Politicians got a taste of their own medicine whilst they waited for the results of the PISA tests this year. The Programme for International Student Assessment is a way of measuring how effective countries’ education ministers are in improving education standards.
And this year’s results? For some, it was good news.
For others, less so.
So is there anything to learn from this?
After two decades of PISA tests, why haven’t scores risen more? – The Economist
The hope at the turn of the millennium was that the wealth of new information would help identify what makes a school system tick, prompting others to follow their lead, and thus causing results to rise across the board. This is not quite how things have worked out. Despite the fact that spending per pupil in the OECD has risen by 15%, average performance in reading, maths and science remains essentially the same as when the tests started. Pick a country at random and it is just as likely to have regressed as improved.
As The Economist’s article goes on to say, “If a silver bullet for improving education existed it would have been discovered by now.”
A big problem is that many education ministers still pay too little attention to the evidence. Others are hemmed in by the fact they must listen to the views of teachers and parents, who do not always know best. Andreas Schleicher, head of education at the OECD, bemoans the fact that lots of countries have, for instance, prioritised shrinking classes over hiring and training excellent teachers, despite evidence suggesting this is a bad idea. As he points out, one place that has given the quality of the teacher priority over the size of the class is Shanghai. Another is Singapore. And they are reaping the benefits.
Let’s see what our own government make of it all.