Having not participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) since 2012, India has now decided to end its boycott of the examination.
PISA — introduced in the year 2000 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development (OECD) — tests the learning levels of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. The test is carried out every three years. India stayed away from PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009, when it was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries
The Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry, under Prakash Javadekar, formally decided to end this boycott last week. The ministry, The Indian Express has learnt, will dispatch a team of officers to Paris this year to negotiate India’s terms of participation in 2021 with OECD.
Unlike 2009, when schools in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh had participated, the Union government will request OECD to administer the test across all schools in Chandigarh in 2021. There are roughly 100 government, government-aided and private senior secondary schools in the Union Territory. According to sources, the HRD Ministry has obtained the consent of the Office of the Chandigarh Administrator for the same.
In addition to schools in Chandigarh, the HRD Ministry is keen that all Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs), funded and run by the Centre, also take the test.
“Chandigarh was selected for three reasons. First, it is a compact area. Second, we wanted to keep number of languages (in which the test has to be administered) to a minimum. In Chandigarh schools, students are taught in Hindi and English. Third, Chandigarh has a record of performing well in learning assessments,” said a ministry official.
The decision to boycott PISA was taken by the UPA government, which had blamed “out of context” questions for the poor show in 2009. The country, subsequently, chose to not participate in the 2012 and 2015 cycle.
As first reported by The Indian Express on February 22, 2017, the HRD Ministry, under the NDA-II government, first revisited this decision in 2016. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), at the government’s behest, set up a committee to review the matter and its report, submitted in December 2016, recommended that the country participate in the 2018 test cycle. A similar recommendation was made in 2017 by the group of secretaries on education constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. By then, however, India had missed the application deadline for the 2018 cycle.
“When a child falls while learning to walk, we ask her to try again. The time has come for India to try again. As on date, there are 80 countries participating in PISA, including China and Vietnam. So why should we get left behind?” said the above quoted official.
“Moreover, PISA is a competency-based test. Our country is also trying to make the transition from rote learning to competency based learning,” the official added.
The team of government officials that will be sent to Paris soon to negotiate terms of participation will request OECD to draft questions that fit the Indian socio-cultural context; in other words, to frame questions that carry terms and references that Indian students are familiar with.
The PISA assessments were started in 2000, but India made its debut in the “extended cycle” of the test for 2009 with 16,000 students from 400 schools across Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In 2012, schools of Shanghai in China topped the reading, mathematics and science test, followed closely by Singapore. In 2015, Singapore, Japan and Estonia were ranked as top three countries, in that order.