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Dr Daniel Caro of Oxford University and Przemyslaw Biecek of the University of Warsaw have created a free, open source statistical tool called instvy. With intsvy countries regardless of wealth can analyse and interpret the results of large scale assessments like PIRLS and PISA to find out what really works in education and why.

How can a free open source piece of code contribute to education policy around the globe

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Four years ago, Dr Daniel Caro set out to create a free, open source tool to analyse data from large-scale educational tests. Working with Przemyslaw Biecek of the University of Warsaw, he has now done just that with the creation of a new statistical tool called instvy.

Data from international large-scale assessments such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), TIMSS (The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) among others have become increasingly important to educators and policymakers in addressing critical problems in education worldwide. The results can contribute to a wide range of understanding, including why some children perform better in school than others, which teaching techniques actually improve schooling outcomes and how families can support children with school activities. Countries can also learn about the educational practices and policies of other countries and whether or not they work.

But reaching such conclusions entails in-depth analyses of results, and such analyses require the use of sophisticated software packages. These programmes allow users to merge data files generated by these international assessments, analyse that data and create charts and graphs to visualise the results. But commercial programmes like SPSS and Mplus are expensive and out of reach for some, especially in developing countries. intsvy can provide the same functionality and more at no cost at all.

Pablo Zoido, PISA Analyst at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), said: ‘One of the biggest challenges we’ve found in working with developing countries through the PISA for Development project is that they are under a lot of pressure to keep costs down and open source software is potentially the best and easiest way to do that. Participating in PISA is a large endeavour for countries on all fronts. intsvy would be an attractive solution for countries participating in international surveys.’

Dr Caro has already conducted training at the OECD for researchers and policy makers on the use of intsvy. Next year he plans to lead a workshop on use of instvy in Honduras for government officials from countries participating in PISA for Development, in advance of the official roll out of PISA for Development in 2017.

With a tool like intsvy, policymakers and educators in countries around the world, regardless of their wealth and resources, can use these large-scale assessments to learn what actually works in education and how. In this way, they can then make better, more informed decisions about the changes needed to improve education for children across the globe.

Recently intsvy has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Statistical Software. Find more about intsvy.

Dr Daniel Caro is a Research Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Educational Assessment (OUCEA), part of Oxford University’s Department of Education. Przemyslaw Biecek is Assistant Professor at the University of Warsaw.

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