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Ethiopian Second National Learning Assessment:

a success story
Zewdu Gebrekidan 1
The Ethiopian Second National Learning
Assessment (ESNLA) was conducted
in 2003/2004 academic year across the nation. It
was the continuation of the Ethiopian Baseline
National Learning Assessment (EBNLA)
conducted in 1999/2000 academic year. The main
purposes of ESNLA were to measure the
achievement levels of Grade 4 and Grade 8 students based on selected subjects and to
determine the major factors that affect academic achievement in our primary schools. The
project was completed on time and budget, with all features more or less as specified.
The major reasons for the success of the project were user involvement, top management
support, clear statement of requirements, proper planning, sufficient resource allocation
and competent project team members. Following are the milestones accomplished from
designing the project to reporting the findings.

1. Organization and Design

ESNLA was a joint venture of the National Organization for Examinations (NOE) and
AED BESOII financed by USAID. The study was started by forming a National
Advisory Committee (NAC) and a Technical Working Group (TWG). The NAC was
composed of:

1. Vice Minister of General Education Chairman

2. Manager of NOE Secretary
3. Region Education Bureau Heads Members
4. USAID Ethiopia Member
5. Institute of Curriculum Development and Research (ICDR) Member
6. Women’s Affair Department, MOE Member
7. Plan and Project Department, MOE Member
8. Education Program and Training Department, MOE Member

Zewdu Gebrekidan is a senior expert at NOE and a member of the TWG he can be reached at zewdugb@gmail.com
, zewdug_kidan@yahoo.com

The TWG was composed of eight professionals from National Organization for
Examinations and a technical advisor from AED/BESO-II. Members of the TWG had
been carrying out the day to day activities to their level best. The activities carried out
have been communicated among members on regular basis during the meetings
conducted twice a week and to NAC at different occasions and during consultation

2. Instrument Development

The major tasks of instrument development started, by reviewing what has been done
during EBNLA. Firstly curriculum auditing had been conducted followed by instrument
development and validation. Instrument validation workshop was conducted at Nazareth
and the participants were the TWG members, the subject experts from NOE and ICDR,
curriculum experts and teachers from regions. This was followed by translation of the
instruments in to Amharic, Afan Oromo and Tigrigna for the purpose of piloting. The
TWG members left for the regions and translations were conducted with the support of
region and zonal education offices at Adama, Debrebirhan and Mekele. Translation and
back translation of each instrument was conducted by two subject experts or subject
teachers in the presence of a TWG member in all cases.

3. Piloting of the Instruments

The pilot tests were administered in sixteen schools by drawing forty students from each
grade in every school. It was carried out by TWG members. Back in the office the data
were coded and item analysis was conducted. Based on the report of the item analysis
good items were retained and week ones modified or totally replaced without losing their
content and behavioral dimensions. This was followed by another round of translation
this time in all the fourteen instructional languages used in the study. The translation
process followed similar procedure and all the regions were involved under the
supervision of TWG members.

4. From Piloting to the Final

While the attitude tests and the questionnaires were still under the process of
development with the assistance of the external consultant. The task of finalizing the
achievement tests had been underway. Preparing a camera ready copy of four subjects in
fourteen languages for Grade 4 and five subjects in five languages for Grade 8 as well as
attitude tests, student’s questionnaires, teacher’s questionnaires, director’s questionnaires,
school checklist and focus group discussion and data collection guides was one of the
most painstaking activities. With the continuous support we got from the top
management and staff of NOE all these materials were printed and ready for dispatch on

5. Sampling and Data Collection

The sampling process was conducted with the assistance of the external consultant. The
planned samples of schools were 407 distributed across the nation. A confirmation
meeting was conducted with NAC members and twenty six training centers were
identified. Training of trainers was conducted for route leaders prior to their departure.
Center coordinators at each route were identified by the respective region. At each center
a two days intensive training was conducted for the data collectors recruited mainly from
Woreda Education Offices. A data collector was assigned to each grade in every sample
school. A total of 576 data collectors, 26 center representatives, 13 route leaders (most of
them TWG members) and 13 drivers were involved and the whole process took 15 to 20
days as planned. This was one of the most commendable activities carried by very high
participation of the stakeholders.

6. Data Encoding and Cleaning

The data were encoded by twenty one data encoders at NOE under continuous follow up
of the TWG members. In line with this, the printouts were cross checked with the original
material by trained contract employees. Further data cleaning and validation were
conducted by TWG members. As the data were being made available, a training and
preliminary analysis had been conducted side by side with the assistance of the external

7. Data Analysis

All the preceding three activities overlapped with major activities of our organization and
the TWG members had been overloaded. The external assistance especially on data
analysis part was not as expected and the TWG members managed this through hard
work and a lot of reading. This has a very great importance in terms of capacity building
not only at NOE but at national level. In the process I personally have managed to handle
both regular and survey data analysis statistical packages at an expert’s level. This will
have paramount importance in handling projects of similar kinds in the future.

8. Report Writing and Dissemination

The report writing had been conducted in parallel with the data analysis aided by the
maximum support and technical assistance from AED/BESO-II. The draft reports were
commented by the stakeholders and the concerned collaborators and the final reports had
been translated into five nationality languages. This study will have great importance
which all stakeholders should be proud of. In fact it calls for the widely dissemination of
the materials all over the country. The dissemination process was started with colorful
power point presentations at a conference attended by representatives of the stakeholders.
I strongly believe that this is just the beginning and the remaining milestones should be
communication, communication, and communication.

Lessons Learned from the Project

There are many things that lead to project success. Good project management is a process
of continuous improvement. It is a process of making mistakes and learning from those
mistakes. It is a process of continuous study and learning. For those who cannot devote
themselves to this never-ending process, there will be few successes. Most activities of
ESNLA were carried out with maximum involvement of local expertise this was a major
departure from what had been experienced in the past. Similarly the trainings organized
by the World Bank and kindly sponsored by USAID Ethiopia had contributed a lot for
the success of the project. I personally thank USAID Ethiopia and AED BESO-II for
their understanding and support. I hope my expertise in the area of large scale educational
studies contributes a lot not only to NOE and MOE but also to the nation at large.