These two OECD studies are important for education unions and their members. Education International is working closely with the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC)* to monitor the two projects and to ensure that the views of educators and their unions are taken into account.
PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2006 PISA is conducted in cycles. It is a comparative survey of the educational performance of 15 year-olds. The first cycle, in 2000, concentrated on reading skills. The second cycle, in 2003, placed the focus on mathematics. The third cycle in 2006, will concentrate on science. With each cycle, more countries are participating. In 2006, OECD expects 57 countries to participate. PISA uses questions developed by networks of experts, seeks to take into account cultural differences, and aims to test students’ capacity to reason in a given field, rather than subject content. OECD states “PISA tests students on their ability to adapt the knowledge they acquire at school to real-life situations as opposed to how they master a specific curriculum. Factors influencing their performance and potential for lifelong learning are also explored in the background questionnaire in which they are asked about their approaches to learning and their social background. The organisation of schools is also taken into account through a questionnaire filled out by school principals.” In 2003, some countries, such as Germany, also conducted an optional survey of parents. The OECD secretariat advises that more countries – up to 15 – may use this optional parent questionnaire in 2006 (see below). However, initial information obtained so far indicates that only a handful of countries may actually use the option. Some of the questions, for example, asking for parental perception of the competence of their child’s teachers, are reprehensible, without a scientific base, and may be open to misrepresentation. We have pointed out that any questions about parent perceptions should be balanced by questions addressed to teachers about the role and influence of parents. The question of interaction between teachers and parents, and their respective influences on the learning and performance of children is important. But superficial treatment of this issue carries risks of misinterpretation and misrepresentation. We recommend that member organizations check whether their education ministries plan to use this “parent option”, and if so, caution them about the risks of superficial questions and misinterpretation. Pilot studies for PISA 2006 have now been completed. The PISA Board has met in Seoul, Korea, this week for a final exchange of views among participating countries before the survey is conducted later in the year. We are checking on the precise timetable and will advise affiliates when we get it. Contact will be maintained with the OECD secretariat. Two EI affiliates, NEA of the United States and GEW of Germany, each with particular experience and expertise on PISA, will be checking the materials, and sharing information through the EI Research Network and TUAC. The TUAC Working Group on Education, Training and Employment will meet at OECD in Paris, 9-10 May, and will receive an update from Andreas Schleicher, Head of the Indicators Division in the Education Directorate. He has also agreed to convene a full-day information session for all interested EI affiliates. The date will be set shortly, and announced in a future circular. The PISA Board is also discussing a future analytical framework on the basis of a paper prepared by Professor Hopkins from the UK. We should examine this paper and the Board’s decisions more closely. For example, the paper uses the tired old formula that teacher unions are obstacles to reform! The OECD secretariat has agreed that TUAC and EI should be associated in future more closely with the development of PISA, including in the expert groups. The secretariat has also proposed that TUAC/EI be invited to attend future PISA Board meetings as an observer. However this proposal is opposed by certain governments, notably the UK. TUAC and EI are working with their UK affiliates to overcome this opposition. The Teachers’ Survey As many EI affiliates know, OECD is also working on a survey of teachers and learning, to be conducted for the first time in 2007. TUAC and EI have followed closely the development of this survey, and the TUAC Working Group has set up a monitoring group comprising SNES, France; NUT, UK; DLF, Denmark and the TUAC and EI secretariats. We are seeking the direct involvement of education unions through this monitoring group in the body that OECD will use to manage the project. One issue of concern was a proposal for an optional link between PISA 2006 and the Teachers’ Survey in 2007. It is not clear how this “optional link” would be done in practice. We have been informed that few countries are interested, and that the option may be dropped, but we need to check further. School Leadership and other projects It should also be noted that OECD has begun work on a project on School Leadership. UEN, Norway and AoB Netherlands are monitoring this project. There are several other OECD education projects of interest to EI affiliates, including Higher Education, Adult Education, Early Childhood Education, and the well-known annual Education at a Glance. These projects were discussed recently with the new Director for Education at OECD, Dr Barbara Ischinger, and further information will be provided to affiliates. Conclusion OECD’s comparative work on education is growing in importance and political significance. More countries are participating, including an increasing number of non-OECD countries. Linking the advocacy work and monitoring at EI and TUAC level with information and intervention at the national level also becomes increasingly important. We recommend that EI affiliates check the positions of their national education ministries on the issues raised in this circular, notably the optional parent survey for PISA 2006, and the Teachers’ Survey for 2007, and intervene accordingly. We recommend that you seek to establish two specific contacts within your national Education Ministry:
- the country representative on the OECD Education Committee
- the PISA National Project Manager for your country.
It is essential that we receive feedback from these national enquiries and interventions. It will help us to make effective contributions to the discussions and debates. Please send all such feedback to EI’s Research Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org. Attached is a list of countries participating in PISA 2006, together with those who may be interested in the “parent option” (to be confirmed), and those who have expressed interest in the Teachers’ Survey for 2007. This information is subject to confirmation at the national level, and any information you can provide us on your country’s intentions would be most helpful. Working together this way we can strengthen union advocacy. Bob Harris Chair, TUAC Working Group on Education, Training & Employment * TUAC is one of the two advisory committee officially recognized by OECD; the other is the Business and Industry Advisory Committee, BIAC Countries participating in PISA 2006 and expressing interest in the Teachers’ Survey 2007