India Agrees to End PISA Boycott: Why Students Should Care!

Indian School StudentsS

PISA assessments arise from the need to understand the education system and how one can improve it. Its goal is to represent the outcomes of learning rather than the outcomes of schooling.

The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has officially decided to participate in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), after a gap of nine years.

PISA is an assessment test for 15-year-olds, organised every three years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD), Paris, France. It was started in 2000 with about 43 states participating, and its latest edition in 2015 saw participation from 73 countries.

But India chose to drop out in 2009 and did not participate in the upcoming assessments. Why?

Before we get to that, let us take a look at what PISA assessments are and why they exist in the first place.

Indian School StudentsS
Source: Flickr- DFID

What are PISA assessments?

PISA assessments arise from the need to understand the education system and how one can improve it. Its goal is to represent the outcomes of learning rather than the outcomes of schooling.

By emphasising age, PISA intends to show what 15-year-olds have learned inside the classroom as well as outside, not just at their lessons.

So, how do they do it?

PISA measures student performance in mathematics, reading, and science and even innovative subjects like collaborative problem-solving and money literacy. The test is designed by education experts around the world.

The assessments do not depend on mugging up of dates or theories but assess how students apply what they have learnt to real-world problems. Countries willing to participate choose kids from different regions to represent a sample of 15-year-olds in their country.

Is there any use?

Yes! The test results give an insight into the education systems around the world. The results are not shown individually, but a group to show a national mean score. The objective is not to rank countries, but to see how the education system can be improved.

But why did India boycott the assessment?

Well, in 2009, India scored 72nd out of a total of 74 countries. 16,000 students from 400 schools across Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu had participated. The Government blamed “out of context” questions for the poor results in 2009 and decided it won’t participate in 2012 and 2015.

Yes, it was bitter to accept the fact that our education systems fail to incorporate real-world learnings, and it is more important to understand why our education systems under-deliver.

PISA 2021

And this is slowly being realised by the Indian government, when HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar, while addressing students at the Gunn Gaurav Samman Samaroh in New Delhi, said that “education is not about rote learning”.

Taking this line of thought forward, India will be participating in the 2021 PISA assessment and the test will be administered across all schools in Chandigarh. The Ministry is also keen that all Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs), funded and run by the Centre, also appear for the test then.

In a recent statement about India’s participation in PISA, Rina Ray, Secretary (Department of School and Literacy), HRD Ministry, said, “If 80 countries can participate in PISA, including China and Vietnam, then there is no reason why children in India cannot appear for it.”

She added, “We went through the question papers, we asked a couple of children, and they loved it because the questions are competency-based and do not require any memorization.”

(Edited by Shruti Singhal)

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