PISA as a Challenge for Science Education: Inherent Problems and Problematic Results from a Global Assessment Regime

Svein Sjøberg


We experience the emergence of a global educational reform movement, where the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) through its project PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) has become the key driver. PISA and its focus on league tables and rankings influence educational debates and educational policy world-wide. The OECD is, with PISA as the main instrument, emerging as a kind of global ministry of education, promoting theirown standardized curriculum and system of quality assessment. PISA is designed to be used by the 30+ modern, highly developed countries in the OECD, but is also used by some 40 less developed non-OECD countries as a benchmark for their education system. This influence of OECD will be further widened by a version of PISA that will target developing countries, “PISA for development”. This instrument has the same underlying assumptions and ideals as PISA: the main concern is the national economy, not the personal development of the learner. There is also the underlying assumption that competition is always good, and that a free-market economy always promotes quality. The increasing role taken by the OECD is pushing aside the influence of international organization with different agendas and ideals, like UNESCO and UNICEF. Since studies like PISA by design cannot identify causal relationships behind neither success nor failure, the educational consequences of the studies are not clear. In many countries, PISA results are used to legitimize market-driven reforms, control of the teachers, payment by test results for teachers and principals, erosion of the public school system, privatization and the introduction of more testing regimes.In this development, the OECD now operates in close contact with the world’s largest commercial company in the education sector, Pearson Inc. The success of PISA as an instrument of governance is currently expanded also to target schools and their teaching in a more direct way: a PISA-like instrument, “PISA for Schools” is developed for local use, for schools and school districts, enabling them to compare their own schools to “PISA winners”. This development may also create anxiety and concern not only at the national or federal level, but also at the local level. This test is also a commercial product, opening up a large and untapped market. 



Comparative studies; science education; educational policy; globalization; standardization; OECD; PISA.

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Direitos autorais 2017 Svein Sjøberg

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