Are Global Standardized Tests Hurting Education?

Global Standardized Tests
Academics from around the world are questioning the validity of global standardized tests. This concept is not new. Standardized tests have been the center of educational controversy for years. This time, however, a specific global standardized test is being targeted as unfair to the students taking it and detrimental to the education systems administering it.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an exam given to 15-year-olds as a way to determine the strengths and weaknesses of education systems. PISA is administered every three years, and it focuses on reading, mathematics and science. It is examined on a national level, allowing countries to evaluate their education systems and make changes based on their students’ performance.

PISA was created by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The initial goal of the survey was to allow countries to learn from the educational policies of other countries that scored well. OECD claims that because the exam is not curriculum-based, it should allow for a true testing of how students can apply their knowledge to real-life situations.

Academics worldwide, however, believe that PISA is hurting the education systems around the world by making countries compete for the top rankings and decreasing the value of education in the long run.

In an open letter to Andreas Schleicher, the President of PISA, academics and school activists from around the globe express their concerns with the test and its consequences on education. The letter has received over 115 signatures.

The letter addresses many concerns about PISA and its long-term effects on education systems. The signatories believe that the rankings provided from the results of the exam cause countries to take drastic action to improve their ranking in three years. This may provide short-term results for a school system, but an entire education system cannot be improved in three years. It can take decades for educational policies to prove their effectiveness. PISA is causing schools to take short cuts to get higher in the rankings instead of creating real policies that can improve the education their students are receiving.

The academics opposed to the test also believe that PISA is causing schools to focus on preparing their students for the workforce, and therefore teaching a very narrowed curriculum. A strong point in their argument states that the goal of education should be “to prepare students for participation in democratic self-government, moral action and a life of personal development, growth and well-being.”

PISA is also being accused of diminishing the importance of the arts, increasing the idea of “teaching to the test” and taking away the freedom of teachers to teach how they choose.

The competition spurred by the exam means that PISA is not doing what the OECD intended for it to do. Instead of learning from other education systems, nations are attempting to drastically change their policies to get ahead in the educational race. As the PISA committee prepares for the 2015 exam, academics hope that a reevaluation of the consequences of the exam will bring a change to the assessment.

– Hannah Cleveland

Sources: Desert News, Diane Ravitch’s Blog
Photo: enseignons