Asian coun­tries dom­i­nate, sci­ence teach­ing crit­i­cized in PISA sur­vey

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

Asian coun­tries dom­i­nated the top places in the lat­est PISA sur­vey that mea­sures skills among high school stu­dents re­leased yes­ter­day, but the re­port crit­i­cized the teach­ing of sci­ence in many coun­tries. The sur­vey of 72 coun­tries and economies found that the qual­ity of sci­ence lessons was more im­por­tant than equip­ment or even staffing lev­els. And it con­firmed ear­lier find­ings that load­ing stu­dents down with home­work was rarely the key to suc­cess in sci­ence.

Sin­ga­pore came top of the table for its teach­ing of sci­ence, read­ing and math­e­mat­ics. Its stu­dents scored an av­er­age of 556 points, com­pared with the av­er­age among Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment (OECD) coun­tries of 493. Where once Fin­land led the way in ed­u­ca­tional ex­cel­lence, Sin­ga­pore is now the ex­am­ple to other coun­tries, the re­port said.

“Ev­ery­one used to go to Fin­land. Now you have to go to Sin­ga­pore to see what they are do­ing,” OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos told re­porters ahead of the re­port’s launch. Nearly a quar­ter of all stu­dents in Sin­ga­pore (24 per­cent) also scored in the top two cat­e­gories in sci­ence tests, com­pared with just eight per­cent across the OECD coun­tries.

The five top-per­form­ing coun­tries in the PISA tests, which were car­ried out in 2015, were Sin­ga­pore, Ja­pan, Es­to­nia, Tai­wan and Fin­land. The re­port found how­ever that around six per­cent of stu­dents in OECD coun­tries, many of them in Europe, re­ported they did not get reg­u­lar sci­ence lessons.

These stu­dents scored sig­nif­i­cantly lower in the tests. Schools that did not of­fer ded­i­cated sci­ence lessons tend to be in poorer ar­eas of coun­tries, the re­port noted. The prob­lem was par­tic­u­larly bad in Aus­tria, Bel­gium, Croa­tia, France, Ger­many, Slo­vakia and Tai­wan.

Home­work not the an­swer

The re­sults also sug­gested that the key to suc­cess in sci­ence teach­ing, even more than well-equipped and well-staffed de­part­ments, was how much time was spent teach­ing the sub­ject. Those teach­ers who ac­tu­ally demon­strated sci­en­tific ideas and who adapted their teach­ing to meet stu­dents’ needs pro­duced bet­ter re­sults, the re­port said.

That tended to hap­pen in smaller classes, and stu­dents who re­ceived this kind of teach­ing were more likely to go on to a sci­ence-re­lated ca­reer, it added. “Stu­dents score five points higher in sci­ence for ev­ery ad­di­tional hour spent per week in reg­u­lar sci­ence lessons, af­ter ac­count­ing for so­cioe­co­nomic sta­tus,” the re­port noted.

But the re­sults also sug­gested that the study needed to be done in school, not at home. “School sys­tems where stu­dents spend more time learn­ing af­ter school, by do­ing home­work, re­ceiv­ing ad­di­tional in­struc­tion or in pri­vate study, tend to perform less well in sci­ence,” said the re­port. Last month, par­ents in Spain staged a strike to protest the amount of home­work schools were hand­ing out. Spain scored 493 points in the lat­est PISA tests-cor­re­spond­ing ex­actly to the OECD av­er­age.

Per­haps pre­dictably, head teach­ers told the re­searchers that tru­ancy was one prob­lem that hin­dered stu­dent learn­ing the most. But an­other sig­nif­i­cant fac­tor they re­ported was staff re­sist­ing change. Bul­ly­ing and stu­dents’ use of al­co­hol or il­le­gal drugs were re­ported as far less sig­nif­i­cant.

Asian coun­tries dom­i­nate

Asian coun­tries dom­i­nated the top 10 of the PISA table, with Ja­pan record­ing the sec­ond-high­est av­er­age score be­hind Sin­ga­pore. Ma­cao, Hong Kong and the main­land Chi­nese ter­ri­to­ries that were tested also fea­tured in the top 10, as did Tai­wan and Viet­nam. But the top-ranked Euro­pean coun­try, Es­to­nia, took third place. The only other Euro­pean coun­try in the top 10 was Fin­land, in fifth.

Canada was sev­enth on the list, well ahead of the United States, which ranked 25th among OECD coun­tries. PISA, the Pro­gramme for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment, was de­vised by the OECD to mea­sure coun­tries’ per­for­mance in teach­ing 15-year-olds the core sub­jects. PISA tests are car­ried out ev­ery three years and in 2015 they cov­ered all 35 OECD coun­tries and 37 part­ner coun­tries and economies. — AFP

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