Thursday, August 18, 2016

Discussing PISA 3/3: The OECD's Education Initiative Keeps Poor Countries Poor

3. Agenda of “Rich Countries Club”

One-sided Reactions of School Educators’ Community in Rich Countries

The misleading hype about Finnish education was ignited by the OECD and massively fueled by the school educators’ community, members of which include schoolteachers, academics, journalists, unionists, and others in rich countries.
I would like to discuss the reactions of the community below.

As I mentioned before, while constructivism is viewed as ideal among many educators, it has been causing more harm than good in practice. Frankly not only constructivism but also other progressive education theories loved by them have hardly succeeded.
It must have long been a heart-breaking fact for them, especially for the education academics advocating their ideals in their books and lectures. Thus they had been frustrated and stuck for the positive evidence.
Under such circumstances, the OECD offered the solution by preparing the PISA project based on constructivism.

When Finnish education, which had undergone the reform recommended by the OECD, was ranked high in PISA, the community members were so pleased, and notably education academics readily believed that their proud theory was proved effective.
In this way, the OECD saved faces of many educators by providing evidence for their ideal education.

This solution is, however, not very fair because the PISA tests are designed in favor of constructivist education. And the evidence provided is tentative one in the particular examination and doesn’t seem to prove anything in reality, considering that Finnish children are suffering from innumeracy in their daily life now.

However, the journalists and academics have beautifully dramatized the Finnish education as success story of their ideal. Its beautiful image rapidly spread like wildfire in the school educators’ community and has developed to the hype across the globe.
On the other hand, the negative facts such as objection from within Finland, Finland’s sad result in TIMSSFinnish children’s numerate trouble, and Asian rise in the ranking have been neglected or treated as elephant in the room.
some educationists got together to call for a halt to PISA in protest against the Finland's "unexplained decline" in the ranking.
We should keep in mind these one-sided reactions of the educators in rich countries.

Joint Initiative between the OECD and School Educators

The bottom line is that while the OECD depends on the school educators’ community for the legitimacy of the PISA project, the community welcomes the OECD as friendly external evaluator.
Owing to this “mutually endorsing” relation, they are seemingly taking initiative together in leading the international debates on comparative education. This joint initiative between them seems good for educators, but not so good for learners especially in developing countries.

Since the school educators are concerned with their rights and interests, the policies and methods they propose tend to be costly or budget-consuming. Cost consciousness seems the furthest thing from their mind.
The OECD, of course, reflects their mind. Therefore, it incessantly preaches about the need for the investment in education, but is reluctant to talk about cost-effective means of education.

Cost-effective Solutions are Shut out from the Discussion Table

In the meantime, many countries are now facing the problem of teacher shortage.
The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) has recently reported that the world will need to recruit 25.8 million teachers by 2030, and notably some developing or emerging countries will need more than one million teachers each. Another report says that there are already 100 students in one classroom of K-12 schools and 2,000 learners in one lecture theater of higher education in Egypt now.

It is obviously a tough job to make a budget just for hiring teaching staff to satisfy these demands in those countries. And it is feared that even a minimal teacher training may not be affordable there, let alone the gorgeous teacher trainings proposed by educators in rich countries. Therefore, it is worth considering e-Learning systems as alternative solution for student learning as well as teacher training.

When it comes to e-Learning solutions, a variety of experiences are available in the US, including blended learning, MOOCs, the Khan Academy, etc. And similar efforts can be found in shadow education in East Asia.

However, these cost-effective solutions are prone to be neglected or denied in the school educators’ community, because they can jeopardize the educators’ rights and interests. Accordingly the OECD is unwilling to touch the cost-effective, that is, labor-saving aspect of the technological innovation.
As a result, while they advertise the expensive policies and methods, effectiveness of which is dubious very much, they shut out the cost-effective solutions from the discussion table of comparative education and international policy borrowing.

This attitude of them can result in misguiding the educational resources, and its negative impact must be greater in developing countries, where education budget is limited despite the huge youth population. Thus the OECD’s educational initiative keeps poor countries poor, or in worse cases, exacerbate the situation.

Maybe we should remember that the OECD is the “Rich Countries Club” and seek another approach for education of young people in developing countries.


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