Response to PISA 2015: Beware of simplistic representations in media

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 be posting their comments. Today we share a comment from Yong Zhao, of the University of Kansas:

While I understand news media have to use some sensation-seeking headlines, I wish journalists would be more careful because these headlines have serious consequences. Education is very complex, culturally rooted, and local and cannot be simplistically represented with rankings. More important, I hope PISA and TIMSS stop presenting their results in simplistic ways to the media, for example, stop using league tables. Better yet, stop the programs entirely. 

For more from Zhao, read his latest commentaries, including:

“How does PISA put the world at risk? (part 5): Racing to the past,”

Excerpt: “PISA has certainly successfully put a number of East Asian education systems on a pedestal and thus constrained their ability and desire to make drastic changes. But they need drastic changes if they wish to truly cultivate the kind of talents needed to become innovative societies that rival the West because the authoritarian East Asian education model leaves little room for creative and unorthodox individuals to pursue their passion, question the authority, and develop their strengths, although it is extremely effective in homogenizing individuals, enforcing compliance, and hence producing great test scores.”

“Don’t Read Too Much into it: What Brexit and U.S. election surprises can teach us about PISA”

Excerpt: “These two back-to-back spectacular failures of data-driven predictions remind us that data can be deceiving, misleading, and sometimes just quits working. Blind faith in data can have disastrous and long-lasting consequences…”

“Don’t Read Too Much into it: Did the shift from paper to computer ruin east Asia’s? (China’s?) PISA performance?”

Excerpt: “What could have caused such a uniform change in eight education systems in as short a time as three years? The only common factor I could find is the change of PISA delivery format: from paper to computer.” 

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

Pisa: Can the results really be trusted to tell us anything about education standards? (TES, 12/6)

Finland’s schools were once the envy of the world. Now, they’re slipping. (The Washington Post, 12/8)

Opinion: Dip in PISA results a sign of things to come (The Educator, 12/12)

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