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The Future of Education at ECIS

PISA Debate: which way do you lean on this issue?
By Cynthia Nagrath, TIE Staff Writer
The Future of Education at ECIS

Barcelona - At this year's ECIS conference, Dr. Yong Zhao, Professor of the University of Kansas and author of Perils or Promises: Education in the Age of Smart Machines, discussed the future of education and his views on the PISA exam, a controversial assessment test taken by over half a million students from 72 countries and economies worldwide.
What is PISA?
PISA is an acronym for Program for International Student Assessment, and is a two-hour exam taken by 15-year-old students around the world with the aim of measuring their proficiency in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving, and financial literacy.
Importance of PISA
Dr. Andreas Schleicher, Director of PISA at the OECD, was expected to share statistics and arguments in favor of the exam, but was unable to attend the conference. The PISA exam provides a means of comparing the relative efficacy of educational systems around the world and reveals patterns among high-performing school systems, which can serve as a model for other schools. In addition to providing guidelines for educational reform efforts, the PISA results can serve as a tool in shaping educational policy in countries throughout the world.
Illusory model of excellence?
Dr. Zhao, author of Perils or Promises: Education in the Age of Smart Machines, discussed why he is critical of the PISA as a measurement tool. “I don’t believe PISA scores mean anything beyond the ability to perform on PISA tests,” said Dr. Zhao who maintains that high scores on the exam do little more than create an illusory model of excellence.
Schools push students to become “average machines”
Zhao feels the testing is backward-looking and measures an old paradigm. “This model was designed when the goal of education was to produce factory workers with the end result being a system that produces homogeneous workers where everyone is average and has the same set of knowledge and skills. Schools have been more about how to make students average machines,” says Zhao.
PISA measures “sausage-making”
He also asserts that schools are pushed to produce compliant, employee-minded test-takers through an established curriculum that is often very limiting. It assumes that a few select subjects are the most important things people need to know. It sets standards as to how well they need to know them and all students work toward the same things. “PISA measures how good we are at sausage-making—at becoming all the same in the same subjects. This is not working anymore!” says Zhao.
Born in China’s Sichuan Province, Dr. Zhao is dismayed to find that Western education is trying to emulate the Chinese system because Chinese students rank high on the PISA, but “the Chinese system is terrible for kids!” he laments.
Schools should help humans become more human
According to a 2016 World Economic Forum report, advances in technology could displace as many as five million jobs by 2021. Zhao asserts that because computers, robots, and artificial intelligence will replace today’s jobs, a new education paradigm is needed for the new economy.
The role of education should focus more on making human beings more human. What separates humans from artificial intelligence is that we are all unique, we cannot be replicated. Rather than trying to make students all the same, educators should be helping students to develop their individual qualities and traits that only humans possess, and that computers or artificial intelligence could never replicate.
Zhao says our approach should be “Do you know of a problem worth solving?” This creates value for the world, and gets to the heart of what education is really all about. In a world with no shortage of problems, this approach just might be the most promising of all.

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05/04/2017 - Vincent Gregory Cook
I was involved in the South African Benchmark Test call the AARP test .frim 2005--2007- tests the readiness of scholars to enter the tertiary education system. The criteria set was solely based on what the school system provided. critical thinking, no imagination and no free thinking...Sausage machine deluxe. ..
05/01/2017 - Susanne
Dr. Zhao has it right, our whole educational system has been ruined by a system that rewards teaching to the test versus stimulating a love of learning and curiosity and innovation.



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