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Academics claim Pisa tests have 'short-term focus'

07/05/2014 Kelly
A group of leading academics has criticised the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) of being unaccountable and having a potentially detrimental effect on education.

The letter in which the claims are made is signed by 120 academics and teachers from a range of countries. It alleges the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) focuses too narrowly on economic goals, the Guardian reports.

According to the signatories, the Pisa tests can lessen the autonomy of those in teaching jobs and increase the stress levels of their pupils.

Stephen Ball, professor at London University's Institute of Education, said: "Education policy across the world is being driven by the single aim of pushing up national performance levels on Pisa. It's having a tremendously distorting effect, right down to the level of classroom teaching."

The academics claim that when countries fall down the rankings, governments respond with "short-term fixes" that are designed to boost their league table positions but do not have lasting positive benefits. 

Enduring changes take decades to make, the letter argues, and it calls for the next round of tests to be abolished.

Pisa tests have made headlines recently and, in the UK, the education secretary has used pupils' performance in the rankings to justify far-reaching changes to the curriculum.

The high performance of schools in Shanghai led to government minister Liz Truss visiting the Chinese city to find out the reasons behind the success of the teaching methods schools there employ.

However, Andreas Schleicher of the OECD defended the tests. He argued that the assessment techniques encourage countries to look for new ideas around the world to help improve education.

He also rebutted claims that the OECD is working with not-for-profit companies that stand to benefit from the deficits it uncovers. Universities and other public bodies also work with the OECD to carry out its work, he pointed out.

Last month, the Welsh government welcomed an OECD report into its education system which claimed the country needs a "long-term vision" of education if it is to raise standards in its schools.

The report praised the "positive" learning environments created by Welsh schools and the good relations between staff and pupils.

Posted by Theo FouldsADNFCR-2164-ID-801718163-ADNFCR
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