Colombia minister of education addresses ‘disastrous’ comparitive test results

Posted on Apr 2 2014 - 5:08pm by Rico
(Photo: Julian Castro)

After learning that Colombian children tested last out of 44 countries in an international problem solving test, Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo came out in defense of her management on Wednesday and rationalized the bad results, citing cultural and experiential differences.

Serious and informed debate

“In order to have a serious and informed debate, I must clarify the results that PISA published about the problem solving test,” wrote Campo on her twitter account Wednesday. ”This test is not new. It refers to the test presented in May 2012, and we were already aware of the results.”

MORE: Colombia schoolchildren score poorly in international test

“This new ranking focuses on the capacity of youth to solve practical life problems, and not areas such as math, reading and science,” continued Campo.”Because the questions are specific problems of everyday life, the cultural and experiential context of the child is very important.”

While recognizing that Colombia has traditionally struggled with poor quality of education, Campos highlighted the Ministry’s achievements in addressing performance in the areas of literacy and mathematics, referring to a national program established in 2012 called ‘Everybody Learn’. The program serves 2,600,000 of the Colombia’s poorest children.

Campos went on to explain that the Ministry has ‘improved’ national testing to align itself more with the PISA test, so that students are trained to answer the questions. “From this year on, we will include open-ended problem solving in our national tests.”

Campos ended her communication by emphasizing that the key to change lies in improving the quality of teachers and of higher education.

Scholars’ response

“Colombia shouldn’t be compared to to other countries in the PISA test,” said the department of literature in the Education Research Institute at the National University in a report.

Jurado Fabio Valencia, Professor of the Research Institute and Faculty of Humanities added that ”regardless of the outcome, it is important to understand why it is unreasonable to compare ourselves with other nations of the world. There is a very unequal relationship between the way the education system is structured in Asian and European countries and what we have here in Colombia,” he said.

For example, Colombia doesn’t have a preschool year that “prioritizes games, oral communication, and social interactions among children, as well as introductions to art, music, literature, theater and painting,” as other countries do, said Jurado.

The other weakness in the Colombia’s academic system, continued the professor, is the absence in secondary education of preparing children for specialized professions and vocations. The tenth and eleventh grades don’t comply with middle school standards, because there is no diversified guidance allowing students of fifteen to discover and pursue their own paths.

Jurado concluded that if is absolutely necessary to discuss the PISA tests, it should be as an incentive for government agencies to make adjustments in the education system — and only then can there be any “sensible” comparisons of Colombian student test performances with those of other countries.

Sixty-six countries participated in Pisa’s full test, which included math and literacy.


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