Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Wales Asks Schools to Teach to the Pisa Test: News

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Wales Asks Schools to Teach to the Pisa Test: News

Article excerpt

Focus on international rankings will boost 'life skills', ministers say.

For the past 15 months, one subject has provoked more discussion, debate and disagreement among educationalists in Wales than any other: the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) education rankings.

Pisa, run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), has divided the education sector into those who think Wales's "disastrous" 2009 test results point to a national crisis and those who think that position is a gross exaggeration.

The backlash against the results - in which Wales performed worse than the other UK nations in reading, maths and science - has grown in recent months. And now the government has published a guide for teachers that is designed to show how they should incorporate Pisa into their lessons, prompting criticisms that ministers are encouraging schools to "game" the system.

The guidance builds on a pledge from education minister Leighton Andrews to integrate Pisa assessments into school assessment at age 15 to improve pupils' "life skills". The 50-page document aims to ensure that there is "an understanding in the educational community in Wales as to how Pisa assessments work in terms of contexts, demand and structure and how they can be used to support improved learning and teaching".

It contains sample questions and a series of tasks that teachers can use in the classroom.

The government is keen to avoid accusations that they are prepping pupils and teachers, and the document states on a number of occasions that "exposing learners to more Pisa-style assessment is not about 'practising' or 'teaching to the test'".

Rather, it is about "checking if learners understand how to access information and apply skills and knowledge".

But opponents, dubbed "flat-earthers" by some in government, have serious reservations. …

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