How PISA can help countries improve their education systems

As the person who initiated and oversees the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), Andreas Schleicher, in an exclusive conversation with Education Times, highlights his role in comparing the performance of specific groups of students against to their peers in other countries. He also insists on “global competence” in the latest PISA assessment and its relevance in the post-pandemic context.


Which were the top ranked countries in the last round of PISA and where is India on this scale?


It depends on the PISA benchmarks you are looking for, such as quality of education in a specific subject, equity of educational opportunities, or student well-being, all of which are measured by PISA. Education systems that perform very well on most aspects measured by PISA include some of the Chinese provinces that participated in PISA, Singapore, Canada, Estonia and Finland. India has not yet administered the PISA test.

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How can data on students’ academic performance help countries improve their education policies?
To begin with, PISA helps education systems look outward, to compare the performance of specific groups of students with their peers in other countries. But the most interesting opportunity for peer learning is to discover which policies and practices are predictive of success. For example, what are the practices that help some countries moderate the impact of family background on learning outcomes while in others poverty seems inevitable? How do some countries manage to attract the most talented teachers to the most difficult schools? When you have limited means, is it better to pay teachers well or rather to favor smaller classes? The world is an amazing laboratory and studying what other countries are doing and how successfully can help you improve your own education system.

The pandemic has created learning gaps among students around the world. In such a situation, how is it possible to cultivate the global competence that the new “PISA Global Competence Report” highlights?

In the post-pandemic context, it is even more important that students develop resilience, effective learning strategies and an openness to other perspectives. But first we need more countries to take global competence seriously as a learning goal for students and systems. Without this, the lessons of the pandemic risk being wasted. At the OECD, we try to start this conversation, which is why we participated in the Qudwa-PISA Global Competences Forum in Dubai, where policymakers, experts and educators came together to discuss challenges related improving global skills education.

You studied physics in Germany and graduated in mathematics and statistics in Australia. How does the study of STEM vary from country to country?

There are so many ways in which learning in STEM subjects varies. In some countries, this mainly concerns the acquisition of thematic content. In other countries, there is more emphasis on underlying thinking skills, for example, not only if you can reproduce content knowledge, but if you can think like a scientist, design and experiment or distinguish between questions that are scientifically explorable from those that are not. . In some countries. the focus is more on the application of STEM skills in real or professional contexts. Where countries differ most is in the importance they place on the ‘T’ and ‘E’ in STEM; in some countries technology is a major focus while in others most teaching focuses on academic learning in science and math.


What PISA means

PISA is a global study conducted by the OECD in member and non-member countries with the aim of evaluating education systems by measuring the academic performance of 15-year-old students in mathematics, reading and science. The study was first carried out in 2000 and repeated every three years. Its main objective is to provide comparable data to help countries improve their education policies and outcomes.

Norma A. Roth