'Not just another test'

Management team makes case for upcoming assessment

BY KIMONE THOMPSON
Associate editor — features
thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

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AHEAD of its introduction of the internationally recognised Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Ministry of Education is seeking to allay fear and anxiety among parents and students at the thought of sitting another exam.

PISA was developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to evaluate educational systems around the world by measuring performance on mathematics, science, reading, and a selected cognitive area, among 15-year-old students. It focuses heavily on problem-solving and cognition, as opposed to specific or designated school curricula, and provides comparable data with a view to enabling countries to improve their education policies and outcomes.

It was introduced in 2000 and is administered every three years, the most recent of which occurred in 2018.

Jamaica is scheduled to participate in the 2021 round of testing. Some 6,000 students from more than 171 schools across the country will be randomly selected by a PISA algorithm to do the assessment.

At yesterday's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange, members of the ministry's PISA Management Team explained that students in the sample will complete two computer-based assessments and a questionnaire. However, no individual student grade will be assigned as results are tabulated by country.

“All sampled students will be required to complete only two of the four computer-based assessments (science, reading, mathematics, creative thinking) and a 40-minute questionnaire which asks about the student's home background, attitudes toward learning, and life experiences. Altogether, including administration time and breaks, about 3 hours will be needed,” the ministry said.

There will also be questionnaires for school principals and for parents.

“We are looking forward to our partnership with our parents and our students. We want them to know very early on, 'Don't view this as just another test'; it's just a way for us to find out where we are as a country and how we can help each other going forward,” member of the management team, Nadine Simms said yesterday.

National Mathematics Coordinator Dr Tamika Benjamin, who is also a member of the PISA Management Team, added: “I think this is a very unique opportunity for us as a country and so, participation of all stakeholders is important. We look forward to everybody coming on board and supporting [the initiative].”

The PISA results for 2018 are due in December this year.

The 2015 survey, which included an assessment on financial literacy, featured 540,000 students representing a cohort of about 29 million in the schools of the 72 participating countries and economies. The data showed Singapore outperforming the rest of the world, with Japan, Estonia, Finland, and Canada being the top OECD countries.

The local PISA Management Team said yesterday that while most public attention concentrates on the mean scores of countries and the rankings of countries against one another, the Government of Jamaica's primary aim at this juncture is generating data which are not national or regional in scope, such as those provided through the Primary Exit Profile and Caribbean Examinations Council.

“No matter where we fall, we're still looking forward to knowing where it is that we are, here and now. That is what is important to our participation,” said PISA Project Manager Majoriana Clarke.

Jamaica will be among 90 countries participating in the 2021 round of PISA testing.


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