How Much is Learning Measurement Worth?

Assessment Costs in Low-Income Countries

By Daniel A. Wagner, Andrew Babson, and Katie M. Murphy

Issues in Comparative Education

Timely and credible data on student learning has become a global issue in the ongoing effort to improve educational outcomes. With the potential to serve as a powerful diagnostic tool to gauge the overall health and well-being of an educational system, educational assessments have received increasing attention among specialists and the media. Though the stakes are high, relatively little is known about the cost-benefit ratio of various assessments compared to other educational expenditures. This paper presents an overview of four major types of assessments—national, regional, international and hybrid—and the costs that  each has incurred within 13 distinct contexts, especially in low-income countries. The findings highlight broad variation in the total cost of assessment and the cost-per-learner. This underscores the importance of implementation strategies that appropriately consider scale, timeliness, and cost-efficiency as critical considerations for any assessment.