VOLANTE, JERRIM, RITZEN AND SCHNEPF: New global testing standards will force countries to revisit academic rankings

Louis Volante, Professor in Brock’s Department of Educational Studies, co-wrote a piece recently published in The Conversation about the impact of global testing standards.

The article was co-written by John Jerrim, Lecturer in Economics and Social Statistics at UCL in London, Jo Ritzen, Professor of International Economics of Education, Science and Technology at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and Sylke Schnepf, Senior Researcher at the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

They write:

Since 2000 when the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) launched a global academic benchmark for measuring student outcomes by testing 15-year-olds, many global education systems have been impacted by what sometimes looks and feels like a race to rank high.

When the OECD launched the Programme for International Student Assessment — PISA — the idea was to enable countries to make cross-national comparisons of student achievement using a common/standard metric to increase human capital. In other words, higher academic achievement should correlate with earning in the future and a country’s standard of living. As PISA states, it publishes the results of the test a year after the students are tested to help governments shape their education policies.

As PISA has developed, through seven global testing rounds every three years, with the first in 2000 and the most recent in 2018, for some it has gained a reputation as the “Olympics of education” given the widespread attention that country rankings receive following the release of results.

Recent cross-cultural research suggests the influence of PISA is growing around the world. Indeed, in countries such as Germany and Canada assessment systems have been developed that mirror the PISA test. Further, governments look to PISA results twinned with other social outcome measures such as equity in education and social mobility or immigrant success.

Now, partly in the face of criticisms, PISA is looking at expanding how and what it tests. Collectively, changes to PISA will likely spur a shift in priorities by national governments — particularly since countries are keen to achieve good outcomes and to rank high.

As this process unfolds, policy-makers must remember that the social consequences of a test are just as important as the test’s content. Putting a new face on PISA will undoubtedly present various opportunities and challenges.

Continue reading the full article here.

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