PISA 2015 III: conclusions and what to do  

Thrown (Ţâpat) in , ,

Based on my mistaken belief that there may be people reading this, I go ahead with my recommendations, after the intro and . PISA is not just a set of tests, it comes with suggestions and recommendations.

PISA_economistWhat is there to do? Canada is certainly NOT relaxing over its excellent results (cbc-forward).

Despite the high ranking for Canada, the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, concluded in its report on the findings "that there is cause for some concern."

"Almost one in 10 Canadian students do not meet the benchmark level of science proficiency, a proportion which has not changed since the baseline year in 2006, and students in minority-language settings achieve lower results in science compared to their counterparts in majority-language settings," it said.

Other countries managed amazing turnarounds (tgm-edi).

Poland, for instance, has been singled out by PISA as a turnaround story. It boosted lackluster reading results by delaying the streaming of students into vocational programs, and increasing the number of hours spent on language instruction. In 2000, only 1 per cent of Polish students received more than four hours of language class. In 2006, the figure had risen to 76 per cent. The result? Nearly a 50 per cent improvement in test scores.

It was the same story in Germany. When the first PISA tests showed students were below average in reading and literacy, the country was stunned. Political parties, unions and parent groups worked together on reforms: A common curriculum, expanded pre-school, a longer school day and teacher mentoring. Those efforts lifted Germany from 21st place in 2000 to 15th place in 2009.

Romania, for its part, has decided to go easy, outlawing homework.

I’m not sure if this is as bad as it sounds. After all, I don’t recall doing much homework either in Canada or Romania because I managed to do most of my studying/learning in class. I remember slacking off but also completing assignments. The homework in Romania seemed indeed more extensive, but I know that many of my classmates were not doing it themselves, but would get parents’ help or afterschool (“meditatii”). So I wasn’t too concerned when I wasn’t doing it, because when I was doing it I would work on it on my own, with no extra help. However, it should be noted that many studies (some popularized by Gladwell) indicated that those who do well do more homework than average and keep studying over the summer holiday. Even a recent study emphasizes the importance of practicing / testing what you just learned. As such, having more major tests (the “treapta” or step exams in grade IX and XI) rather than a big one (bac or baccalaureate in grade XII) may be a better idea.

It seems the PISA’s daddy, Andreas Schleicher, agrees with me (ynews-afp).

The results also suggested that the key to success in science teaching, even more than well-equipped and well-staffed departments, was how much time was spent teaching the subject.

Those teachers who actually demonstrated scientific ideas and who adapted their teaching to meet students' needs produced better results, the report said.

That tended to happen in smaller classes, and students who received this kind of teaching were more likely to go on to a science-related career, it added.

"It's not about science tests, it's about engaging students and making science learning relevant... that's what translates to better outcomes and better careers," said Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's director for education and skills, at the London launch.

The report also suggested that the study of science needed to be done in school, not at home.

"School systems where students spend more time learning after school, by doing homework, receiving additional instruction or in private study, tend to perform less well in science," the report said.

Last month, parents in Spain staged a strike to protest the amount of homework schools were handing out. Spain scored 493 points in the latest PISA tests -- corresponding exactly to the OECD average.

However, it’s not that simple, because simply outlawing homework does not automatically make teachers better. Furthermore, low-income students who get bad teachers have pretty much homework and independent study the few tools left in their arsenal to catch up to those more fortunate.

John Jerrim of University College London suggests that the only way some countries could catch up with the East Asian powerhouses is through more “tiger mothers” and “widespread cultural change”. (ec-what)

Back in 2015, Marlene Habib did an excellent job presenting both sides of the homework argument (tgm-hw).

What fuels the debate is the fact that research findings on homework’s merits are all over the map. Some studies conclude take-home assignments have educational value, and can hone time management and other skills important for postsecondary aspirations and reaching career goals. Other research indicates homework, especially in the early grades, can even negatively affect learning by placing added pressure on young people juggling school, after-class activities and spending time with family and friends.

Schools don’t typically set homework guidelines for teachers, but the long-held guideline is to multiply each grade by 10 minutes to come up with a daily target.

“There’s not a much better formula than that,” says Hal Hannaford, headmaster at Selwyn House, a boys’ school in Montreal for Grades 3 to 11. “So by Grade 6, a student is getting about an hour of homework a night, but remember really good students work hard, and do a lot of extra stuff at home on their own.”


[a student] feels some of his homework helps him academically, but he echoes the thoughts of many students when he says: “I don’t really see why students should be getting homework because we already do work at school.”

It’s not an unreasonable comment, given a handful of schools are adopting no-homework policies, and countries such as Finland – its students rank among world leaders in reading and math marks, for instance – don’t emphasize after-class work.


After Ms. Alexander encouraged Sara to follow up on her cap-and-trade homework idea, Sara teamed with classmate Lia Silver this summer to develop a plan that is being tested in Grade 8 classes this school year. Essentially, teachers share with each other how much homework they’re assigning to their students – so if one teacher asks students to spend an hour on after-school work one night, another teacher may reduce the amount of homework given to his or her class.

Measuring success of the project will depend on whether students find they’re better able to handle their homework and feel less stressed about it, says Sara, adding it’s hoped the cap-and-trade approach will expand to other grades. “I think it has a lot of potential and I hope other students see it as a good thing,” says Lia, also 13.

Many schools emphasize easing students’ overloaded schedules, which can have a negative impact on not just academics, but also personal growth and well-being.


Ms. Ignjatovic, who grew up and attended school in the former Yugoslavia, where homework was essentially non-existent, says she was shocked after moving in 1996 from Russia to Canada, where her two sons were born, about how quickly they were thrown into the homework fray.

“I was really surprised a child in the first grade could have any homework, in fact,” says Ms. Ignjatovic, whose now-teenage sons went to the same public elementary school, and are attending separate private high schools in Montreal.

“But when I became a teacher myself, I saw another side of it,” she adds. “As a teacher, I want my students to be good in their subjects and feel I have a responsibility to do the best I can.



An OECD report assessing Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores of 15-year-olds from 65 countries found students in higher-income families spent an average of 1.6 hours more weekly on homework than their peers in lower-income families in 2012, and doing more homework commonly resulted in better test scores. The report, released in 2014, also notes students across the board spent an average of about five hours a week on homework (down about an hour from 2003), about the Canadian average, with lows reported in South Korea and Finland, at two and three hours, respectively, and a high of 12 hours in Singapore.


A study published in the Journal of Experimental Education in 2014 found 56 per cent of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in California (93 per cent of the students, who were from families with a median household income of more than $90,000 (U.S.), went on to postsecondary education) cited homework as a primary reason they were stressed. Stanford University researchers found too much homework (more than about two hours a night, as defined by previous research) can be counterproductive.

My view is that eliminating homework, without ensuring that teaching policy in class is changed to account for that may be a recipe for disaster.

The Economist has more nuanced findings than the Singapore newspaper of the previous article, in that spending does matter, but up to a point (ec-what).

among poorer countries the amount of public spending per pupil is associated with higher test scores. But in richer states that spend more than about $50,000 per pupil in total between 6 and 15 this link falls away (see chart 2). The pupils of Poland and Denmark have, in effect, the same average results in the science tests even though Denmark spends about 50% more per pupil.

Another potential waste of money, if only from the perspective of PISA results, may be sending children to private school. Across the OECD pupils in public schools score lower in science than students in private schools do. But this is not the case once you account for the economic and social background of pupils.

And while poverty is strongly associated with low scores, it is not destiny. In the OECD poor pupils are nearly three times more likely than their rich peers to have less than the basic level of proficiency in science. Those pupils with foreign-born parents tend to do even worse. Nevertheless, 29% of poor pupils score among the top quarter of children across the OECD. In Singapore, Japan and Estonia nearly half of the poorest pupils do.

Money isn’t everything

That hints at another finding: achievement and greater equality are not mutually exclusive. In Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong and Macau pupils have high average scores, with only a weak link between results and children’s backgrounds.

One reason for Estonia’s gain is demographic loss. Over the past 20 years the population of young people has declined faster than the number of teachers. There is now one teacher for every 12 pupils, down from closer to 20 two decades ago. Although in general reducing class sizes is not the most cost-effective response, Estonian pupils have benefited from the demographic shift, which has made it easier to give pupils, especially laggards, extra help.

But Estonia has also taken a deliberately inclusive approach, argues Mart Laidmets, a senior official at its ministry of education. It tries to avoid at all costs having pupils repeat years of school. Holding pupils back can help. But too often it is used as an excuse not to teach difficult kids. It may also reflect bias or discrimination. In countries such as Russia, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, poor boys are especially prone to being kept back a year, despite decent academic achievements.

Estonia, like Finland and Canada, also tries to keep selection by ability to a minimum. It delays “tracking” children into academic or vocational routes until they are 15 or 16 years old. Mr Laidmets argues that it helps pupils find jobs later in life, since better maths and literacy make it easier for them to adapt to changes in the labour market and to earn new skills.

By contrast, where pupils are diverted from an academic track at an early age, whether towards a vocational school or a less rigorous class in the same school, the gap between rich and poor children tends to be wider. In the Netherlands pupils at vocational schools have results equivalent to about three years less of schooling than their peers at general schools. “The more academically selective you are the more socially selective you become”, says Andreas Schleicher, the head of education at the OECD.

All of which suggests what countries should not do. But are there any sure-fire tips from the best performers? Or is their success just down to pushy parents and tuition after school?

Culture matters but so, too, does policy, says Lucy Crehan, author of “Cleverlands”, a new book on PISA-besting countries. She points out that most of these states delay formal schooling until children are six or seven. Instead they use early-years education to prepare children for school through play-based learning and by focusing on social skills. Then they keep pupils in academic courses until the age of 16. Even Singapore, which does divert some pupils to a vocational track at the age of 13, ensures that pupils in those schools keep up high standards in reading and maths.

Top performers also focus their time and effort on what goes on in the classroom, rather than the structure of the school system. For while test scores and pupils’ economic background are linked across the OECD, so too are specific things that the best schools and teachers do.

The city of Buenos Aires had the largest jump in overall scores from three years ago. On average its pupils scored 475 in science (up 51 points), 475 in reading (46 points) and 456 points (38 points) in maths. (..) offered teachers something of a deal: higher salaries in exchange for taking their job more seriously. The grip of unions in deciding on promotions was loosened. And he made teacher training more rigorous and practical.

Another area that could use improvement is school manuals. During my time in Romania, they were atrocious, especially when compared with what I got in Canada. One way to address that is to mandate a cost no greater than the paper on which they’re printed. Manuals could then be designed by teachers and professors or grad students, photocopied or distributed electronically. In University, I had some professors doing that of their own volition, feeling that the cost of the “professionally published” ones was prohibitive, although others preferred to strike deals with book publishers.

Finally, the ethics part of the Romanian education system should be strengthened, as suggested in the notion section of the Iosif Sever Georgescu article.

If you’re curious about the test, try it!

Sources / More info:  cbc-forward, ynews-afp, tgm-hw, ec-what

Thank you for reading (mulţam fain pentru cetire)! Publicat Saturday, December 10, 2016 . Similar articles under the following categories (poţi găsi articole similare sub următoarele categorii): (Subscribe), (Subscribe), (Subscribe) . Dacă ţi-a plăcut articolul, PinIt-uieste-l, ReddIt-eaza-l, stumble-uieste-l altora, trimite-l pe WhatsApp yMess şi consideră abonarea la fluxul RSS sau prin email. Ma poti de asemenea gasi pe Google. Trackback poateputea fi trimis prin URL-ul de sub Comentarii.
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