Aussie Friends of Treehorn
……on behalf of kids… ignored by the indifferent.
“It is utterly shocking and embarrassing to see some otherwise rational and well-educated people in powerful positions believe that these test scores show the quality of their education systems, the effectiveness of their teachers, the ability of their students and the future prosperity of their country.”
Yong Zhao said this in his series of articles entitled HOW DOES PISA PUT THE WORLD AT RISK? , read by thousands, the fourth one of the articles made available by Allan Alach in the most recent 4 April edition of Treehorn Express – Readings.
In order, Yong Zhao describes PISA as  Romanticising Misery;  Glorifying Educational Authoritarianism;  Creating Illusory Models of Excellence and  Misleading the World. The world’s most outstanding educators, in discussing their own country’s forms of Standardised Blanketing Testing, have been pointing to these issues, for years. They apply directly to the content of PISA, which relies on the kind of information supplied by naive data collectors in each country. Educational pretenders will not want to read about the truths made so explicit in this series of articles. Politicians will deliberately ignore them. Testucators will not be able to cope with the evidence and will prattle on with score-laden codswallop. Dyslexic indifferents won’t care, anyhow.
Children will continue to suffer from the long-lasting injuries to their cognitive development caused by the various standardised blanket testing regimes; and parents will remain mystified and distressed from the bullshit provided through the various test agencies, including some schools. Politicians will continue to ignore such definitive comment with their usual cocky dismissal of politically-mismanaged critical issues. Nothing will be done in countries like Australia and New Zealand where the level of indifference is much too high.
The claims of the PISA adherents are as bold as they are illusory. “Its great success” says Yong Zhao, “ is as a masterful illusionist. It misdirects attention by exploiting the human instinct for competition”. Its signature product is the display of winners and losers and “it has misled the world down a path of self-destruction, resulting in irrational policies and practices.”
Yong Zhao points our that the techniques used to arrive at PISA scores are questionable. Its flaws are numerous; and it has an illogical and incoherent ‘bottom line”. PISA uses the Rasch model which is a psychometric model to produce ratings. As an example, he cites the reading data for Denmark. It can be rated anywhere from 5 to 36 amongst 54 countries! The application of the Rasch model is meaningless. If Einstein and a pupil received the same score on a particular test at the same point in time, are they both outstanding mathematicians and share the same general ability to understand high level mathematics and to succeed in the world of mathematics?
How can one presume that 15 year old contestants in Uganda, Manhatten using NCLB, Brazil, Oxford, Honiara, Maldives, Fangyang or Sydney using NAPLAN, are preparing for the same life challenges and require the same life skills and competencies? [“Fair crack of the whip” says the fair-dinkum Aussie teacher.]
“Even if cognitive skills in maths, science and reading were the most important skills in the universe, they would not – could not – be the only skills an education system should cultivate. Skills and knowledge in other domains, such as ‘the humanities’, social sciences, history, geography, physical education etc.’ play an important role if citizens of a country are to have a fulfilling life. So do non-cognitive skills : social and emotional skills, curiosity, resilience, engagement, passion and a host of other personality traits. In fact, many would argue that talent, skills, knowledge and creativity in domains outside maths, science and reading are at least important, perhaps more important, to live successfully in the new world.”
The kind of energy required by NAPLAN, the unreliable and imperfect source of Australia’s fodder for PISA, not only runs counter to best teaching/learning practices; it also deprives the teacher and learner from adopting and developing the techniques of shared evaluation of children’s effort that enhance, rather than halt as all SBTs do, the intellectual development of young children. And it also deprives children of access to important curriculum learnings, so that they can practice for the tests.
Yong Zhao points out clearly and convincingly that Australia’s reliance on shoddy PISA scores and statements exposes our extreme naivety in the business of schooling. Parents and teachers have been duped into believing that NAPLAN can make a difference. It does, but, in a negative direction. IT MUST GO. IT MUST GO AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It’s dangerous.
At present, in Australia, NAPLAN-controlled schools will be giving full attention to the annual preparation for testing in mid-May. Their pupils will be lining up at test-supportive tutoring shops, parents will be busy supervising homework and purchasing performance-enhancing stimulants from the chemist shops; and the Murdochs of this world will be rubbing their hands together in glee. That’s NAPLAN-based testucation, dutifully followed by many pretenders. It will depart in the near future….. if children’s prayers are answered.
In the meantime, Yong Zhao says : “ I would not suggest lawyers and doctors in the U.S., U.K., or any other nation to replace their children’s activities in music, arts, sports, dancing, debates and field trips with maths tutoring. For the same reason, it is not time for schools in developed countries to close your swimming pools, burn your musical instruments, end museum visits, or fire your art teachers.”