Thursday, 9 December 2010

Polish students among best in OECD?

I read an article in thenews.pl entitled 'Polish students among best in OECD', but pretty much rejected it as old news, just repeating previous surveys and reports that had, anyway, only reinforced my own views (albeit based on a very limited field of experience).

After discussing it last night, however, I reflected on Polish educational levels from a more negative aspect: the cult of the professor - "My professor said so" being a decisive argument, and my own feeling that the Polish educational system is excellent at developing factual knowledge and the use of direct logic (as in mathematics), but less so in developing analytical skills and considering alternative scenarios. I therefore decided to look a bit deeper and opened the OECD International Programme for Student Assessment 2009 results page and had a quick look at the summary.

I was surprised to find that there was some support in the scores for reading for my point of view, as Poland seems to do less well on flexibility of thinking. The points are shown below, with the green showing above OECD average and the red showing average levels:

_____________________________Poland_____________USA________________UK

Overall reading score_____________500______________500________________494

Reading sub-scores:

Access and retrieve______________500______________492________________491
Integrate and interpret___________503______________495________________491
Reflect and evaluate_____________498______________512________________503
Continuous texts________________502______________500________________492
Non-continuous texts_____________496______________503________________506

As always, I do not really know how to interpret this, but it seems clear that 'reflection and evaluation', and 'reading of non-continuous texts' are Polish weak points, whilst they are strong points in the UK and USA. My suspicions seem to have some basis in research.

I don't know what variation in points is statistically significant, but a 50 point difference seems to equate to about a year's education (from a comment in the OECD papers). There is not really that much of a difference between the countries, therefore, which makes the UK rather better than I had expected. It also needs to be noted that the 'Statistically significantly above the OECD average' marking, as it is described in the papers, seems to be a spreadsheet calculation where 500.1 qualifies while 499.9 does not.

3 comments:

Michael Dembinski said...

The UK results need to be taken as an average between the top public schools and inner city sink comprehensives. As Jan and Adthelad have commented on my post on this subject here, Finland should be the global role model of educational best practice.

Paddy Ney said...

I was speaking to some students who didn't recognise the description of "My professor says so" and were quite dismissive of Polish HE, saying that the number of "universities" with just one professor operating was huge and the private/paid for universities were generally quite shoddy.

Anonymous said...

really an eye opener for me.

- Robson