Tag Archives: PISA

The search for a more equitable education system in Chile

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Beatrice Avalos-Bevan, Associate Researcher at the Center for Advanced Research in Education, at the University of Chile, in order to follow-up on an earlier post about the recent reforms in Chile. In that post, we noted that reports on educational reforms in Chile made it seem that the country might be putting an end to private education. Diane Ravitch also commented on these reports and followed up with Mario Waissbluth. As we explained in our earlier post, while the country is not ending private education, President Michelle Bachelet aims to eliminate parental payments or co-funding of subsidized private schools and increase funding for all schools by implementing new education and tax reforms that would help pay for a more equitable education system.

In conversation with Dr. Avalos-Bevan, we spoke about the issues of educational inequality that have captured the attention of teachers and students, leading to the large and sometimes violent protests over the past decade. Beginning in 2006, protests were organized by secondary students during the first term of President Michelle Bachelet’s administration – a movement that came to be known as the “Penguin Revolution” (after the white shirts and dark jackets of students’ school uniforms). The protests became more numerous and violent during the following Sebastián Piñera administration. When Bachelet returned for a second term as President in 2014, she was elected on an education reform platform that was embraced by students and teachers, and she even brought some of the former student leaders in to work in her administration.

As Mario Waissbluth explained in our last post, the “first wave of legislation” was sent to Congress in May; however, students continue to be dissatisfied because initial actions did not consider as yet changes in the administration and improvement of municipal or public schools, although these have been announced for the second semester of this year. This has caused students and teachers to reconvene their street protests as a way to put pressure on the administration and call attention to their ongoing concerns this past June. Those protests ended with the use of tear gas on thousands of university students

School Funding and Student Protests

As Dr. Avalos-Bevan explained, in the current system there are public or municipal schools, subsidized private schools, and elite private schools. The concern over inequality stems from the fact that the subsidized private schools are able to collect money from the government while also charging tuition. As a result, these schools receive a level of funding that the public or municipal schools cannot attain. Over time, the student population attending public schools has been shrinking, as more families strive to place their children in well-resourced subsidized schools.

The student protests have honed in on school funding because the students personally experience the increasingly segregated school system and the differences in the quality of education provided by the public or municipal schools versus the subsidized private schools. They also pay attention to the country’s poor performance on international assessments, such as Pisa and TIMSS, and attribute it to the flaws they see in the system.

Dr. Avalos-Bevan explained that in order to create a more equitable system, all schools need to receive a higher amount of government funding. For this reason, President Bachelet has suggested increasing taxes by 3% of gross domestic product, and increasing the corporate tax rate to 25% (up from 20%). President Bachelet will also stop funding of current private subsidized schools that operate on a for-profit basis, making all subsidized primary and secondary education free, creating more universities and increasing kindergarten funding and pre-K institutions.

Quality and Teacher Education

Colegio de Profesores, the largest teachers’ union in Chile, joined the student effort and held a strike last month to protest President Bachelet’s reform efforts, which they say don’t go far enough to address the fundamental issues of inequality that plague Chilean schools. Despite what some have seen as indicators of significant reform, others are concerned that the process has not encouraged “adequate public participation in the bill-writing process.”

In addition to refining school funding in Chilean schools, Dr. Avalos-Bevan says that there is a similar problem with private universities and the teacher preparation programs they have created. In the years between 2004-2010, private colleges have increased and are now being criticized for what many identify as an increase in profits without sufficient evidence of quality education. These institutions are known to admit students to their teacher education programs with very low qualifications, who graduate without adequate skills. According to Dr. Avalos-Bevan, the government has created a test (the Prueba Inicia, or Start Test) that aims to assess the students’ content knowledge as they leave university, but the test is currently administered on a voluntary basis. Therefore, many teachers graduate without taking this assessment. Of the few who take this test, many perform poorly.

Despite this issue of teacher education, Dr. Avalos-Bevan believes the main problem has to do with teachers’ working conditions. Salaries are low compared with those who enter professions that require the same level of education (4-5 years), and 75% of a teacher’s contract time has to be spent teaching in the classroom (27 hours per week, which is the highest of all OECD countries, according to the latest TALIS survey), leaving little time for planning, grading, and meeting with other teachers. Dr. Avalos-Bevan would like to see the establishment of a teaching career, with specifications as to how teachers may progress, what kinds of salaries they may achieve, and paths for them to move into other positions in the education system. Currently, there is a strong civil society movement pushing for changes in this direction that expects to propose a plan for the President to consider.

Deirdre Faughey

Interview with Beatriz Pont

Beatriz Pont

Beatriz Pont

Beatriz Pont is Senior Education Policy Analyst in the OECD Education Directorate. At the OECD since 1999, she has focused on education policy analysis and advice. She has managed and contributed to a range of education policy comparative reviews in the area of school improvement, school leadership, equity, adult learning and adult skills. This interviewwhich is part of the Lead the Change Series of the American Educational Research Association Educational Change Special Interest Group, appears as part of a series that features experts from around the globe, highlights promising research and practice, and offers expert insight on small- and large-scale educational change. Recently, Lead the Change has also published interviews with Diane Ravitch, and the contributors to Leading Educational Change: Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-System Reform (Teachers College Press, 2013) edited by Helen Janc Malone, have participated in a series of blogs from Education Week.

Scanning the Globe: Access, Protests, and PISA 2012

A quick review of the headlines on education and educational policy we’ve seen from around the world over the last few weeks reveals continuing concerns about issues of access and financing in both developed and developing countries.  Australian Teacher Magazine reported on concerns about the extent to which the current Australian government will support the previously approved “Gonski” reforms, and Education International raised questions about a bill that will introduce an income cap to Japan’s tuition-free program for public high schools. An article in The Hindu described how school cancellations caused by excessive holidays and weather can interfere with the requirements for increased instructional time in India’s Right to Education Act. Euronews reported on the difficulties that students in countries like Uganda, Kenya, and Mexico face just getting to school.

Protests over the past few weeks included those over conditions for education and support for educators in the Ukraine that took place as part of the demonstrations against the government’s efforts to delay an association agreement with Europe; rallies against education cuts in Spain; and protests by students at the University of Copenhagen in response to a working paper from the University administration describing proposals designed to get students to complete their courses on time.

But the big news, at least for a moment, was OECD’s release of the 2012 PISA results including overviews, country-specific notes, full reports and data.  We pulled together headlines from around the world, many of which labeled the results “bad news,” except in countries like Lichtenstein, Poland, Estonia and the usual high-performing Asian countries and portions of countries (like Shanghai).  Alexander Russo rounded-up the responses in the United States and The Times Education Supplement put together their own list of news and opinion.

Concerns about the orchestration of the announcement and the media blitz surrounding it were raised on both sides of the Atlantic, by Paul Morris on the Institute of London Blog as well as Richard Rothstein and Martin Carnoy from the Economic Policy Institute in the US. While Marc Tucker and Tom Friedman agreed on some of the multiple factors that might contribute to Shanghai’s success, Adam MinterJunheng Li, and Diane Ravitch pointed to some of the problems and concerns about the Chinese education system expressed both inside and outside China (as well with some of the concerns about vast numbers of students in Shanghai who are unrepresented in the PISA tests).

Although slipping a bit in math, Finland – along with several other European high-performers like Estonia (discussed by Pasi Sahlberg), Poland (discussed by Amanda Ripley), and Liechtenstein – still serves as a focus for some examinations of the ingredients of a successful education system. Given the domination of the rankings by the Asian high-performers however, some of the main story lines for the next few years seem to be set. On the one hand, stories about success on PISA will highlight how hard students’ work and the amount of time students spend on schoolwork while mentioning concerns about the amount of pressure on students and the need to support the development of higher-order skills. (See for example, reports from the BBC about South Korea and a report in the Japan News that credits Japan’s strong performance on PISA 2012 in part to a decision by the Japanese Ministry to back-off a commitment to “pressure-free” education and an increase in the volume of study content and the number of class hours). On the other hand, others will continue to point to the many issues of inequality and the social and economic factors that play into these results and other comparisons (see for example stories from France, and the US; while it does not focus on PISA, a recent article from the Asia Pacific Journal of Education explores the inequitable distribution resources across schools in South Korea).

Pisa 2012 headlines from around the world

The release of the Pisa 2012 rankings produced a flood of headlines around the world, many of them noting what was seen as bad news (except in many parts of Asia). Below, we provide a list of headlines from around the world that we put together based on a quick, unsystematic scan of mostly English-language publications:

Asia

Australia, News.com.au

PISA report finds Australian teenagers education worse than 10 years ago
“AUSTRALIAN teenagers’ reading and maths skills have fallen so far in a decade that nearly half lack basic maths skills and a third are practically illiterate.”

China, China Daily

Asia tops OECD’s latest education survey

“Asia outperformed the rest of the world in the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey published on Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).”

Hong Kong, South China Morning Post

Shanghai teens still world’s best at reading, maths, science in Pisa survey

“Mainland city’s 15-year-olds the best at reading, maths and science, global survey finds, but HK youngsters are snapping at their heels.”

Japan, The Japan Times

Nation’s kids top fields in PISA test

“For the first time ever, Japanese 15-year-olds topped the list in reading and science performance in an international academic survey last year covering 34 developed countries, according to data released Tuesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

South Korea, The Korea Herald

Korea tops OECD in math proficiency

“The performance of Korean students proves the country’s established education system and also strong zeal for education, according to the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation.”

Malaysia, malay mail

PISA: Malaysia up in maths, down in science and reading

Malaysian students scored higher in mathematics but registered declines in both reading ability and science, according to the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey released today.

New ZealandNew Zealand Herald

Significant drops in NZ educational achievement – OECD report

“New Zealand educational achievement has dropped significantly in the core subjects of science, maths and reading, according to a OECD report.”

Singapore, Channel NewsAsia

S’pore edges up in PISA rankings as weaker students improve

“An international study of 15-year-olds’ mathematics, science and reading skills shows Singapore has made progress when it comes to helping weaker students level up to their peers.”

 

Europe

Finland, Yle.fi

Finnish pupils’ PISA results decline

“As expected, Finland has dropped in the OECD’s comparison of test results from 15-year-old pupils in 65 countries and regions. It placed 12th in mathematics, which was the main theme this year. However Finland ranked best in Europe in the other two categories: reading and science.”

France, Rfi.fr

French falling behind in maths says Pisa global education survey

“A global education survey released today showed that France has dropped to an average position in international maths tests and needs to improve educational results for immigrants and the poor.”

Germany, The Local

Germans improve Pisa education results

“German schoolchildren are improving in international comparisons, inching up the Pisa scale but still remain behind not only education giants such as Singapore and Hong Kong, but also Switzerland and the Netherlands.”

Liechtenstein, The Telegraph

OECD education report: Liechtenstein uses tiny classes and a specially-tailored maths programme to beat the competition

“With teachers on up to 130,000 euros per year, classrooms rarely over 15 pupils, and lucrative banking, hi-tech or industry jobs up for grabs, motivation is high”

Norway, The Nordic Page

Norway Left Behind Denmark and Finland in New PISA Survey

“Norwegian students have demonstrated the worst performance in math and science since 2009, but they are better in reading, shows OECD’s PISA survey.”

Spain, El País

No improvement in math, but Spanish students edge up in reading and science

“OECD’s latest Pisa global education survey places Spain slightly below average”

UK, The Guardian

UK students stuck in educational doldrums, OECD study finds

Influential Pisa report says Britain’s mid-table position is virtually unchanged from 2009 as attainment gap persists”

 

North & South America

Argentina, Infobae (via Google Translate)

Argentina deepens the decline in its educational quality

the international survey ranked “the country 59th among 65 nations. Seven out of 10 young people got the lowest grade in math.”

Brazil, Jornal do Brasil (via Google Translate)

Despite advances in education, Brazil occupies the lowest position Pisa

“Brazil is still in the lower levels of the ranking. Among the 65 countries compared, Brazil ranked 58th. However, since 2003, Brazil has the biggest gains in performance in mathematics, out of the 356 points that year and reaching 391 points in 2012, according to data released on Tuesday.”

Canada, The Globe and Mail

Canada’s fall in math-education ranking sets off alarm bells

“Canada has dropped out of the top 10 in international math education standings, a decline that is raising alarms about the country’s future prosperity.”

Chile, La Tercera (via Google Translate)

Chile rose two points in math, but their results stagnate

“The country scored 423 points, while the OECD countries averaged 71 more. School of Shanghai achieved 613 points. Since 2006, Chile has increased every year 1.9 results in Mathematics. Since 2000, the rise in Reading has been three points.”

United States, This Week in Education

Vietnam wins! (Pisa 2013)

(Alexander Russo’s roundup of headlines and stories about PISA 2013 from around the US)

Austria

Compulsory reading for elementary school pupils (in German)
Kleine Zeitung (13 June 2012)

International studies like OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the IEA’s Progress in International Reading Study (PIRLS) discovered reading difficulties for Austria pupils. (For example, Austria’s mean PISA reading score for 2009 was 402, which is in the 31 percentile, compared to the OECD mean of 489.  Search the PISA results here.)   Because of these international test results, the government is now suggesting that a compulsory “reading” course be implemented in primary schools.  As a part of this reform, “literature” would then be a separate subject area, although the reading of literary texts would be embedded in the curriculum to encourage the love of reading.

Canada

Response: Factors Behind The Success Of Ontario’s Schools — Part One and Part Two
Ferlazzo, L.  Education Week (21 May 2012 & 22 May 2012) 

What’s going on in Ontario’s schools?  Part One contains responses to this question from a teacher, an administrator, and two parent leaders; Part Two includes contributions from Professor Michael Fullan, a professor emeritus at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and current special advisor to the premier and minister of education in Ontario, and readers.  Professor Fullan writes, “Unfortunately some countries in a hurry to address the issues get the solutions wrong.  I call these mistake ‘wrong drivers for whole system reform’.  Drivers are policy and strategy instruments designed to ’cause’ improvement in the system.  A wrong driver is one that does not work; a right driver is one that does produce improvement.  In our work on system reform we have been sorting out what drivers work and which ones do not.  This is our conclusion: excessive accountability, individualistic strategies designed to increase human capital, technology and ad hoc policy solutions waste valuable time and resources and often make matters worse.”  Other respondents point to support for teachers and involving students in the creation of assessments as reasons for the success of Ontario schools.

The following video provides an overview of some of the items discussed in Part One and Part Two of “Factors Behind The Success of Ontario’s Schools”:

Austria

Governor of Austrian province suggests including PISA results in students’ general grades
Der Standard (17 April 2012)

In order to increase student motivation for PISA tests, Josef Pühringer, the Governor of the Province of Upper Austria, suggests including PISA test results in students’ general grades. He believes this would lead to higher test scores because the problem with Austria’s PISA results, in his view, is one of student motivation rather than weak student knowledge and competences.  (Find more about Austria’s performance on PISA in relation to other nations here and here.)