'Ignore Pisa entirely,' argues top academic

14th August 2016 at 12:01
Yong Zhao, Pisa, China
International league tables are 'like a student beer-drinking contest', argues top US-based academic

Countries should “ignore” the world’s most influential education rankings because they fail to measure what matters, an expert on the impact of globalisation on education has claimed.

The idea of nations competing to reach the top of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) league tables makes as much sense as university students competing to see who can drink the most beer, according to Professor Yong Zhao, from the University of Oregon in the US.

He told TES: “You’re maybe the best drinker but you’ve got to think, ‘Is it good for you and does it matter?’”

According to Professor Zhao, Pisa – which provides a snapshot comparison of how well 15-year-olds in different countries perform in reading, maths and science – homogenises education systems.

'We need creativity, not uniformity'

While Asian countries tend to do well according to these measures, he insisted that a homogeneous workforce was not what was required for a successful future.

Instead, he said, countries needed “creative, entrepreneurial talents, able to create value for others”.

“We should ignore Pisa entirely,” Professor Zhao said. “I don’t think it is of any value. If you look at the so-called high-scoring areas, like Shanghai and all the East Asian countries, they are trying to get away from what has made them high on Pisa [rankings].”

The academic, who was educated in China, said that the country’s education system was an effective machine that could instil what the government wanted students to learn, but it did not nurture creativity. The result is that China has a population with similar skills on a narrow spectrum, he claimed.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, which runs Pisa, declined to comment. 

This is an edited article from the 12 August edition of TES. Subscribers can read the full story here. To subscribe, click here. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here. You can also download the TES Reader app for Android and iOs. TES magazine is available at all good newsagents.

Want to keep up with the latest education news and opinion? Follow TES on Twitter and like TES on Facebook


Related Content

Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today