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Andreas Schleicher is the Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills and Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  He[…]

OECD’s Andreas Schleicher on ensuring quality in education.

Andreas Schleicher: We need to become better at tracking student learning growths not at just seeing where students are at any point in time but also seeing how they actually progress in their learning pathways.  And actually a lot is happening in that field.  In fact, the PISA assessment as we have it currently focusing on 15 year olds is looking into expanding to lower grades so that we can actually get at least at the synthetic level some sense of the progress that is being made in education raising quality, improving equity and also value for money.

The PISA data show that parents have a very significant influence on the success of their children. We see that where parents have a greater expectations on education, where parents are more closely involved in the education of their children results are significantly better.  And it’s not only in terms of the academic performance of students but it’s also in terms of their attitudes toward learning, their enjoyment of learning.  Their persistence when things get tough in school.  So parental involvement is very important.

We also see that that parental involvement isn’t about having an academic degree as a parent or spending hours of time on homework.  It’s really the interest parents show for the education of their children.  For example, when parents regularly ask their children, you know, “How was school today?  What did go wrong?”  We can see those kids actually having a significantly higher performance at school than kids – even kids from wealthy neighborhoods where parents do not show that level of engagement.  So a very important ingredient for success is to make parents part of the equation.

Sure.  If you do well you might think you don’t need to improve.  But, in fact, the PISA data do not lend much evidence to this.  In fact, some of the most rapidly improving systems are some of the best performing systems.  They want to move from good to great.  They’re actually seeing, you know, how is the labor demand shaping up in the future.  What are the kind of knowledge and skills that we need to improve on?  I’ll give you an example.  You can look at Singapore.  Singapore has always done well on math and science tests.  But Singaporean educators have not been satisfied with this.  They’re looking to how can we strengthen students ways of thinking, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving.  Students ways of working, collaboration, teamwork and so on.  So the education system is actually looking towards moving forward.  Complacency is a risk but we do actually see very encouraging signals that improvement is taking place at every part of the system.  You cannot improve what you can’t measure.  So the measurement framework is really, really critically important.  But we also do see incentives not only for our low performers to catch up but also for the strong performers to move forward further.  It was a bit long?

A humanistic perspective is very important to evaluating educational results.  In fact, we need to get away from looking at education with a single perspective.  Evaluation can only take part place in a framework of multiple kinds of perspectives.  Looking at test data from students is one perspective.  Looking at teachers views on student performance.  Looking at other students – it’s this kind of multiplicity of instruments that actually help us improve education. And that’s true even at the level of teachers, you know.  You can evaluate teachers on the basis of student learning outcomes.  This is one perspective.  But you also need to bring in other perspectives that value the broader responsibilities that teachers have.  So looking at outcomes from multiple perspectives including these kind of quality – qualitative outlook is very, very important.