Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Discussing PISA 1/3: Questionable Background between the OECD and Finland's Education Administration

(It is advisable to first read "Finnish Mathematicians were Blowing Whistle on the Finnish Education Hype".)

Questionable Background between the OECD and Finland's Education Administration

As I wrote before, Finnish education can hardly be deemed successful. And considering the early criticism from within Finland, we cannot help but think that the Finnish education hype has been a total illusion since the beginning.

We should not applaud the education through which less than 20% of students can solve fractions and some of them have numerate difficulty in daily life. At least we should scrutinize it thoroughly before taking it as educational role model.

Finnish education has gained attention since Finland was ranked high in the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) administered by the OECD in the early 2000s. 
And some questionable background between the OECD and the Finnish education administration is pointed out in the below articles.

Too Eager to Comply? OECD Education Policies and the Finnish Response

Finnish education, which had been reformed in accordance with the OECD’s recommendation in 1990s, has been ranked high in the international test carried out by the OECD and played up as successful role model, though East Asian education systems, which have been ranked also high, or even higher, in the same test, have never been celebrated or advertised like Finnish one…

The OECD started the PISA project with the aim of justifying its own education policy with which it reformed the Finnish education?

Constructivism - the Problematic Theory

Even Granting that the OECD utilized the international test merely to justify its policy, it could be still useful if it resulted in dissemination of some good and effective education. However, it seems not the case.

It is pointed out that both the Finnish education and the PISA project share the same education theory called constructivism. And this theory is very controversial and problematic: while it is lauded often very enthusiastically by the school educators, it has caused many problems in practice.

For example, the constructivist education reform introduced in the US in 1990s brought a big controversy called math wars. And notorious Yutori education in Japan, which was officially denied recently, was also influenced a lot by it. Similar confusions can be seen in other parts of the world such as Turkey, Uganda, and China, according to a report.
And Finland seems no exception.

Why the OECD Advertises the Problematic Education?

Why the OECD has to advertise this problematic, or at least controversial, education theory by carrying out the PISA project?
For thinking about this question, I hypothesize the below agendas the OECD is likely to have behind. And I try to discuss them one by one.

1: Agenda on Economic Policies

1. Agenda on Economic Policies

Many people may wonder why the OECD, which is primarily an economic organization, is involved so much in education and the international test project. This question would not be raised if PISA was held by the UNESCO, UNICEF or other education-related organizations.
Therefore it can be suspected that the OECD has some hidden agenda on economic policies behind. In fact, the Finnish education scholars are hinting neo-liberal tone of the OECD in their argument above.

It would not be impossible to find something in common between neo-liberalist argument and the OECD’s education theory.
Generally speaking, not only constructivists but also other progressive educationists put importance on students’ active engagement in learning and de-emphasize instruction itself. On the other hand, neo-liberalists say that state intervention should be minimized so that entrepreneurs can act freely to boost economy. Thus you may find these narratives sound similar in a sense.
On the other hand, however, some Japanese researchers argue that neo-liberalists in Japan as well as in the US and the UK cannot accept the OECD's educational thought.

As far as I have read arguments on this matter so far, it’s not very convincing that the OECD advertises constructivism with the aim of pushing forward neo-liberal economy, though I keep looking for more convincing arguments.

(Continued to "Discussing PISA 2/3: Politicizing the International Student Assessment")

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