India rejoining PISA will facilitate necessary international comparisons of important learning outcomes.
Given how desperately education policy in India needs to be geared towards driving up learning outcomes, India’s decision to rejoin the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is welcome news. PISA assesses the quality of education systems across the world by evaluating students in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and money literacy. In the 2009 survey, after having placed 72nd amongst 74 nations, the government simply opted out of PISA, citing a “socio-cultural disconnect between the questions and Indian students’ learning”.
Even if that line of argument was not entirely without merit, walking out definitely wasn’t the best option. With OECD having agreed to tailor its assessment questions to the Indian context, India is now open to joining it. As per UNESCO data, India has one of the lowest public expenditure rates on education per student—it spends $264 per student per year compared to $1,800 spent by China.
The ASER 2018 report also highlights falling reading and arithmetic learning levels among the secondary school-goers. Students from Singapore, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and China have consistently been the top performers of the PISA and the test allows for international comparisons of important learning outcomes, driving forward and encouraging improvements in the country’s education system.
Unlike in 2009, the PISA in 2021 will be administered across all schools in Chandigarh and all Navodaya Vidyalayas and Kendriya Vidyalayas in the country. In order to obtain a fair and representative assessment of learning outcomes, though, it would have been better if the government had agreed to include students from private schools as well.