Analysis of PISA’s Growing Domination of Education

 In this blog we have had a number of posts discussing PISA. TC Record has a superb commentary by Heinz-Dieter Meyer on PISA. Here are a number of quotes from his article, OECD’s PISA: A Tale of Flaws and Hubris.

  •  A majority of large, complex, ethnically or culturally heterogeneous education systems are held up to a deceptive comparison with a group of small city- and nation stations that are culturally homogeneous, and often politically authoritarian. Large and unwieldy systems like the United States (scoring 481), UK (494), France (495), Italy (485), Spain (484), are compared to spic-and-span city states like Singapore (scoring 573), whose government enjoys such arbitrary powers as the imposition of jail sentences on people who spit or chew gum in public.
  • Thus we know that 88% of South Korean elementary school students and 61% of students in high schools receive private tutoring in cram schools. Private tutoring in South Korea represents 2.3% of GDP, equal to half the public education expenditures. In fact, while PISA holds Korea, Japan and Shanghai up to the rest of the world, many Koreans, Chinese, or Japanese take a much dimmer view of their schools, with their need for heavy out-of-school tutoring and the associated problems of depression, suicide, and a pervasive stifling of students’ academic self-motivation (Heyneman, 2013).
  • On my visits to schools in China I have seen a mentality of collective docility much closer to my experience in Germany than in the US. With obedient students, teachers don’t need to spend time on discipline or “classroom management.” And while much of what we observe in the Eastern educational tradition is admittedly intriguing and enviable—deep respect for learning, reverence for the role of the teacher, and filial piety—these features often come on the back of less enviable characteristics like unquestioned obedience to authority, limits on free speech, and acceptance of paternalistic government we would be unwilling and unable to emulat
  • “PISA has become accepted as a reliable instrument for benchmarking student performance worldwide” is the conclusion of a recent OECD study on PISA’s global effect (Breakspear, 2010, p. 4). This goes beyond the well-publicized cases of “PISA shock” that led countries like Germany and Japan to better align their curricula with PISA requirements. The OECD study found that almost all 60+ governments used PISA to change their assessment and curriculum in order to “include PISA-like competencies.” As the US representative on the PISA-Board put it: “PISA has been assessed, along with other frameworks, in the formation of the new Common Core Standards” (p. 24), which now includes a strong emphasis on “reading competence” in decoding technical manuals and newspaper articles at the expense of understanding and interpreting works of literary merit.
  • There is little question that through PISA the OECD is reshaping the curriculum of public schools and the norms by which we judge them. The question is: should they?
  • ·      To date, the education research community has taken PISA and OECD’s legitimacy largely at face value, duly dissecting the data it provided and debating policy options. It may be time to question OECD’s involvement in public education more fundamentally.

 Check out the full article at: http://www.tcrecord.org/content.asp?contentid=17371

Clare

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