Pisa comparisons ‘not useful’, world respected education academic says

International comparisons of education systems are not useful because they are plagued by missing data and the private tuition of students, and because policies cannot be simply transplanted to other countries, a world respected education academic has said. Tes reports.

Speaking last week at the Best in Class summit organised by the Sutton Trust in New York, Dylan Wiliam, emeritus professor of the UCL Institute of Education, poured criticism on international league tables like the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).

Appearing on a panel which included the boss of Pisa, Andreas Schleicher, Professor Wiliam said: “Like everybody else in this room I am really interested in how we raise levels of achievement in general and to close the achievement gap.

“Probably unlike most people in this room I am not particularly convinced about the usefulness of international comparisons for directing this effort in a particular country for a variety of reasons.”

Professor Wiliam also pointed out that some systems celebrated for their high performance actually appear to be stagnating. “Ontario’s results have basically been flat for 20 years,” he said. “The reason that’s quite important is because if what they were doing in Ontario was good educationally, then as children have been exposed to one, two, three, four, five years of this system, the results should be going up, and they’re not. And we see results in Finland actually going down.”

“Even if we know why those countries are high performing, could we implement that in the UK or England? The answer is probably not.

“I’m very sceptical about even if we can figure out good research from this, whether these would provide us with solutions.”

Read more Pisa comparisons ‘not useful’, world respected education academic says

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