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Source: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)
27 June 2013

UNRWA Evaluates Student Progress to Improve Education Programme
27 June 2013
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has begun the correction and data-entry process for a set of Agency-wide tests assessing student learning in UNRWA schools. The results will provide vital information regarding the performance of UNRWA students, both within and between fields, and will assist the Agency in planning for the future.
From 5 to 19 May 2013, Monitoring of Learning Achievement (MLA) tests in Arabic and mathematics were administered to a sample of 64,000 students in the fourth and eighth grades in Lebanon, Jordan, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; unfortunately, the emergency situation made it impossible for the Agency to give the test to its students in Syria. Before conducting the Agency-wide exercise, pilot tests were implemented in order to ensure an efficient and useful process.
Since UNRWA first conducted MLA testing in 2009, the Agency has worked to enhance and improve the tests. In addition to questions on key concepts of the curricula taught in the fields, the tests have other questions to specifically evaluate the higher-order thinking skills of UNRWA students. 
Dr Caroline Pontefract, UNRWA Director of Education, explained that this was a major achievement. “The periodic implementation of the MLA is an important milestone of the development of a unified education assessment system in UNRWA,” she said, adding that the testing “will show us and our partners how our students are performing.” 
The results will also help the Agency develop baseline data with which to measure the impact of the UNRWA Education Reform (2011-2015) over time. Dr Mustafa Gharabli, head of the Curriculum and Student Assessment Unit, said: “The analysis of the MLA results will provide us with valuable information about the performance of UNRWA students in all our fields. The results will help UNRWA, both at headquarters and in the fields, to develop appropriate Agency-wide and field-specific interventions to improve students’ performance.” 
The MLA testing of 2013 is a key element in the establishment of a systematic and holistic approach to assessment within UNRWA. In order to maintain monitoring and evaluation of student progress, the Agency will administer the MLA every two years. The testing will support informed decision-making and continued improvement of the quality of the UNRWA Education programme. 
In May, in addition to the MLA tests themselves, UNRWA distributed questionnaires to students, teachers, head teachers and school principals to gather their perspectives on teaching and learning practices and the needs of UNRWA schools. The findings of the questionnaires will complement the MLAs and help contextualize their results, providing further support to improved policy-making in the future. Using these tools, UNRWA is committed to offering its nearly 500,000 students a high-quality, appropriate and useful education, as it has for over 60 years.
Background information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some five million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 58.5 million. 

For more information, please contact :

Christopher Gunness
UNRWA Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
UNRWA Arabic Spokesperson
Mobile: +972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: +972 (0)2 589 0724

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