Sjøberg, Svein (2016): OECD, PISA, and Globalization: The Influence of the International Assessment Regime.
Chapter 5 in Tienken, C. H. & Mullen, C. A. (Eds) (2016). Education Policy Perils. Tackling the Tough Issues. Routledge
This chapter raises many important questions about the PISA project, focused on two critical arguments with implications for education policymaking.
The first argument relates to the PISA project itself and is that basic structural problems are inherent in the PISA undertaking and, hence, cannot be fixed. I will argue that it is impossible to construct a test that can be used across countries and cultures to assess the quality of learning in real life situations with authentic texts. Problems arise when the intentions of the PISA framework are translated into concrete test items to be used in a great variety of languages, cultures, and countries. The requirement of “fair testing” implies by necessity that local, current, and topical issues must be excluded if items are to transfer objectively across cultures, languages, and customs. This runs against most current thinking in science education, where “science in context” and “localized curricula” are ideals promoted by UNESCO and many educators, as well as in national curricula.
My second argument relates to some of the rather intriguing results that emerge from analyses of PISA data. It seems that pupils in high-scoring countries also develop the most negative attitudes toward the subjects on which they are tested. It also seems that PISA scores are unrelated to educational resources, funding, class size, and similar factors. PISA scores also seem to be negatively related to the use of active teaching methods, inquiry-based instruction, and computer technology. PISA scores seem to function like a kind of IQ test on school systems. A most complex issue is reduced to simple numbers that may be ranked with high accuracy. But, as with IQ scores, there are serious concerns about the validity of the PISA scores. Whether one believes in the goals and results of PISA, such issues need to be discussed.
The full Chapter: