My daughters have a game. One of them will declare, “Opposite Land!” and from then on, everything that either of them says must be the opposite of what is true. I used to think this was just a child’s game but I am now starting to wonder whether Opposite Land actually exists. I think I’ve spotted one of their citizens doing the rounds of education conferences and he is Andreas Schleicher of the OECD, the organisation that runs the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Today, Mr Scheicher is quoted as claiming, “Actually in China you will find more emphasis on conceptual understanding, on creativity, on those kinds of non-routine skills, than in Australia.” And he suggests that Australia suffers from a ‘crowded curriculum’ with ‘lots of content’.
I would like to see the evidence to support these claims. I have previously looked at claims about memorisation based on PISA. The construct that was used to measure memorisation was flawed and seemed to have virtually no relationship to PISA results. Moreover, the idea that Australia’s denuded, knowledge-lite curriculum is somehow ‘overcrowded’ beggars belief.
From his comments, Schleicher’s claims about memorisation seem to be based upon the fact that Australian students do better on the easier PISA questions than they do on the harder ones. If the reverse was true in East Asia then this would be a striking finding but I suspect that East Asian students simply do better on all of the questions.
This is not the first instance of strange pronouncements from PISA. The overwhelming finding from PISA 2012 was that their measure of ‘student-orientation’ correlated negatively with PISA maths results in every country. And the story from PISA 2015 was that the more ‘enquiry-based’ science students were exposed to, the worse their results.
What has Schleicher had to say about this?
Nothing. Nada. Crickets.
It’s almost as if there is some kind of ideological bias that affects the way the OECD report their findings.