International comparisons: Good and bad experiences from the OECD - PISA project

7 December 2012

On December 7th Prof Svein Sjøberg will present "International comparisons: Good and bad experiences from the OECD - PISA project".

The PISA project has positive as well as more problematic aspects, and it is important for educators and researchers to engage in critical public debates on this utterly important project, including its uses and misuses. The PISA project sets the educational agenda internationally as well as within the participating countries. PISA results and advice are often considered as objective and value free scientific truths, while they are, in fact embedded in the overall political and economic aims and priorities of the OECD. Through media coverage PISA results create the public perception of the quality of a country's overall school system. I will raise critical points from several perspectives. The main point of view is that the PISA ambitions of testing "real-life skills and competencies in authentic contexts" are by definition alone impossible to achieve. A test is never better than the items that constitute the test. Hence, a critique of PISA should not mainly address the official rationale, ambitions and definitions, but should scrutinize the test items and the realities around the data collection. The secrecy over PISA items makes detailed critique difficult, but I will illustrate the quality of the items with two examples from the released texts. I will also raise serious questions about the credibility of the results, in particular the ranking. I will assert that young learners in different countries and cultures may vary in the way they behave in the PISA test situation.

Prof Svein Sjøberg functions as special advisor to the EU, OECD and a number of European countries on the areas of learning and the natural sciences. Based on his experiences as part of these executive committees, he will share his critical concerns about this undertaking.

Professor Svein Sjøberg is professor in science education at Oslo University and Copenhagen University. His current research interests are: Social, cultural and ethical aspects of science; science education in an international context; critical approach to issues of scientific literacy; and public understanding of science. More information and articles here.

Time: 11.00am - 12.30pm

Location: New Law School Annexe Seminar Room 342

Cost: Free

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