One of the ultimate goals of policy makers is to enable citizens to take advantage of a globalised world economy. This is leading them to focus on the improvement of education policies, ensuring the quality of service provision, a more equitable distribution of learning opportunities and stronger incentives for greater efficiency in schooling.
Since school is where most learning happens, what happens in school has a direct impact on learning. In turn, what happens in school is influenced by the resources, policies and practices approved at higher administrative levels in a country’s education system.
Introduction to PISA
Are students well prepared to meet the challenges of the future? Can they analyse, reason and communicate their ideas effectively? Have they found the kinds of interests they can pursue throughout their lives as productive members of the economy and society? The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) seeks to answer these questions through its triennial surveys of key competencies of 15-year-old students in OECD member countries and partner countries/economies. Together, the group of countries participating in PISA represents nearly 90% of the world economy.1
Some Features Shared by High-Performing School Systems
How do resources for education, and education policies and practices relate to reading performance? And what is their relationship with the socio-economic background of countries, schools and students? This chapter presents a summary of selected features shared by "successful" school systems, defined by relatively high-achieving students and greater equity in learning outcomes, because socio-economic background has only a moderate impact on performance.
How Resources, Policies and Practices are Related to Student Performance
By focusing on selected organisational features of schools and school systems, this chapter details how resources, policies and practices relate to student performance, and how far positive relationships at the school level translate into positive relationships at the level of the education system. The chapter also discusses how the environment within schools affects learning outcomes.
How Schooling is Organised
This chapter provides detailed descriptions and in-depth analyses of selected organisational features of schools and systems that affect student performance. These include how students are sorted into grades, schools and programmes, school autonomy, school competition, how schools and school systems use student assessments, and resources devoted to education.
The Learning Environment
Students perform better in orderly classrooms and with the support of engaged teachers and parents. Using reports from students, school principals and, for some countries, parents, this chapter describes and analyses six key aspects of the learning environment: teacher and student behaviours that affect learning, the disciplinary climate, teacher-student relations, how teachers stimulate students’ engagement in reading, parents’ involvement in and expectation of schooling, and school principals’ leadership.
Many nations declare that they are committed to children and education. This is put to the test when these commitments come up against other considerations. How do such nations pay teachers compared to the way they pay other professionals with the same level of education? When people are being considered for jobs, how are education credentials weighed against other qualifications ? Would you want your child to be a teacher? How much attention do the media pay to schools and schooling? When it comes down to it, which matters more: a community’s standing in the sports leagues or its standing in the school league tables? Are parents more likely to encourage their children to study longer and harder or would they want them to spend more time with their friends, participating in community activities, or taking part in sporting activities?
The development of the PISA 2009 reading tasks was co-ordinated by an international consortium of educational research institutions contracted by the OECD, under the guidance of a group of reading experts from participating countries. Participating countries contributed stimulus material and questions, which were reviewed, tried out and refined iteratively over the three years leading up to the administration of the assessment in 2009. The development process involved provisions for several rounds of commentary from participating countries, as well as small-scale piloting and a formal field trial in which samples of 15-year-olds from all participating countries took part. The reading expert group recommended the final selection of tasks, which included material submitted by 21 of the participating countries. The selection was made with regard to both their technical quality, assessed on the basis of their performance in the field trial, and their cultural appropriateness and interest level for 15-year-olds, as judged by the participating countries. Another essential criterion for selecting the set of material as a whole was its fit to the framework described in Volume I, What Students Know and Can Do, to maintain the balance across various categories of text, aspect and situation. Finally, it was carefully ensured that the set of questions covered a range of difficulty, allowing good measurement and description of the reading literacy of all 15-year-old students, from the least proficient to the highly able.
PISA is a collaborative effort, bringing together scientific expertise from the participating countries, steered jointly by their governments on the basis of shared, policy-driven interests. A PISA Governing Board on which each country is represented determines, in the context of OECD objectives, the policy priorities for PISA and oversees adherence to these priorities during the implementation of the programme. This includes the setting of priorities for the development of indicators, for the establishment of the assessment instruments and for the reporting of the results. Experts from participating countries also serve on working groups that are charged with linking policy objectives with the best internationally available technical expertise. By participating in these expert groups, countries ensure that the instruments are internationally valid and take into account the cultural and educational contexts in OECD Member countries, the assessment materials have strong measurement properties, and the instruments place an emphasis on authenticity and educational validity. Through National Project Managers, participating countries implement PISA at the national level subject to the agreed administration procedures. National Project Managers play a vital role in ensuring that the implementation of the survey is of high quality, and verify and evaluate the survey results, analyses, reports and publications. The design and implementation of the surveys, within the framework established by the PISA Governing Board, is the responsibility of external contractors. For PISA 2009, the questionnaire development was carried out by a consortium led by Cito International in partnership with the University of Twente. The development and implementation of the cognitive assessment and of the international options was carried out by a consortium led by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Other partners in this consortium include cApStAn Linguistic Quality Control in Belgium, the Deutsches Institut für Internationale Pädagogische Forschung (DIPF) in Germany, the National Institute for Educational Policy Research in Japan (NIER), the Unité d’analyse des systèmes et des pratiques d’enseignement (aSPe) in Belgium and WESTAT in the United States. The OECD Secretariat has overall managerial responsibility for the programme, monitors its implementation on a day-to-day basis, acts as the secretariat for the PISA Governing Board, builds consensus among countries and serves as the interlocutor between the PISA Governing Board and the international consortium charged with the implementation of the activities. The OECD Secretariat also produces the indicators and analyses and prepares the international reports and publications in co-operation with the PISA consortium and in close consultation with Member countries both at the policy level (PISA Governing Board) and at the level of implementation (National Project Managers). The following lists the members of the various PISA bodies and the individual experts and consultants who have contributed to PISA.
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