Higher Education Commission (HEC) has developed the Undergraduate Education Policy (UEP) 2020, which provides the framework for enhancing the quality of new programs leading to Bachelor of Studies (BS) degrees and Associate Degree (AD) in Affiliated Colleges and Universities, which is now being implemented.
The revised four and two-year degrees are common in the private sector and even large public sector universities but implementing in all public Higher Education institutions (HEIs) and Affiliated Colleges (ACs) across the country is a daunting task. This is where the Higher Education Development in Pakistan (HEDP) project is assisting HEC.
HEDP is a five-year project (2019/20 – 2023/24) being implemented by HEC to expand its key higher education priorities. It aims to support research excellence in strategic sectors of the economy, improve teaching and learning, and strengthen governance in higher education.
The activity is led by the Post-Secondary Education Reform Unit (PERU) team of the HEDP project responsible for the execution and rollout of the Undergraduate Education Policy (UEP), in close coordination with HEC and the Higher Education Departments (HEDs) of provincial governments.
During the rollout of the UEP, it is important to gauge the impact on learning outcomes via an assessment study. The study aims to assess the improvement in learnings due to the newly implemented programs under the UEP. For this purpose, PERU has already tested the tool for this study it now needs to be expanded upon. The findings of the study will contribute to achieving a key Project Development Objective (PDO). This study will be an indicator of progress in improved teaching and learning in Affiliated Colleges.
The project has engaged an international expert Mr. Salvador Malo Álvarez to support this study. Mr. Salvador is a Mexican national with extensive experience in higher education policy and reform in Latin America. He has been Director General (DG) at México´s Ministry of Education, the Mexican Centre for the Assessment of Higher Education, and the Council for the Assessment and Certification of Competencies.
His team has developed an international test for assessing cognitive learning skills rather than rote learning of content. In his recent visit to Pakistan, he guided the HEDP team to improve the methodology assessment of the study. The overall purpose of the visit is to liaison with all the relevant stakeholders of the learning achievement assessment test that include HEC’s Academic Division, the National Academy of Higher Education (NAHE), the Education Testing Council (ETC), and the Pakistani Assessment experts to develop strong understanding around how to successfully execute this assessment of undergraduate students.
He also held a five-day workshop on the development of assessment tools and item writing for key assessment officials. ETC has nominated 15 faculty members from different HEIs from diverse educational and disciplinary backgrounds such as Science, Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Mathematics, and Psychology. Additionally, five members of the ETC team also participated in the workshop. He encouraged participants to align their understanding and comprehension of the assessment as per international standards.
Dr. Salvador shared the metacognitive platform and allied self-regulation testing tools that he developed over the years. The most important feature of the proposed Learning Student Assessment Test (LAST) is of diagnostic nature, as it can assess the ability of students in multiple areas such as communication, information management, and problem-solving. In the following days, some hands-on activities were also organized in which Pakistani experts prepared the test items under his supervision. Initially, the items were selected from the databank of LSAT.
The assessment experts reviewed these items for suitability and contextualization for three different levels: a) alignment of items with UEP learning outcomes and skills mentioned in the revised UEP; b) alignment with the mental level of Pakistani students; and c) alignment with Pakistani cultural/ social context.
As an outcome of the workshop, the university faculty and staff of ETC developed an indigenous assessment tool called contextualized LSAT. In the first phase, the overall structure of the test and composition of items in different cognitive domains about the assessment of general abilities has been developed. In the second phase, the items of the assessment test were contextualized in Pakistani educational, cultural, and social contexts. The participants also got the opportunity to prepare additional items for the test that were discussed in the final workshop sessions and finalized for the inclusion in assessment test.
The baseline assessment of students enrolled under the revised UEP will be executed in September 2023 with the commencement of the Fall 2023 semester. The baseline study will test 6000 students enrolled in 102 ACs from all the provinces and will be scaled up to test 10000 students from 160 Colleges in Pakistan.