Thursday 13 January 2011

Teachers can be proud of PISA

Let's turn, just for a moment, to the long-term perspectives of the Portuguese economy, as described in the latest PISA results and as discussed before.

The figure above was taken from the OECD publication "PISA at a glance, 2009" (page 95). It indicates the percentage of students that agree with the statement "Most of my teachers really listen to what I have to say" (left) and the percentage of students that agree with the statement "If I need extra help, I will receive it from my teachers" (right).

The first percentage ("listening") increases from 75% to 82% between 2000 and 2009, placing Portugal in the 4th place out of 38 countries. The second percentage ("extra help") also goes up during the same period, from around 75% to 90%, placing the country in the second place. Moreover, the year differences in the percentages are both statistically significant, according to the OECD.

If one is willing to take the PISA results at face value, then the ambivalence of teachers towards the latest PISA results does not appear to be justified, given their contribution towards students' improved achievement, as suggested from the figure above (and simple analysis using the micro data). Despite teachers' grievances against the Education Department reforms, it appears that that did not affect their commitment towards students; if anything, it will have made them work harder.

On the other hand, and as before, the cynical explanation would be that the differences in these 2000 and 2009 results are driven instead by a change in the composition of students surveyed. Indeed, it may seem surprising to find that teachers were actually paying more attention to students at the same time that schools were apparently subject to so much disruption.

1 comment:

  1. Looking at the data it seems that countries that historically have above average education systems, namely Scandinavia, score lower on these questions. Offering an alternate explanation, apparently, better education systems lead to more demanding students whereas the Portuguese system, which is arguably below average, the students seem to just say "yeah, yeah, move on with it".