ALIGN (Aligning Learning Inputs to Global Norms) for Minimum Proficiency
A toolkit for using the Align Learning Inputs to Global Norms (ALIGN) process to identify factors impeding learners from developing foundational knowledge and skills in reading and mathematics.
What Is ALIGN?
An Align Learning Inputs to Global Norms (ALIGN) for Minimum Proficiency process is an evidence-based gap analysis to identify factors that may be impeding learners from developing foundational knowledge and skills in reading and mathematics. This data-driven process uses the Global Proficiency Framework (GPF) as a reference to identify whether the pedagogical support offered to learners will ensure they meet global norms in reading and mathematics.
An ALIGN process focuses on four components, including curriculum and standards, teaching and learning resources, teacher training, and assessment. ALIGN identifies potential gaps or misalignments in each of these four components and actions to address them.
What Are the Uses of ALIGN?
ALIGN can be used at the national or subnational level, for both non-formal and formal education systems, in either stable or crisis-affected contexts to:
- Prepare for a new USAID funding cycle focused on improving reading and/or mathematics learning to co-design a new activity with USAID.
- Develop a national action plan to improve reading and/or mathematics learning outcomes (e.g., improve performance on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4.1.1a or b and/or international assessments).
- Develop an action plan to align formal and non-formal education programming to ensure certification or a successful transition into the formal education sector for students.
- Develop an action plan to align national and local education systems.
- Inform revisions of reading and/or mathematics education inputs (curriculum, teacher training, teaching and learning materials, and assessments).
- Identify realistic short- and medium-term learning targets in reading and mathematics.
- Provide data to decision-makers to advocate for informed education sector planning or for the development or revision of materials, supports, strategies, or policies.
When Is a Country Ready to Conduct the ALIGN Process?
Decision-makers can consider using ALIGN when they are committed to identifying and addressing factors contributing to learner underperformance.
Complete this ALIGN Readiness Checklist to determine if your country is ready to conduct ALIGN.
How to Plan for the ALIGN Process
To prepare for the ALIGN process, decision-makers need to consider:
- The breadth of components to address.
- Target populations (e.g., formal or non-formal system; specific grade levels and/or programs).
- The desired outcome of the ALIGN process (possible interim goals)
- Optimal timing to examine different components.
- How the process will be managed (centrally, provincial or sub-regional education leadership, etc.).
- Resources available and required to support the ALIGN process and to implement recommendations that may arise from the process.
Use the ALIGN Planning Guide to design the ALIGN process for your context. Refer to the case studies page for examples of how different countries have used ALIGN.
Review each of the following case studies to see how ALIGN has been used in different countries around the world from Francophone Africa to Central Asia.
The ALIGN process in Djibouti was included by the Ministry of Education (MOE) in the education sector plan and in a co-designed activity funded by USAID. The technical assistance partner on the activity used ALIGN to support the revision of reading curriculum and curriculum standards for grades one to five as well as to revise teaching and learning materials (TLM), teacher training, and assessments. This case study provides an excellent example of a full ALIGN process.
The ALIGN process in Nigeria was used to create a national reading assessment framework that is aligned with the GPF and now serves as a reference for the revision of state-level curriculum, TLM, teacher training, and assessments. This case study provides an excellent example of how ALIGN can be used to align standards at the state, national, and international levels and across multiple languages of instruction.
The ALIGN process in Uzbekistan was used by a technical assistance partner funded by USAID to develop new reading and math standards for grades one to four. The GPF, the South Korean national curriculum, and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) served as references to inform this ALIGN process. This case study provides an excellent example of using multiple references to ensure the updated curriculum standards are contextually appropriate and align with the country’s needs and priorities.
Tools and Resources
Learn more about ALIGN for Minimum Proficiency or plan your own ALIGN process by reviewing and using the following resources and tools:
1. ALIGN guidance document - Align for Minimum Proficiency (Aligning Learning Inputs to Global Norms): Using the Global Proficiency Framework is the primary resource used to guide the ALIGN process. It provides an overview of how to use the GPF to frame the ALIGN process. It also outlines the potential goals of an ALIGN process, provides guidance on how to complete each of the four steps of the process, and proposes key questions to ask when analyzing each pedagogical component as well as potential follow-up actions, depending on the results of the analysis. Translations: Arabic, French, Spanish.
2. Global Proficiency Framework: Reading and Mathematics - This EducationLinks page contains resources on the Global Proficiency Framework (GPF). The GPF is the primary reference for the ALIGN process and serves as a universal starting point and fresh lens to consider what countries need to do to ensure all children and youth achieve minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics. The GPF outlines the minimum knowledge and skills international research suggests learners should be able to demonstrate, for both subjects, at each grade level, from grades one to nine, regardless of where they live in the world or the language in which they are learning. Review the Interactive Introduction to the Global Proficiency Framework (English only) for an overview.
3. Policy Linking for Measuring Global Learning Outcomes - This EducationLinks page features resources for the policy linking process. Policy linking is a method to link international, national, and sub-national assessments to Sustainable Development Goal 4.1.1 using the GPF. The purpose of policy linking is to align national assessments to a global standard so assessment results collected through global reporting can be easily compared and aggregated. The assessment component of the ALIGN process can help determine if a country should complete the policy linking process by providing decision-makers with a clear indication of the adaptations or modifications required for countries to use national assessments for international reporting.
4. Information sheet - The Align for Minimum Proficiency: Using the Global Proficiency Framework Information Sheet provides a quick summary of the ALIGN process, its benefits, the four pedagogical components, and considerations for launching an ALIGN process.
5. The ALIGN Kit - This brochure provides a brief overview of the ALIGN process and USAID resources that can be used for developing strategies to improve learner performance in reading and math.
6. ALIGN Readiness Checklist - This tool can be used to determine the readiness of a context to conduct the ALIGN process in terms of motivation, political will, and available financial resources, time, and expertise.
7. ALIGN Planning Guide - Stakeholders can use this tool to determine the parameters of the ALIGN process for a specific context and to identify the time, money, international- and national-level expertise, and other resources needed to carry out the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the steps of the ALIGN process?
To begin the ALIGN process, it is important to support stakeholders’ understanding of the contents of the GPF and how the contents can be used in the ALIGN process to improve learner performance. This step can be completed by sharing the GPF, the ALIGN guidance document, and the accompanying resources and tools (refer to the Tools and Resources section) with stakeholders. Additionally, stakeholders can participate in various learning events hosted by the ALIGN team or request additional support through the ALIGN Help Desk.
Once stakeholders have a basic understanding of the GPF and ALIGN process, they can use the ALIGN Readiness Checklist to make sure the process is well suited to their goals and needs. Once they establish readiness, stakeholders can use the ALIGN Planning Guide to agree on priority components to analyze and collect data on. Next, the data collection and review process can begin for the selected components. This can take place through a desk review, meetings, workshops, and data collection efforts. Lastly, share the opportunities and gaps identified through the ALIGN process with MOE stakeholders, donors, and implementing partners to identify follow-up steps to improve learning inputs.
What follow-up activities are recommended for the ALIGN process?
The ALIGN process includes review activities to determine each component’s level of alignment with the GPF. Below are suggestions for follow-up activities that can be used to update learning inputs for each component based on the results of the ALIGN process. Specific guidance for each follow-up step can be found in the ALIGN Guidance Note.
1. Curriculum standards and the curriculum
- Revise existing reading and mathematics curricula to fill in gaps and align with the GPF.
- Pilot the revised curricula in 10-20 schools for six or more months (usually concurrent with TLM piloting).
- Finalize the curricula based on feedback from the pilot and prepare it for publishing.
- Roll out the updated curricula by publishing the materials and hosting teacher training.
2. Teaching and learning materials
- Revise or create new pedagogical resources to fill in gaps and align with the GPF and/or updated curricula that has already been through the ALIGN process.
- Pilot the revised TLM in 10-20 schools for six or more months.
- Finalize the TLM based on feedback from the pilot and prepare for publishing and rollout.
- Roll out the updated TLM by publishing the materials and hosting teacher training.
3. Teacher training
- Revise teacher training programs and their curricula to fill in gaps and align with the GPF and/or updated curricula that has already been through the ALIGN process.
- Pilot the revised curricula in teacher training institutions for six or more months.
- Finalize the curricula based on feedback from the pilot and prepare for publishing and rollout.
- Roll out the updated teacher training curriculum by publishing the materials and hosting teacher training activities.
- Revise assessments to align with the GPF and/or updated curricula that has already been through the ALIGN process.
- Administer the revised assessment in a representative sample of schools.
- Use the policy linking process to set benchmarks so assessment results can be used for reporting, monitoring, and comparison nationally and internationally.
- Publicly acknowledge pedagogical priorities like those listed above by incorporating appropriate actions and targets in policy documents (for example, education planning frameworks).
Does the ALIGN process need to be completed in a specific order?
The ALIGN process is flexible, and aligning components can be completed in any order, according to the needs and priorities of the MOE and various stakeholders. However, it is generally recommended to begin the ALIGN process with the curriculum component. This is because the curriculum largely dictates the content of all other components. Once the curriculum is aligned with the GPF, all other components can be aligned with the GPF and the new curriculum. Countries or programs that have already aligned certain components to global research findings or trends will likely want to focus the ALIGN process on the remaining components.
How long does the ALIGN process take?
The length of the ALIGN process includes the time it takes to complete reviews of each selected component (curriculum, TLM, teacher training, and assessments). The amount of time the ALIGN process takes is determined by the parameters selected for the process (number of components, grade levels, and sectors covered) and the readiness and motivation of stakeholders to participate in and carry out the process.
The ALIGN process can be completed synchronously (all components completed at the same time) or asynchronously (components completed separately over time). The review process for each component typically includes: capacity building on the GPF and ALIGN process, a desk review, planning for workshops and meetings, workshop and meeting facilitation, the dissemination of ALIGN results, and follow-up planning.
The review process for each component typically takes two to three months from start to finish.
The follow-up process, which includes all the activities needed to update, finalize, and disseminate each component after review, can be extensive depending on the number of revisions needed. The follow-up process can take several months or years.
Countries will need two to five years to complete the full ALIGN process covering all four components and necessary follow-up steps.
Use the ALIGN Planning Guide to determine the timing of your ALIGN process.
How much does the ALIGN process cost?
The cost of carrying out the ALIGN process includes all the expenses needed to complete the capacity building and review process for each component. Expenses may include:
- Workshop(s) facilitation and hosting expenses (food, venue, materials).
- Per diem and travel expenses for workshop attendance.
- Consultant fees and expenses for local or international consultants.
- Fees and expenses for local context experts to conduct data collection.
Who should lead the ALIGN process?
The ALIGN process can be led by the country’s Ministry of Education, donors, or an implementing organization. If donors or implementing organizations are leading the process, it is necessary to identify contacts within the MOE to lead coordination efforts and planning events internally.
The leadership of an ALIGN process can either be centralized under the direction of a single MOE team or donor/implementing partner or distributed across departments, development partners, and/or implementing partners, with different entities leading the review of different components or subcomponents.
How closely should the national curriculum align with the GPF?
The GPF is a reference and a guide. It is not prescriptive or exhaustive. The GPF is limited to knowledge and skills that are common across curricula and regional or international assessment frameworks and those that can be easily measured on large-scale assessments. The GPF is decontextualized and does not encompass all the skills and knowledge expected to be included in a country’s curriculum framework. For example, the GPF does not include language-specific skills that would be considered precursors or additions to the skills outlined in the GPF.
With this in mind, it is likely that each country has content within its curriculum framework beyond what is in the GPF. This will likely include content and skills considered important or necessary for the language and/or country or region. The progression and pace of learning over time may also differ from the GPF depending on the expectation and performance of learners.
Apart from the GPF, can other standards or frameworks be referenced during the ALIGN process?
Decision-makers embarking on an ALIGN process may want to cross-reference the knowledge and skills included in the GPF and the suggested learning progressions across grade levels with those of curricula from high-performing countries in the region or beyond. Comparative analyses such as these can help identify commonalities and differences across frameworks and curriculum, including the progression and pace of learning over time, and spark research-based discussions of the reasons for commonalities and differences. They can also identify additional knowledge and skills important to the country or region but absent from the GPF. Apart from using curriculum from other countries, stakeholders can also reference global and regional research to inform their decisions.
Refer to the Uzbekistan case study where stakeholders used the TIMSS and South Korean National Curriculum in addition to the GPF as references for their ALIGN process.
What types of technical expertise are needed to support the ALIGN process?
Below are recommendations for the national and international expertise necessary to conduct the ALIGN process.
- One in-country team leader based in the MOE or an implementing organization to organize plans and teams.
- Technical experts according to the parameters of the ALIGN components selected (e.g., experts in reading/math curriculum development, teacher training, supervision, assessments, etc.).
- Technical experts may include representatives from the MOE, implementing organizations, or universities, exemplary teachers, and local language specialists.
- As needed, international experts with familiarity with the GPF, MEL, reading, or numeracy instruction
How does the ALIGN process work together with policy linking?
The assessment component of the ALIGN process can be used to determine if a country should complete the policy linking process by clearly indicating to decision-makers the adaptations or modifications required for countries to use national assessments for international reporting.
Ideally, the ALIGN process should be conducted when standards are being selected for new or revised national assessments. Comparing these standards to the knowledge and skills in the GPF will determine if there is sufficient breadth and depth of alignment to support the use of policy linking for international reporting. For more information on how to do this, refer to the tables in the policy linking toolkit which provide minimum alignment requirements for international indicator reporting.
ALIGN Help Desk
The ALIGN Help Desk is a direct line of communication to ALIGN specialists from the Leading Through Learning Global Platform. The ALIGN specialists will answer any questions or concerns submitted through the Help Desk and are available to provide individualized support to help plan and implement the ALIGN process.
USAID missions, implementing partners, and country-level stakeholders interested in learning more about the ALIGN process are encouraged to reach out with questions or requests for support.
Expression of Interest
Stakeholders who are interested in completing the ALIGN process are encouraged to submit an expression of interest. The information provided will be used to track the use of the ALIGN process globally and engage with stakeholders in the process following their expression of interest.
If you have already completed the ALIGN process and would like to provide feedback on your experience, you are encouraged to document challenges and best practices uncovered while conducting the ALIGN process and to share feedback.