The year 2021 will mark the end of India’s decade-long boycott of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
PISA — introduced 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 boycotted PISA in 2012 and 2015 on account of its dismal performance in 2009. However, the HRD Ministry, under Prakash Javadekar, has decided that the country will participate in 2021 and the government will apply for the same next year, said sources.
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For starters, the government has requested OECD to conduct PISA-like assessment for students of Kendriya Vidyalayas (KVs) and Navodaya Vidyalayas (NVs) annually, starting next year. “This will help our students familiarise themselves with their testing pattern in the run up to the grand assessment in 2021,” said a source, The HRD Ministry is learnt to have contacted the OECD representatives through a video conference in December last year and the latter has agreed to the request.
“After the first year (2018), we will gradually increase the sample size in 2019 and then 2020, which will cover a mix of private and public school children,” the above source added.
The PISA assessments first 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. The results were not encouraging. While China — also a first-timer in 2009 — stormed into the ranking with Shanghai schools topping maths and science, India was placed 72nd among the 74 participating countries. The then UPA government blamed “out of context” questions for the poor show and chose to not participate in the 2012 and 2015 cycle.
Last year, the HRD Ministry decided to re-visit the government’s PISA boycott. Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS) set up a committee to review the matter and its report, submitted in December 2016, recommended that the country participate in 2018 test cycle. A similar recommendation was also made early this year by the group of secretaries on education constituted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“But during the video conference (in December 2016) with OECD we realised that we had missed the application deadline for the test in 2018. So it was decided that in 2018 we will apply to the OECD to participate in PISA 2021,” said another source, who did not wish to be identified.
As for the socio-cultural disconnect between the test questions and students, The Indian Express has learnt that OECD has agreed to add an Indian touch to the questions. “They are willing to replace, say, the word avocado in a question with a more popular Indian fruit such as mango,” the source said.