Opposition from the top to Pisa-style global student tests

Posted by Michael Rainsford in

Leading institutions have kicked back at attempts by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to introduce Pisa-style tests for higher education institutions across the globe. The intention of the tests, much like the Pisa system for 15 year olds across OECD countries, aims to provide a comparative study of academic capability in core subject areas across all higher education institutions in the OECD area.

PISA tests (Program for International Student Assessment) for 15-year old students provides performance metrics on a geographical split covering the disciplines of mathematics, Reading, science and problem-solving. In the 2012 survey, assessment of financial literacy was also included. Over 500,000 students completed the assessment in 2012, across 68 countries.

The head of the OECD's education assessment programme, Andreas Schleicher, informs that the organisation is ready to implement the new scheme, should opposition not have already stalled proceedings. The testing programme, coined by the name AHELO, standing for Assessment of Higher Education Learning Outcomes, has been trialled at close to 250 higher education institutions, accounting for 23,000 students. Countries that participated in the trial included Canada and the US. The UK did not take part, however.

The AHELO trial covers a broad range of key skills, believed by the OECD to be critical to success in today's global economy, including critical thinking, analytical reasoning, written communication and problem-solving. Versus the PISA tests for 15 year olds, the proposed AHELO programme could always have been destined for more resistance. By intending to look at results on an institutional level as well as a geographical level, the AHELO programme adds a level of granularity that many institutions may not be comfortable with. This is particularly the case for leading institutions with robust reputations who have more to lose from such studies, which provides a disproportionate opportunity for second tier institutions to steal the limelight.

The plans however are met with great support across many OECD members and institutions. The success of the PISA system is clear to be seen and the results provide vital feedback to policymakers across the entire OECD spectrum to assess and reevaluate their domestic education system within the backdrop of a global economy. The mobility of labour across the globe demands students entering the job market to be competitive on an international level - competition for a single job could come from all corners of the globe.

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