endorse the new lower secondary assessment design and its contextual questionnaires. The assessment and the questionnaires will be piloted in Fiji, Vanuatu, Palau and Niue”.

The Pacific’s education leaders have agreed to have four schools from Fiji in pilot 1 of the assessment later in 2023. Three countries representing each sub-region will be part of pilot 2 of the assessment in 2024. These countries will include Palau (Micronesia) with three schools, Vanuatu (Melanesia) with 3 schools and Niue (Polynesia).

Niue’s PILNA National Coordinator and representative to the steering committee, Carol Edwards, stressed that “The Lower Secondary Assessment is a good pilot that we will be doing. That is why Niue put up their hands to be one of the pilot countries next year because I feel it will be beneficial for our children as well as for children around the Pacific so that we are able as leaders of the Pacific to better provide programmes that will be beneficial regardless of where your position is in the region. It will assist all children”.

PALS is aligned with the “Student Outcomes and Wellbeing” component of the Pacific Regional Education Framework (PacREF). The framework is narrowly focused, demand-responsive and built on the need to develop the region’s capacity to deliver high-quality education services.

The first pilot of the assessment will be carried out in October 2023, while the second pilot will be carried out in the second quarter of 2024.

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