Amanda Ripley’s new book, The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way, is gaining a lot of attention for the accessible way she demonstrates how high achieving countries got that way. While she provides useful insights into the usual suspects: Finland, Korea and Poland (a not so usual suspect), there are lessons waiting to be learned from other places, the least likely suspects, in other words, middle and lower income countries. While this analysis is useful, what policy makers in developing countries ask me is, “Why should we participate in international assessments?” They are concerned with being ranked at the bottom and having nothing to show for their efforts.
Last week, I had the honor of being part of the fourth World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE), in Doha. Pratham, the recipient of the 2012 WISE Prize for education, was praised as a renowned leader in the field of education for providing innovative, low-cost solutions for mass literacy and numeracy in developing countries. Pratham’s CEO and co-founder, Madhav Chavan, received the award, which recognizes “world-class” contributions to education.
While in Doha, I had the pleasure of being part of a WISE panel debate with Mr. Chavan, which also included Financial Times correspondent Chris Cook and Dr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh. Anver Versi, editor of African Business and African Banker, was the moderator. During this panel, we discussed innovative financing and the role of public-private partnerships in education. Mr. Chavan began his remarks stating that, “Education is too important to be left to governments alone.”
In conjunction with the Ibero-American Summit this month, Pamela Cox, Vice President for Latin American and Caribbean, emphasizes the urgent need to focus on education quality in a recent op-ed that appeared in major news outlets across the region:
If education were simply a matter of attending classes, Latin America and the Caribbean would have already done its homework. Most regional countries have made enormous progress towards achieving universal access to basic education. There is also clear progress at the secondary and tertiary levels.
But more than access, the key goal of education is learning. Making sure that children and youngsters perform according to the requirements of the day is a necessary condition for the advancement of society. In that respect, the region still has some unfinished business.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 survey results were released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). PISA tests 15 year olds in reading, math and science.
Pisa 2009 results focus on reading, as they did in 2000 when the tests were first applied. In reading, as the OECD reports, Korea and Finland are the highest performing OECD countries, with mean scores of 539 and 536 points. However, as noted in today's New York Times, Shanghai-China outperforms them by a significant margin, with a mean score of 556. Top-performing economies in reading include Hong Kong-China (533), Singapore (526), Canada (524), New Zealand (521), Japan (520), Australia (515) and the Netherlands (508).
At the US release of the PISA results in Washington DC, which I was fortunate to attend today, Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and OECD Secretary General Angel Gurría, discussed the importance of the results in terms of competitiveness and growth.
By Emily Gardner, READ Trust Fund
It's been a busy year and a half for the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) trust fund, since it launched in 2009 to further critical work on quality learning assessments. The program is gearing up for another productive year, working to move the pendulum forward on the global imperative to measure progress in learning. Evidence on learning matters and assessment is central to improving education effectiveness.