For learning programmes to function efficiently and by inference if they are to be successfully reformed or updated, they should be seen as a system. Within the system there are three core elements: curriculum, delivery, assessment. As with any other system, these elements must be based on a single philosophy of learning supported by clearly defined model of language ability and progression and underpinned by a measurement model. All of this needs to be done with the learner at the heart of the process.
With this in mind, I will propose that the system, and each of its elements, must meet predetermined academic and pedagogic requirements. In other words, they must conform to clearly stated standards of both language and test development. I will argue that the former of these standards should be driven by a localised CEFR, while the latter should be driven by an established test development model, in this case the socio-cognitive model.
However, this is not likely to be enough. For a new, reformed or updated system to be function as planned by its developers, it needs to be accepted by the major stakeholder groups that make up the population of the context-of-use. In order to ensure that this can happen, developers should develop a clearly stated theory of change (put simply: what they hope to achieve) and a corresponding theory of action (put simply: how they intend to achieve it). It is critical that these are based on the needs and expectations of the key stakeholders, as is the need to communicate with these groups and individuals in a timely and appropriate manner. In this way, the social consequences (both intended and unintended) of the implementation of the system can be closely monitored and effectively dealt with. This thinking is reflected in two approaches to test development and validation: the Comprehensive Learning System (O’Sullivan, 2020) and the Integrated Arguments approach (Chalhoub-Deville and O’Sullivan, 2020). Returning to the concept of placing the learner at the centre of the process, I conclude by reflecting on the increasingly important area of equality, diversity and inclusion, suggesting that this forms the fourth pillar upon which a success system is built.