PISA gets a good kicking

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates

A recent TES carried an article about PISA written by some of my colleagues at Bath.  "meaningless at best; destructive at worst" they said.  It begins like this:

“Pisa does not presume to tell countries what they should do. Pisa’s strength lies in telling countries what everybody else is doing.”  This statement in Andreas Schleicher’s latest book, World Class: how to build a 21st-century school system, exemplifies the self-contradicting nature of the Pisa enterprise.  For nearly two decades, this triennial assessment program has been telling education systems what they should do, despite its claim of the opposite.  In this book, Schleicher, the chief orchestrator of Pisa, brings together what Pisa has been telling, without telling, what education systems should do in order to become successful and secure better Pisa outcomes.

This is a key paragraph:

"The cornerstone of the Pisa enterprise is its claim to be able to identify successful education systems and extract lessons from these systems for others to emulate. But the evidence it uses to judge success is inconsistent. Until 2015, Pisa has identified successful education systems based on student performance on its assessment. In 2015, the enterprise began to examine student wellbeing and found that “students in low-achieving countries tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction than students in high-achieving countries.” In other words, education systems that are successful in producing good test scores are not necessarily successful in cultivating the wellbeing of young people. If wellbeing is an educational outcome that is worth pursuing, Pisa's previous successful systems are therefore not actually successful. If so, what these systems are doing or have been doing should be avoided instead of being promoted. In other words, when the outcome measure changes so too does the rank ordering of countries in Pisa and the parameters of success."

Note, "If wellbeing is an educational outcome that is worth pursuing."  Well, is it?  More importantly, is it an educational outcome at all?  It certainly was a tension when I was a primary school governor when I recall the Headteacher complaining about disengaged parents whose only concern was that their child was "happy" at school and who complained when the school was expecting too much by way of effort and learning.

And for me, well, wellbeing, happiness, etc are welcome by-products of a fulfilling life, well-lived.  I think that's also a Jordan Petersen's line ...

Posted in: Comment, News and Updates


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