PISA a Load of Bovine Excretia?

Here’s a link to a story from the Independent newspaper in the UK. There is talk of the PISA ranking tables put out every three years by the OECD. Michael Gove the wondrously gifted Education Secretary in the United Kingdom who believes education is all about the rote learning of facts bases his whole reason for being on the PISA rankings of his beloved England. Mathematicians have studied the methodology and… whoops!

Ultimately the article features arguments I’ve been wondering about but I’ve never really expressed. I’ll let Dr Hugh Morrison from Queens University in Belfast kick things off.

…the model used to calculate the triennial rankings is “utterly wrong” because it contains a “profound” conceptual error that confuses objective and subjective probability. “Pisa will never work”, he added.

Utterly wrong! Profound conceptual errors! And in the very next paragraph…

Professor Svend Kreiner, a statistician from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, also said the Pisa model is fundamentally flawed. In a paper published this summer, he challenges Pisa’s reliability and shows how results fluctuate significantly according to which test questions are used. He also reveals how, in the 2006 reading rankings, Canada could have been positioned anywhere between second and 25th, Japan between eighth and 40th and the UK between 14th and 30th.

It looks like New Zealand could lie anywhere between first and 30th as well – we have been quite close to Canada in these studies.

It’s all summed up with this rather nice bit from Prof. Kreiner.

“It is meaningless to try to compare reading in Chinese with reading in Danish.”

Or reading in English for that matter.

If you want some idea of how Michael Gove operates, I’ll finish with a quote from the end of the article.

Michael Gove has often been accused of citing flawed or non-existent research. A Freedom of Information request revealed that PR surveys by Premier Inn and UKTV Gold were the source of his evidence when he said British teenagers were ignorant about key historical events.

Yes. Let’s cite studies done by a hotel chain and a TV company to guide our educational policy. What a miscreant.

Mr. B


Academics deride league tables that guide Michael Gove’s academic reforms – the Independent: Fri July 19, 2013


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