In such challenging times for global education, combining pandemic, economic crisis, increase in social inequality and profound changes in the labor market, what practices adopted by countries and their schools have helped them to improve student performance?
The OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), the entity that applies the international education exam Pisa, tried to draw an overview of these practices, based on comparisons between student performance in the 2018 exam (the most recent) and other data education in countries.
Also included are the answers given by students and teachers in a questionnaire applied simultaneously to Pisa, in search of daily practices and educational infrastructure that can have a direct impact on the well-being and performance of students.
The result was presented this Tuesday (9/29) in a report called “Efficient policies, successful schools”, which analyzes data from the 79 countries or regions evaluated in Pisa – Brazil among them.
The exam data, released in December 2019, showed a slight improvement in Brazil in the three skills assessed – reading, mathematics and science -, but at a level considered “stationary” and still far from the quality leap necessary to reach countries and regions with the highest marks in Pisa, such as Chinese cities, Singapore and Canada.
According to the OECD, “school management policies and practices play a key role in determining how educational systems respond to challenges” today, from grouping and selecting students to the amount of resources invested in education.
“In times of growing budget deficits (from countries), education spending must be smart and appropriate,” argues the OECD. “What Pisa consistently demonstrates is that after a certain threshold (of spending per student) is reached, the difference in education is not so much how much money is invested, but how that money is allocated.”
Below, BBC News Brasil lists, from the report, practices that the OECD points out as relevant to students’ learning, with an apparent correlation with their performance in Pisa:
Of the Brazilian students who participated in Pisa in 2018, about a third are in schools that, according to their director, had their education negatively affected by the shortage of staff (although only 17.6% were in schools whose teaching was, vision of principals, affected by the shortage specifically of teachers).
It is an average similar to that of other OECD countries, but with an apparent negative impact on student performance, says the organization.
“Even after taking into account the socioeconomic profile of students and schools, in 17 countries and economies, students from schools with more staff shortages scored lower (on Pisa),” according to the report.
The same would apply to the scarcity of material resources: the greater this scarcity, the greater the correlation with a worse performance on the exam, even when taking into account the socioeconomic difference between schools.
Adequate physical space, on the other hand, can have positive influences: the report points out that schools that offer rooms for children to do homework performed better in all Pisa skills (reading, science and mathematics).
Computers per student and remote teaching capacity
In Brazil, there was a computer for every four students in your school, well below the OECD average (one computer per student).
And the data also conceals disparities: 68% of Brazilian students from schools in better economic conditions had access to sufficient technological equipment. But only 10% of students from poorer schools were able to say the same.
However, in the average of the countries measured, greater access to technology did not translate into better grades in Pisa. “The finding indicates that more than providing technology is needed to achieve better results,” says the report, adding that “making devices available will not be useful unless they are suitable for the tasks at hand”.
But the OECD has also measured countries’ remote teaching capacity, something that – although the measurement is from 2018 and is therefore outdated – has proved crucial to minimize the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on education.
In Brazil, only 26% of students were in schools whose principals said there was enough broadband for their needs in 2018. And only 35% were in schools whose principals said they had, at the time, an effective platform for online education.
In OECD measurements, a poorer 15-year-old student (average age of students doing Pisa) was three times more likely to have repeated grade at least once, compared to students in better socioeconomic status.
And repetition, in turn, influences performance: “in all participating countries and economies (from Pisa), those who had smaller portions of repeat students had higher average grades in reading and more equity in reading performance, even if taking taking into account GDP per capita “, says the report.
“Clearly, all countries have excellent students, but few countries enable their students to be excellent and reach their potential,” the text continues. “Achieving more equity in education is not only an imperative of social justice, but also a way to use resources more efficiently, increasing the supply of skills to stimulate economic growth and promote social cohesion.”
At the same time, says the OECD, countries and economies tend to have more equity in education when they maintain close communication with students’ parents, are open to student feedback and consult constantly on what can be improved at school or in policies local educational institutions.
The successful combination of high performance schools
According to the OECD, Pisa also shows that, “in high-performance countries and economies (in the exam), those who have more equity in education, a combination of school autonomy and more centralized accountability work in concert to give more effective support to teaching and learning. “
In practice, this occurs, for example, by creating management mechanisms at the district or national level, encouraging students and the community to propose improvements, while, at the school level, “there is a responsibility to ensure that students will learn” and putting practice the assessments that will measure this.
Overall, the report points out, “for students with the right skills and knowledge, digitization and globalization have been exciting and liberating. For those who are not sufficiently prepared, these trends can mean vulnerability and job insecurity, and a life of few prospects. (…) The distribution of knowledge and prosperity is essential, and will only be possible through the distribution of educational opportunities. “
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