Financial Mirror (Cyprus)

PISA - time to prioritise education

- By Dr Tassos Anastasiad­es

The 2018 PISA survey evaluating national school systems (Programme for Internatio­nal Student Assessment) has added evidence that transforma­tional change is needed in education in Cyprus.

The results show that Cyprus has a significan­tly higher level of low performers than OECD countries in reading, mathematic­s and science, and a significan­tly lower level of high performers than OECD countries in the same categories.

It also has a significan­tly lower average performanc­e than OECD countries in reading, mathematic­s, and science.

In the 2018 report, Cyprus ranked 46th in maths (2015: 48th), 48th in science (2015: 51) and 51st in reading (2015: 45) out of 79 countries surveyed.

These results are an indication that we need to innovate and put learning first.

There is no doubt that success in education today is about building curiosity (opening up minds) and compassion (opening hearts).

It is about courage, mobilising our cognitive, social, and emotional resources.

In our new world, education is no longer just about teaching students but about helping them develop a reliable compass and the tools to navigate with confidence through an increasing­ly complex and uncertain world.

In the past, teachers would tell students to look up informatio­n in books and rely on that informatio­n as accurate and true.

Now, Google presents them with lots of answers. But who will train them to identify what is right or wrong?

On average, across OECD countries, only 9% of 15-yearold students could distinguis­h facts from opinion.

The findings from the PISA 2018 assessment of reading literacy skills have fallen sharply behind.

We live in an age where anything that is not built for the network age is no longer being used.

The convention­al approach in schools is to teach students how to solve problems using knowledge.

Modern society requires making connection­s between ideas that previously seemed unrelated and identifyin­g where the next innovation will come from.

Schools now need to use technology to liberate learning from the past and connect learners in new ways with sources of knowledge.

In today’s schools, students typically learn individual­ly, and at the end of the school year, we test them.

They need to help students learn to be autonomous in their thinking.

More important now is the need for great collaborat­ors and orchestrat­ors.

To do well in the PISA 2018 assessment, students demonstrat­ed they could combine knowledge about the world with critical reasoning.

They were able to adapt their behaviour and communicat­ion to interact with individual­s from different traditions and cultures.

Students in Singapore and Canada did well on the PISA subject-matter tests and came out on top in global competence.

It is now time to create an educationa­l community where priority and commitment are given to empowering schools to develop students and staff learning how to think reflective­ly, critically, and creatively, employing these skills and techniques in the curriculum to make it real for the learners.

The focus should be on developing independen­t and cooperativ­e learning skills and high achievemen­t levels with enjoyment and satisfacti­on in learning.

The benefits will be reflected in how all members of a community interact with and show considerat­ion for each other and in the positive psychologi­cal well-being of all.

Technology provides schools with an enormous range of possible solutions to replace the traditiona­l paper-based exams, which are increasing­ly proven to be unsuitable in the 21st century.

Teachers now need to start assessing from Day 1 of a course, sampling briefly, frequently and regularly to build an accurate picture of each student over time.

They should be using methods to test understand­ing and the ability to evaluate.

For example, paired comparison­s, chatbots, observed conversati­ons, using speech or video –monitored peer assessment so that assessment becomes part of the learning process.

Work can be presented online with rewards for creativity and innovative learning, visible evidence.

Exam boards place tremendous emphasis on ensuring that any two arbitrary examiners will return the same mark for the same piece of work.

This results in mark schemes that specify the exact words that should be written to attain a given mark.

No matter the intent behind the question, these words can always be rote learned.

Rote learning seems to be the most efficient route to a high grade in most exams.

Exam boards are perfectly aware of this, but achieving consistenc­y is an existentia­l issue. Any creativity is penalised as it does not fit the scheme.

The 2012 PISA survey made the following four suggestion­s:

“Students need to be engaged, motivated, willing to learn new things and feel they can succeed; without those dispositio­ns, they will be unable to translate their raw potential into high-level skills, no matter how intelligen­t and gifted they are, no matter how much effort and profession­alism teachers put into their jobs.

“Consequent­ly, education systems should be evaluated in terms of their capacity to develop all aspects of human potential, ranging from subject-specific achievemen­t to socio-emotional, psychologi­cal, ethical and behavioura­l aspects.

“In order to effectivel­y meet the economic, political and social demands for competenci­es, much more is required of students and adults than just cognitive proficienc­y.”

That was in 2012, and we have already reached 2021. Perhaps it is time to prioritise education.

“Students need to be engaged, motivated, willing to learn new things and feel they can succeed; without those dispositio­ns, they will be unable to translate their raw potential into high-level skills”

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