There are a lot of questions inherent in such tests.
- How were the students selected?
- Who wrote the questions?
- Did the students prepare for the test?
- Is the sample of students from each country similar?
- How can we compare ourselves to countries where not all students attend school?
- Was the test controlled for cultural bias?
- Does the test actually assess something we care about?
My list can go on and on. I attempted to research some of these questions, but the website is not as helpful as I would like. I don't have answers, just more questions.
I think the last question is especially important, so before we once again start beating up on our 15-year-olds, our teachers, and our educational system, why don't we take a look at the problems. Try them yourself. There's only 6. I answered them in about 10 minutes, but I am a math teacher. Can you do them all? Presumably everyone older than fifteen should get them correct. But whether you can or you cannot, I think we'd better start asking the right questions.
- What is it that we actually want our children to learn?
- What kind of problems should they be able to solve?
- What are our goals?
- How will we know if we've met them?
- What are the best means to reach these goals?
- What do we need to be successful?
- Are we willing to do whatever it takes to educate every child in America?
I welcome your thoughts.
You can find some additional commentary here