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Posts Tagged ‘PISA’

UN agency ranks Australia 39 out of 41 countries for quality education

Newspaper headlines like this Sydney Morning Herald headline just two days ago, is both demoralizing and disturbing.

The League Table of country performance of nine child-related goals is a serious concern, one which many a school, its administration, principals and teachers along with parents will no doubt be questioning.

Is it just lack of money being put into education?

Is it teaching standards?

Is it ill planned curriculum?

Is the curriculum too cluttered?

Just what is behind the continual slide of Australian standards, achievements and quality of education?

While answers to these questions will continue to be hotly debated, a new theory was thrown my way just yesterday:

Australians as a whole don’t value education!

Could there be any truth to this? Could attitude or lack of positive attitude to the value of education be the stumbling block to attaining quality education?

Let’s be honest here.  Despite hours of preparation, attention to detail, provision of challenging resources and superbly equipped classrooms, we’ve all had those lessons that just fall flat.  The students don’t engage with us, each other or the subject matter.  Leaving the classroom at the end of the lesson, we feel frustrated and miserable.  The most in depth analysis just can’t identify anything we, as the teacher, could have done differently.

Could it be that student lack of interest is real and is pervading not just our classroom, but the entire school and society?

Is it time perhaps, for us to be having conversations about our collective attitude to education? To be talking up achievement, the value of education and the big picture of how Australia’s future economic and business success is dependent on a well educated population?

This is a hot potato.  A very hot potato!

Even the most remote thought that our schools are populated with children who don’t give a hoot about what they are being taught or what they are learning is a very scary prospect!

 

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So  ….. could a 15 year old have really nailed the reason for Australia’s falling stakes in the PISA academic analysis game?

Our falling results since PISA’s inception should be a wake-up call to schools and teachers for the need to integrate more engaging ways to educate their older students on the realities of everyday life.

“Why 15-year-olds don’t care about Pisa rankings” Sydney Morning Herald, December 7, 2016 by Paloma Jackson-Vaughan

Arguments presented by 15 year old Paloma Jackson-Vaughan in her well publicized article late last year lays the blame on the fact that her peers simply can’t be bothered engaging with tests such as PISA.  It is, she contends, their lack of motivation to either sit for or apply themselves to the demands of tests that they perceive to have no relevance on their school marks that PISA test scores have fallen.  For good measure, she suggests that high levels of stress endured by this cohort also impact poor performance.

If, she suggests, students better understood the performance of the PISA tests, the results would be different.   After alluding to the fact that Australia lacks the kind of cultural expectation for nationwide academic success held by other countries, she concludes her article by laying the blame for falling standards on teachers’ collective inability to engage students in what she terms ‘realities of everyday life’.

A fairly harsh conclusion, which I am sure riled many a teacher who read these words just prior to the end of the 2016 academic year!

That Australia’s PISA performance has been steadily falling can’t be questioned though.  This short video, which was incorporated into the article by Paloma Jackson-Vaughan, gives a concise and simple explanation of both PISA and Australia’s performance over the last 16 years:

pisa-2017-report

Ranking scales of the 2015 PISA scores certainly reflects poorly on Australia.

ranking

While attempts to account for Australia’s falling achievement levels most often revolve around politics and funding given to education, could it be that this 15 year old has opened an unsavoury can of worms?  Could it really be that Australian students are increasingly disinterested in education to the point that they just don’t care?!

Moving from school to school throughout my teaching career, I’ve often been struck by the different ‘feel’ of the school and the different keenness level of students in one school over another.  Why is it, I’ve wondered, are students in one school so enthusiastic and engaged while others in other schools are totally laid back?

Is it the teachers who are at fault, the lesson content/presentation, the school admin, the students themselves, the students’ family socioeconomic status, the value given to school and education by the students’ family or is it just simply the amount of money available to create a more apt learning environment?  Why are some students more motivated and engaged than others?

So … the question remains.  Are the words of this 15 year old  truth or nonsense?

Let me know what you think.

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I’m always inspired when I come across articles in the general press which argue the importance and value of education. After all celebrated and revered writers such as Op-Ed Columnist Thomas Friedman can say it much better than I can!

Writing in the New York Times: Pass the Books.  Hold the Oil Friedman comments on the results of a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which administered the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) – an exam which compares the results of math, science and reading comprehension tests of 15 year olds in 65 countries with the “total earnings of natural resources as a percentage of GDP for each participating country.”

Quoting Andreas Schleicher, who oversaw the administration of PISA, we are told that the study found

a significant negative relationship between the money countries extract from national resources and the knowledge and skills of their high school population …”

In short, the findings of this study corroborate the fact that countries low in natural resources, who have nothing to mine from the ground, are forced to reply on the strength of their population.   As a consequence, time, effort and resources are poured into the country’s educational structures to ensure that the population can bolster the country’s economy.

Interesting conclusions are drawn by Friedman throughout the article:

Add it all up and the numbers say that if you really want to know how a country is going to do in the 21st century, don’t count its oil reserves or gold mines, count its highly effective teachers, involved parents and committed students.”

Concluding his discussion about the PISA report, Friedman says:

What the PISA team is revealing is a related disease: societies that get addicted to their natural resources seem to develop parents and young people who lose some of the instincts, habits and incentives for doing homework and honing skills.

Quoting Schleicher, Friedman emphasises the point

in countries with little in the way of natural resources — Finland, Singapore or Japan — education has strong outcomes and a high status, at least in part because the public at large has understood that the country must live by its knowledge and skills and that these depend on the quality of education. … Every parent and child in these countries knows that skills will decide the life chances of the child and nothing else is going to rescue them, so they build a whole culture and education system around it.”

The final punch line is again reported by Schleicher:

knowledge and skills have become the global currency of 21st-century economies, but there is no central bank that prints this currency. Everyone has to decide on their own how much they will print.”  ….. “The thing that will keep you moving forward,” says Schleicher, is always “what you bring to the table yourself.”

Just last week, my presentation at a conference was titled: “It’s never too late ….. Learning is a lifelong journey.”   Having those powerful words – lifelong learning – said by another is indeed very heartening:

Sure, it’s great to have oil, gas and diamonds; they can buy jobs. But they’ll weaken your society in the long run unless they’re used to build schools and a culture of lifelong learning.”

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