The release of the PISA testing data has engendered the usual media and political hysteria. I’m working on a comprehensive article about PISA and all its failings, which will be posted tomorrow. However there are some quick and probably not too well researched comments that need to be made about the results.
First, the question of New Zealand’s ranking on the PISA League tables.
Why has no one notice that in all the league tables, three of the ‘countries’ ranked above New Zealand are Shanghai-China, Hong Kong-China, and Macao-China. There’s no ranking for China as a whole country, and there’s no way that Hong Kong and Macao are representative of China as a whole. Maybe New Zealand should nominate certain cities to represent us in this competition? Also ranked above New Zealand are are Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan. Why are these east Asian countries ranked so highly? That will discussed in tomorrow’s article. Another ‘country’ ranked above New Zealand is Lichenstein, a rather tiny country indeed. While I’ve not researched their demographics, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that this is a very homogenous country with a relatively high level of income equality. I could be wrong though.
However that doesn’t explain New Zealand’s drop down the rankings in comparison to the 2009 results, and rather than going for doom and gloom headlines, we should undertake some indepth analysis to understand why this has happened. I’ve got my own pet theories but as I don’t have the evidence to back these up, I’ll won’t inflict them on you. However I would point out that we are still above the OECD average, while the heavily test based systems of England and United States are well below, while Australia is, on the average, just below New Zealand.
Another analysis, that the government will not be highlighting, shows that New Zealand is below the OECD average in equity in educational opportunities, and that this has deteriorated since 2009. That reflects the well established evidence that inequity is a major influence on children’s learning. Following this theme, these results reflect the trend from previous PISA tests – there’s a large gap between the haves and have nots. The bulk of the tested students performed way above average, but the tail end performed poorly. This trend, as in the past, reflects the disparity in socioeconomic backgrounds.
New Zealand is also well down the list in the allocation of educational resources. In other words, the government doesn’t adequately fund education yet expects miraculous results.
Similar issues apply to Reading, although this is obscured by the seemingly impossible task of developing reading tests for all the different languages involved. Removing the same East Asian countries as above, shows that New Zealand’s performance is better than the media would have us believe, and is towards the top of English speaking countries.
And so it goes. I’ve not discussed the Science results, as the lack of emphasis on Science education by successive governments going back a decade or so, explains any results. In fact I’m surprised we did reasonably well.
if you want to do your own analysis, have fun with this http://www.oecd.org/pisa/keyfindings/pisa-2012-results-volume-I.pdf
Tomorrow’s article will unpick the whole PISA testing programme and show why we must not take too much notice of many aspects. There’s more to PISA than we are told.