PISA and Other Large-Scale Student Assessments: What are they for, what do they yield, and can we do better?

Andreas Schleicher, Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to OECD’s Secretary-General

Co-presented with the Faculty of Education and Social Work, the University of Sydney

5 July

Launched in 1997 by the OECD, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international study which aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students. To date, students representing more than 70 countries and economies have participated in the assessment, including students in Australia. PISA and other large-scale assessment exercises such as the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) are promoted by governments and education systems as important for student and national development – as well as important for guiding educational and social policy. However, critics of PISA suggest it can excessively commodify education, does not sufficiently allow for cultural nuances and valuing of different educational contexts, constrains curriculum, and cannot meaningfully differentiate countries in its rankings. Others have suggested that national assessment exercises such as NAPLAN can be used for student-level testing (not for school rankings) and that PISA can be a complementary assessment exercise used for determining the nation’s ‘educational health and well-being’.

This presentation addresses these issues, describes the purposes of PISA, identifies its proposed yields and limitations for schools and governments, and explores whether and how large-scale assessment exercises such as PISA (and NAPLAN) may be more effectively applied in the future

Andreas Schleicher

Andreas Schleicher is Deputy Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to OECD’s Secretary-General. He also provides strategic oversight over OECD’s work on the development and utilisation of skills and their social and economic outcomes. This includes the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the OECD Survey of Adult Skills (PIAAC), the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) and the development and analysis of benchmarks on the performance of education systems (INES). Before joining the OECD, he was Director for Analysis at the International Association for Educational Achievement (IEA). He studied Physics in Germany and received a degree in Mathematics and Statistics in Australia. He is the recipient of numerous honours and awards, including the “Theodor Heuss” prize, awarded in the name of the first president of the Federal Republic of Germany for “exemplary democratic engagement”. He holds an honorary Professorship at the University of Heidelberg.