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Alignment in Complex Education Systems: Achieving Balance and Coherence


  • Janet Looney


The majority of OECD countries now implement one form or another of standards-based assessment and evaluation. The core logic of standards-based systems rests upon the alignment of three key elements: standards defining the knowledge and skills – or competences – students are expected to have attained at different stages of their education; curricula, which cover the objectives identified in standards; and student assessments and school evaluations which measure attainment of standards. If systems are misaligned, it is impossible to draw valid conclusions about the success of student learning or to develop effective strategies for school improvement. Yet, no system can achieve perfect alignment. This report proposes that rather than thinking of alignment literally, as a lining up of the various elements and actors across systems, it may be more appropriate to approach it as a matter of balance and coherence. The discussion touches on both the technical and social dimensions of alignment. La majorité des pays de l’OCDE met désormais en oeuvre un système d’évaluation fondé sur des normes, quelle que soit la forme de ce système. La logique de base des systèmes d’évaluation fondés sur des normes repose sur l’alignement de trois éléments clés : des normes définissant les connaissances et les compétences que les élèves sont censés avoir acquis à différents stades de leur éducation; des programmes qui couvrent les objectifs identifiés dans les normes ; et des évaluations des étudiants et des écoles, qui mesurent le niveau des normes. Si les éléments clés de ces systèmes sont mal alignés, il est impossible de tirer des conclusions valables sur la réussite de l’apprentissage des élèves ou de développer des stratégies efficaces pour l’amélioration des écoles. Cependant, aucun système ne peut parvenir à un alignement parfait. Ce rapport propose qu’au lieu de penser l’alignement de manière littérale, à savoir une succession de divers éléments et d’acteurs au travers des systèmes, il serait plus approprié de l’aborder en termes d’équilibre et de cohérence. La discussion porte sur les dimensions techniques et sociales de l’alignement.

Suggested Citation

  • Janet Looney, 2011. "Alignment in Complex Education Systems: Achieving Balance and Coherence," OECD Education Working Papers 64, OECD Publishing.
  • Handle: RePEc:oec:eduaab:64-en

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