Aligning Learning Inputs to Global Norms (ALIGN) for Minimum Proficiency: Case Studies from Djibouti, Uzbekistan, Nigeria

he Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a commitment to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes (SDG 4.1). Performance on this goal is reported as the proportion of learners: “(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” (M. Gustafsson, 2019, p. 6). These SDG indicators are based on global research that highlights the critical contribution of foundational skills in reading and mathematics to learners’ overall academic performance (Juel, 1988; Wharton-McDonald et al., 1988; Duncan et al., 2007; Duncan & Magnuson, 2011; Watts et al., 2014; Claessens & Engel, 2013). They also apply research from health and development sectors indicating that foundational skills are essential to reducing social inequality and improving individuals’ social and economic security and well-being (OECD, 2010; UNESCO, 2016). The recent COVID-19 pandemic further underscored the importance of focusing on foundational skills. Studies show the pandemic has resulted in a 17 percent global increase in the number of ten-year-olds lacking basic skills to 70 million learners in 2021 alone (ONE Campaign, 2021). There is an urgent need to reverse this trend so every learner develops the foundational skills required to participate fully in their community’s social and economic life. That means using evidence-based approaches to identify where resources are most needed, both across countries and within a country, to address learning inequities and ensure that learners are able to demonstrate minimum proficiency levels. This panel presentation will show how the Align Learning Inputs to Global Norms (ALIGN) for Minimum Proficiency process can help address these needs. The ALIGN process is an evidence-based gap analysis that uses the Global Proficiency Framework (GPF) as a reference to determine if a country’s education system will enable learners to meet global norms in reading and mathematics. An ALIGN process focuses on four components: curriculum and standards, teaching and learning materials, teacher training, and assessment. The ALIGN process identifies potential gaps or misalignments in each of these four components and actions to address them. The ALIGN process was successfully piloted in four countries, Djibouti, Nigeria, and Uzbekistan.