Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Discussing PISA 2/3: Politicizing the International Student Assesssment

(Continued from "Discussing PISA 1/3: Questionable Background between the OECD and Finland's Education Administration)

2. Agenda on International Politics

The OECD's Identity Crisis

According to the BBC report, the OECD is an international organization that was born as a means of distributing the American cash and economic wisdom to the war-weary Europe, but it is now suffering from something like identity crisis because it lacks in political power, compared with other international organizations.

Under these circumstances, it is conceivable that the OECD has the agenda to raise its presence on the arena of the international politics. And it possibly looks at the PISA project, including the other educational policy instruments, as a candidate tool through which the OECD can become influential, though its influence is limited to education at the present moment.

If the OECD is urged by this agenda and tries to grow the PISA project to a full-fledged political tool, it should, in the first place, obtain the approval from the educators' community. 
In this sense, it is a normal strategy to adopt a favorite theory of education pundits, which happened to be constructivism, and design the project in accordance with it, even though it is a problematic one. 
In other words, the OECD has to depend on the school educators’ community for the legitimacy building of the PISA project.
Unfortunate is that constructivism doesn’t work in reality despite the wide popularity among educators.

New Test on "Global Competence"

In the meantime, the OECD announced in May the introduction of a new test subject called “Global Competence” in addition to the three regular subjects including mathematics, science and reading.

In the business of comparative education such as international tests and cooperation projects, politically neutral subjects including natural sciences and languages are usually chosen for the sphere of activity, but social studies subjects such as geography, history, civics etc. are usually avoided because those subjects, contents of which vary greatly by countries, are easily politicized.

However, the “Global Competence” test will be categorized into social studies. In this sense, it is an epoch-making and adventurous attempt.

Politicizing The International Student Test

If it is successful, the OECD will be able to obtain the authority to define “Global Competence”, which can be a global standard, and, thereby, expand its influence out of education to the arena of international politics.

Actually if children in a country are ignorant of topics appearing on the test of “Global Competence” or fail to interpret them as suggested by the OECD, the country will be placed low in the ranking. Therefore, education policy makers across the globe cannot help but take into consideration the inclusion of those topics and their desired interpretations into their curricula.

Moreover, once the test project achieves a global recognition, people’s attention tends to concentrate on the countries’ ups and downs in the ranking and rarely dwells on the problems about the assessment criteria, the administration system, test contents, etc. Thus the political power exercised by the test administrator can be easily overshadowed.

I expect that the first “Global Competence” test in 2018 will be carried out very carefully so as not to cause any disputes. However, I don’t expect that those who are aware of its potential political power will do nothing and miss the opportunity forever. 
There will come up lots of people who seek to influence PISA tests in one way or another: some may openly demand that some particular topics should be included in (or excluded from) the test or that yet new test subject, let’s say, “Global History” or “Social Justice” should be created. And others may lobby to change the test contents, the assessment criteria, the committee members, and whatever.

In these kinds of conflicts, the OECD will play a role of final arbiter, and thereby tremendously improve its presence in the international politics.
This kind of political presence probably sounds very attractive to the OECD, the identity of which is blurred

(Continued to "Discussing PISA 3/3: The OECD's Education Initiative Keeps Poor Countries Poor" )

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