Responding to PISA 2015: The importance of cultural context

Last week, when the PISA 2015 scores were released, Thomas Hatch shared a response and a scan of headlines from around the world. We reached out to an international group of scholars and asked them to share their own response to the PISA results as well. Over the next few days we will post their comments. We begin with Dr. Alma Harris and Dr. Michelle Jones, of the University of Malaya, are also editors of the Leading Futures series published by IEN.

PISA has its strengths. There is a wealth of data for researchers to analyse and use. It also has its weaknesses. One is the cultural blind spot. Countries are weighed and measured as if little differences exist between them, when in fact, the differences in their social, cultural and contextual make-up is vast. When cultural variations are factored in, rather than ignored, the basis for meaningful comparison becomes less secure. Looking at all the data about educational performance, in context, may help formulate future policy directions, far more, than relying on one measure every three years.

For more from Dr. Harris and Dr. Jones, read their Leading Futures post, “The Dutch Way: Is the Netherlands a best kept educational secret?” in which they argue that the success of the Dutch system can be attributable to their combined focus on democratic values with an approach to policymaking that relies on both collaboration and autonomy.

For more on the recent PISA results, explore the following recent articles:

Global education leaders discuss PISA results and equity in secondary education (The Asia Society, 12/9)

Who’s telling the truth about M’sia’s Pisa 2015 scores? (, 12/9)

Kit Siang: Unendorsed data used to tabulate PISA scores (, 12/9)

PAGE: Education ministry must clear up Pisa controversy (Free Malaysia Today, 12/13)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s