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Scary but true

Posted By: Susan Clayton on January 17, 2014
I have done quite a bit of curriculum design work with teachers in Singapore. I discovered that what I had thought about why this country and some other Asian countries do so well in assessments like TIMMS and PISA was mostly right: an incredible work ethic grounded in thousands of years of tradition that was once a matter of survival and is now a matter 'being the best' - aka: beat out the West.

What I did not know going into the work was the extent of the political control over the work ethic to be the best - I did realize this over time. As you point out, the kind of political control required to 'be the best' is not what the West is about nor would we tolerate that kind of control over us.

Even more important in my opinion, is the concept of learning that is being promoted to be the best: learning for knowing to score well on tests like PISA or learning for understanding so individuals learn to think critically, can make sense of a discipline and see connections to other disciplines and life. We are not going to solve problems of poverty and pollution because we have 'facts and figures' memorized for a test.

As you point out, the OECD's version of 'best' is seriously flawed. I remain 'stunned' at the US department of education's focus on PISA as a measure of 'best'.
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 Scary but true by Susan Clayton on January 17, 2014
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