Yes, I’m making a conscious effort to sit down and shut up on the two topical issues of the day: the riot and Breakfast Network’s suicide. Both issues have had some netizens talking sense, but more often than not rubbish.
The Pisa league table which ranks test results of students from 65 countries is taken very seriously b y the govt and media here because S’pore’s educatio system does very well on the results. They can throw this ranking at the face of pushy, aggressive parents whose kids can’t get into RI, St Nick or SCGS, or at the kay pohs who believe that ang mohs are tua kees (ang mohs do badly relative to the slit eyes of East Asia).
But do realise that S’pore is being compared to entire countries
Are regions a better way of measuring results?
The headline results for these tests are about the performance of countries or at least big Chinese regional education systems that are as big as countries, such as Shanghai or Hong Kong.
But this year’s results show much more local detail. And it often entirely contradicts the national picture.
For instance, the education system in the United States has been seen as one of the great under-performers, struggling among the below-average stragglers.
Go down to state level and it can be an entirely different story. Massachusetts would be a match for the best European systems. There are similar examples in Italy and Spain. Wales is a long way behind the other parts of the UK.
What this means, the OECD says, is that there are often bigger differences within countries than between countries. And if one region can perform so well, why not the rest of the country?
This aside, there are things that are wrong other than the fact that only the Chinese provide their own, unverifiable data.
– Different questions
About 4,000 children in each of the 65 countries are subjected to the test, which lasts for two hours.
But only a small number of pupils in each school answer the same set of questions.
The reason for this is that Pisa wants to measure a comprehensive set of skills and abilities, so it draws up more questions than a single child could answer (about four-and-a-half hours’ worth) and distributes them between different exam papers.
Pisa then uses a statistical model, called the Rasch model, to estimate each student’s latent ability. They also extrapolate from each student’s answers how they would have fared if they had answered all the other questions, had they been given them.
This approach has its critics. One is quoted below.
David Spiegelhalter, professor of the public understanding of risk at Cambridge University, says this practice raises its own questions.
“They are predicted conditional on knowing the difficulties of the questions – as if these are fixed constants,” he says.
But he thinks there is actually “considerable uncertainty” about this.
Furthermore, a question that is easy for children brought up in one culture may not be as easy for those brought up in another, Spiegelhalter says. “Assuming the difficulty is the same for all students around the whole world” is a mistake, he argues.
So when you see the league table of countries, the first thing to understand is that each country has been ranked according to an estimate of national performance.
– Educational attainment against well-being
South Korea might have come near the top of the educational rankings, but they come bottom in the rankings of happiness at school, Spiegelhalter notes – and Finland is only just above Korea.
– Drop-out rates matter:
But Mr Bodewig adds that the score may be impressive in part because so many poor and disadvantaged Vietnamese students drop out of school. The World Bank reports that in 2010 the gross enrolment rate at upper-secondary schools in Vietnam was just 65%, compared with 89% and 98% in America and Britain, respectively. South Korea’s rate was 95%.
Are TI students included in S’pore’s students that are tested? I assume normal stream students are? If not …
– Tuition helps:
Finally, I hope netizens stop pushing the Finnish model: it’s now crap
Seekers after educational excellence once used to head pilgrim-like towards Finland. This was the most quoted example of a high performing school system, even though in many ways it was a very distinctive and individual system. Scandinavia was the education world’s sensible successful neighbour.
But Finland has slipped downwards and the gloom has spread across Nordic countries, with Sweden among the biggest fallers. Norway and Denmark are absent from the top end of the tables. Their sluggish performances has been overtaken by countries such as Estonia, Poland and Ireland.