OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education

2223-0955 (online)
2223-0947 (print)
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How can assessment and evaluation policies work together more effectively to improve student outcomes in primary and secondary schools? The country reports in this series analyse major issues facing evaluation and assessment policy to identify improvements that can be made to enhance the quality, equity and efficiency of school education.

OECD Reviews of Evaluation and Assessment in Education: Mexico 2012

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Paulo Santiago, Isobel McGregor, Deborah Nusche, Pedro Ravela , Diana Toledo
06 Nov 2012
9789264172647 (PDF) ;9789264172630(print)

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This book provides, from an international perspective, an independent analysis of major issues facing the educational evaluation and assessment framework, current policy initiatives, and possible future approaches in Mexico.

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  • Foreword

    This report for Mexico forms part of the OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes (see Annex A for further details). The purpose of the Review is to explore how systems of evaluation and assessment can be used to improve the quality, equity and efficiency of school education. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation.

  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    Student learning outcomes in Mexico are considerably below the OECD average. However, trend analyses of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results have shown some encouraging improvement in student learning outcomes, particularly in the area of mathematics. Despite the impressive expansion of the education system in the last few decades, educational attainment remains a challenge and the high share of students leaving the education system too early with low skills remains also a major problem. In addition, there are indications that student results are strongly influenced by socio-cultural factors. The role of evaluation and assessment as key tools to achieve quality and equity in education is reinforced by a range of policy initiatives. Mexico has recently introduced an extensive curricular reform to improve the coherence of the system and its focus on student achievement: the Comprehensive Reform of Basic Education (RIEB). Also, the federal government funds public education partly through targeted educational programmes, which typically include an important evaluation component. While there are provisions for evaluation and assessment at student, teacher, school and system levels, challenges remain in strengthening some of the components of the evaluation and assessment framework, in ensuring articulations within the framework to ensure consistency and complementarity, and in establishing improvement-oriented evaluation practices. The following priorities were identified for the development of evaluation and assessment policies in Mexico.

  • School education in Mexico

    The governance of schools is largely decentralised with states taking most responsibility as school providers. This follows the 1992 National Agreement for the Modernisation of Basic Education signed between the federal government, the state government and the National Union of Education Workers, which transferred the operation of federal basic education to state governments. However, the federal government through the Secretariat for Public Education (SEP) is responsible for national education policy and the overall strategy for the education system. The SEP regulates areas such as funding, evaluation and administration of education personnel. It retains normative authority to assure the uniformity of education services across the country and guarantee their national character. Other major players include the National Council of Educational Authorities (CONAEDU), which assumes responsibilities for educational planning and co-ordination of decision making among the federal government and the states; the National Institute for Educational Assessment and Evaluation (INEE); the National Assessment Centre for Higher Education (CENEVAL); the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy (CONEVAL); and the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE). Major features of the Mexican education system include: the dominance of half-day schooling; the difficult social contexts faced by schools; a deficient school infrastructure; numerous challenges facing the teaching profession; the limited school autonomy; and the considerable funding inequities. Student learning outcomes in Mexico are considerably below the OECD average in spite of some progress in the last decade. There are also concerns about strong social inequities in the school system. Major reforms were launched in recent years including the Comprehensive Reform of Basic Education (RIEB), the National Assessment of Academic Achievement in Schools (ENLACE) and a range of targeted federal educational programmes.

  • The evaluation and assessment framework

    Evaluation and assessment in Mexico operates at five key levels: (i) national system – namely through education indicators, national student assessments and international student surveys; (ii) state sub-systems – through education indicators and national student assessments; (iii) school – namely through student assessment-based accountability and oversight of school work by a supervision structure; (iv) teacher – in particular through promotion and incentive schemes; and (v) student – with instruments ranging from external national student assessments to on-going daily formative assessment in the classroom. The overall evaluation and assessment framework appears fragmented given that individual components have developed independently of each other over time. Particularly positive characteristics of the framework include the notable progress in granting prominence to evaluation and assessment; the range of recent initiatives to strengthen evaluation and assessment; the existence of common references at the national level; the implementation of a comprehensive reform of basic education with potential to generate lasting improvement in the education system; an emergent emphasis on equity and inclusion; the strong capacity at the national level; and the growing involvement of a diverse set of stakeholders in the evaluation and assessment framework. However, considerable challenges exist in building an effective evaluation and assessment framework. These include the incipient development of some key components; missing links between different elements of the framework; concerns about the governance of the evaluation and assessment framework; the limited emphasis on the improvement function of evaluation and assessment; a narrow conception of evaluation and assessment; the early stage of development of the alignment between the curricular reform and evaluation and assessment; and insufficient competencies for evaluation and assessment across the system.

  • Student assessment

    Student performance in Mexico is assessed by a wide range of instruments, ranging from national standardised assessments to continuous formative assessment in the classroom. All students are assessed in an on-going manner throughout the school year in each curriculum area or subject. Marks used to report student achievement are on a scale of 5 to 10. Assessment criteria and methods are defined by each teacher. There are also externally-based national final examinations at the end of both primary (Instrument for Testing New Lower Secondary School Students, IDANIS) and lower secondary education (National Upper Secondary Education Entrance Exam, EXANI I). These assessments serve diagnostic and selection (by school at the next level) functions. At the national level, there is also a full-cohort external assessment (National Assessment of Academic Achievement in Schools, ENLACE) which is used for diagnostic and improvement purposes but which has "high stakes" for teachers and schools. In basic education, ENLACE is administered annually to all students in third to ninth grades in Spanish and mathematics and a third subject which varies every year. A major asset is that assessment is seen as part of the professional role of teachers in Mexico. Other strengths include the introduction of a new comprehensive framework for classroom-based assessment; the progress made in aligning marks with expected learning outcomes; the good attention to reducing grade repetition; the promotion of the involvement of parents in their children’s learning; and the capacity for implementing large-scale assessments. However, considerable challenges exist in building effective student assessment approaches. These include the currently traditional approaches to teaching and assessment; the prevalence of teaching to the test across the school system; the excessive reliance on multiple-choice tests; the great number of objectives for ENLACE; marking practices with little pedagogical significance; the lack of consistency of student assessment across schools and classes; the limited capacities at the state and local levels to support classroom-based assessment; and the need to improve instruments for reporting marks.

  • Teacher appraisal

    In Mexico, teacher appraisal is comprehensive and consists of a range of components covering the different stages of a teacher’s career. Access to a permanent post is regulated through the National Teaching Post Competition which, at present, is based on a standardised examination: the National Examination of Teaching Knowledge and Skills. While in service the teacher can be appraised, on a voluntary basis, in three different situations: to access a promotion to a management post through the Vertical Promotion System; to access salary progression within each rank of the Vertical Promotion System through the National Teacher Career Programme; and to access collective and individual monetary stimuli based on student standardised assessments results through the Incentives Programme for Teacher Quality. In addition, the government is currently in the process of implementing a mandatory process of teacher appraisal covering all teachers, which is more formative in nature, the Universal Evaluation System. Particularly positive features of teacher appraisal include the general consensus about the need for teacher appraisal; the variety of mechanisms to appraise teachers and recognise good teacher performance; the efforts undertaken thus far to develop teaching standards; the introduction of the National Teaching Post Competition; and the existence of informal teacher appraisal practices in schools. However, the development of teacher appraisal is faced with a number of challenges. These include the lack of established teaching standards; the complexity and fragmentation of the overall framework for teacher appraisal; the improvement of teaching quality not being at the centre of teacher appraisal; the concerns raised by the use of student standardised assessments as an instrument; teacher appraisal not offering the same opportunities for all teachers; the absence of a clearly defined teacher career structure; the missing links between teacher appraisal, professional development and school development; and the limited involvement of state educational authorities and school leadership.

  • School evaluation

    There is no well-established, systematic approach to school evaluation in Mexico. School-level aggregated data, including results in ENLACE assessments, provide general information on student performance against state and national averages, but not on the context faced by schools. Schools are encouraged to engage in self-evaluation and advice and instruments are provided nationally. Involvement is voluntary except in those cases where the school takes part in one of the federal education programmes, such as the Quality Schools Programme. No systematic external school evaluation exists. There is a long-established tradition of oversight of school work by supervisors and other personnel external to the school, but their role has been largely associated with ensuring schools’ compliance with regulations and other administrative tasks. Particularly positive features of school evaluation include the increasing policy attention to school evaluation; the growing emphasis on training in school leadership; the support for school self-evaluation provided at the federal level; the potential of existing human resources to evaluate schools and promote improvement; and the potential of the new management information system (RNAME) to include both quantitative and qualitative evaluative statements at individual school level. The key challenges for Mexico are to improve the role and function of supervisors; introduce more systematic school-level evaluation; build capacity among directors, other school leaders and school supervisors; ensure more focus on the quality of learning and teaching and not only outcomes in tests; provide greater levels of autonomy to schools; improve the appraisal of school leaders; and establish clear lines of accountability for the ways in which that autonomy is exercised.

  • Education system evaluation

    The Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) is responsible for the overall monitoring and evaluation of the education system with the support of the National Institute for Educational Assessment and Evaluation (INEE). A range of tools are used to monitor performance of the education system. Information on student learning outcomes is collected from Educational Quality and Achievement Tests (EXCALE) at the end of pre-primary education and in grades 3, 6, 9 and 12 covering Spanish, mathematics, natural sciences and social sciences. The monitoring system also includes a range of statistics on education based on snapshot data collected from schools on a standardised format. These are the basis for annual publications with system-level indicators on education. Also, international benchmarks of student performance provided by international student surveys such as PISA have been influential in driving policy development at the system level. Individual states complement national level initiatives with their own approaches to the evaluation of their sub-system and some have created an evaluation institute. Particularly positive features of system evaluation include the attention it receives within educational policy; the well established national statistics and registry system; the existence of credible system-wide information on student learning outcomes; the autonomous perspective of a national institute dedicated to education system evaluation; and the significant efforts to systematically undertake programme evaluations. However, system evaluation is faced with a number of challenges. These include the room to better exploit system-level information; the limited internal accountability of states; the need to strengthen the relevance of EXCALE; the limited attention to thematic studies; some data gaps in the national monitoring system such as the socio-economic context of schools; and the non-systematic use of programme evaluation.

  • Conclusions and recommendations
  • Annex A. The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes

    The OECD Review on Evaluation and Assessment Frameworks for Improving School Outcomes is designed to respond to the strong interest in evaluation and assessment issues evident at national and international levels. It provides a description of design, implementation and use of assessment and evaluation procedures in countries; analyses strengths and weaknesses of different approaches; and provides recommendations for improvement. The Review looks at the various components of assessment and evaluation frameworks that countries use with the objective of improving student outcomes. These include student assessment, teacher appraisal, school evaluation and system evaluation. The Review focuses on primary and secondary education.

  • Annex B. Visit programme
  • Annex C. Composition of the Review Team

    Isobel McGregor has 40 years of experience working in education in Scotland and beyond as a teacher, local education adviser and education officer, and as a member of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE). Isobel inspected in all sectors of education (except university), leading many tasks and specialising in quality improvement, self-evaluation and leadership, as well as in her original field of foreign languages. She had a significant role in the development of quality indicators for inspection and self-evaluation. She undertook international work and led in the production of a key report on Scottish education (Improving Scottish Education, HMIE, 2006). Since 2006, Isobel has acted as an independent educational consultant in many locations including Argentina, Chile, France, Germany, Italy, Macedonia and Japan. She has been involved in reviewing education in several Districts in Connecticut and in schools in New York. Since 2009 she has worked part-time for the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates (SICI) as the co-ordinator of activities relating to SICI’s Inspection Academy and leading SICI’s involvement in a European Social Fund sponsored project to train education inspectors in Romania.

  • Annex D. Comparative indicators on evaluation and assessment
  • Annex E. Instruments for teacher appraisal
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