WCAL has recently finished working on developing advanced curriculum and assessment resources for schools in Saudi Arabia. These materials cover mathematics, science, English and ICT.

WCAL are active founder members of the 21st Century Learning Alliance. Last year we supported the successful Fellowship programme supporting teachers to carry out development or small action-research projects relating to teaching and learning for the 21st century, and will do so again this year.

We have given a number of presentations at conferences this year. On 17th March 2011 Martin Ripley spoke at the Second French Congress of Psychometry(ppt 2,401k), CIEP (Sèvres) on innovative approaches to assessing Collaborative Problem Solving. In June 2010 Martin Ripley was the keynote speaker at Scholar's 10th Annual Conference. Scholar provides an on-line content learning resource covering core subjects (Mandarin is under development) tailored to link to the curriculum and assessment frameworks of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and a number of other countries.

Martin's Scholar presentation(ppt 2,824k) provided a view of learning and assessment in the 21st century. Martin suggested that schools - headteachers, governors and senior leadership teams - will become increasingly free (and responsible) for designing the curriculum and learning for their students. What will differentiate schools will be the confidence and expertise of the staff in shaping the curriculum and in using effective pedagogical approaches.

Martin also focused on assessment. He spoke about the work of the Assessing and Teaching 21st Century Skills project(ppt 1,293k). Assessment sets the objectives for learning, and ingrains into schools and classes the requirements of high stakes testing. In many countries, over the past two decades, we have learned that high stakes assessment can have educationally positive influences: assessments signal priorities for curriculum and instruction; it has been clear to see the extent to which teachers model the explicit and implicit pedagogical approaches embodied in assessment; and we have seen that curriculum developers respond to the syllabus and curriculum requirements of assessment systems. If these are educationally positive effects of assessment, it is true to say that we have also learned how negatively assessment systems can affect teaching and learning: we have seen how schools and teachers tend to focus on what is tested rather than underlying standards of learning goals; poorly designed assessment systems have encouraged a "one-time performance orientation" and have encouraged corresponding teaching systems; and we have seen in many countries that too much teaching time becomes diverted to specific test preparation activities.

Earlier this year, Martin was invited to Riyadh by the Saudi Ministry of Education and Tatweer to lead an evening of discussion about school and learning in the 21st century(ppt 1,616k). Across the world, governments and rulers see the link between education and economic well-being; between successful learning and aspirational, entrepreneurial citizens; and between schools and future social cohesion. One of the hot topics for discussion focused on the question of what area of investment in education is the most important? Developing school leadership? Developing curriculum and assessment standards? Textbooks and resources? Teachers and teacher training? Building new schools?