The diagnosis made by the OECD of Spain in the PISA tests 2018 (which measure the competences of 15-year-old students in science, mathematics and reading comprehension), which were made public on Tuesday, it is clear: "No significant improvement or decline could be established in any of the subjects." Spain is in the middle of the ranking, among the 13 countries out of 79 that have not undergone relevant changes. On a small scale, the analysis is different. In science, Spanish students have obtained the worst results since the test started in 2000, with 483 points on average (13 points less than in 2013). In mathematics, the average has been 481 points, five less than in the last edition of 2015, when the best result of the historical series was reached. In both disciplines, the average of the OECD countries is 489 points. In reading comprehension, the OECD announced two weeks ago that Spain's data would not be published due to “anomalies” detected in the fluency test, which affects 5% of the students. Now study what happened and rule out intentionality.
No country raises or falls dramatically in the ranking because the educational transformations of improvement or worsening are observed in the medium term. In mathematics and science, Spain lives up to countries such as Lithuania, Hungary, the United States, Luxembourg or Russia. “The international trend shows that the educational systems of advanced countries go down; there is a clear pattern that is seen with the data, it is not an exclusive phenomenon of Spain, ”says Lucas Gortázar, REDE impeller, a network of experts to develop consensus proposals and raise them to the rulers. Among the autonomies, which traditionally they got better results (Castilla y León, Navarra and Madrid) they have also worsened. “There are many hypotheses as to why; it may be because students are increasingly varied in terms of nationality or socioeconomic status, what is clear is that we must analyze why educational systems lose strength, ”he adds.
For the head of PISA data analysis, Miyako IKed, who presented the results on Tuesday at the Ministry of Education, is worrying that the OECD countries have increased their investment per student by 50% in the last 19 years and that , however, has not translated into improvements. "The score obtained by the countries remains stable, we must reflect on why the improvements do not come," he has launched.
In Spain, the differences between autonomous communities are very pronounced. In science, a Galician student (with 519 average points) is at the same level as a student from Canada or Taiwan; while a ceuta (with 415, 95 points less) is measured with schoolchildren from Costa Rica or Albania. In PISA, 30 points equals one academic year. Those examined are now the first generation raised in Spain in a context of educational cuts, which started in 2011. There are 62% more precarious teachers than in 2009, 2,214 teachers less than a decade ago (32,000 fewer in 2013), and teachers teach 20 hours per week of class (two more than before the crisis ), according to data from the Comisiones Obreras union.
Asian students, the big winners in PISA, have a much higher percentage of students with excellent results in science. In China they are 44%, in Singapore 37% and in Hong Kong 29%, compared to 4% in Spain (7% on average in the OECD).
In his book First class, the director of PISA, the German Andreas Schleicher, recommends to Spain that to improve in the test – which measures the ability to solve real-life problems – less memory and other facets such as critical ability, teamwork or creativity are worked on. This pedagogical change begins to be seen in Primary, but not in Secondary, which remains anchored in traditional education. The 36,000 15-year-old students who last year were examined by PISA in 1,102 centers, continue to obtain results below the average of the OECD countries and, in this new edition, there is a downward trend.
If the possible impact of the current one is analyzed educational law, the Lomce (approved in 2013 by the PP with the majority of groups against) It is difficult to draw conclusions, since some of the main measures contemplated by the standard to improve student performance – such as mandatory external tests to obtain the ESO and Baccalaureate degree, invalid calls– They were not implanted. One of the possible impacts of the Lomce, point from the federation of directors of institutes (Fedadi), is the change you made in the evaluation systems. According to his calculations, a teacher from Murcia is obliged to make up to 10,000 notes related to the progress of students per year.
"The Lomce increased the bureaucratic burden of the evaluation, which translates into an overload for teachers that has a direct effect on the quality of teaching," says Raimundo de los Reyes, president of Fedadi. Both he and other experts believe that more than the law, education cuts are what have left the system lame. "The increase in the teaching hours of teachers from 18 to 21 hours meant a reduction in the complementary schedule, which is the one used for tutorials, training or coordination meetings," he adds. In 2018, the acting minister, Isabel Celaá, left in the hands of the communities to reverse that measure.
The explanation given by some countries to their poor results in PISA is that the tests are unfair because students must solve problems that they have not previously practiced at school. “Life is unfair, the tests that life undergoes cannot be solved with the contents you learned in school, they are problems that cannot even be anticipated today,” explains PISA director Andreas Schleicher.
That point is one of the criticisms of Luis Rodríguez, president of the Education Commission of the Royal Spanish Mathematical Society. “In mathematics there is no significant decrease in PISA, but of course there are no improvements. And there will be no while in Spain there is a structure of content and not of competencies ”. He criticizes that more and more contents are added – for example, on statistics and probability – without sitting down to think about a new pedagogical model that responds to the evidence of the latest mathematical investigations.
For example, schoolchildren spend a lot of time repeating radical or polynomial operations – which a mobile already does – without reasoning about why and forget it in weeks. “It's been years since National Council of Teachers of Mathematics established five objectives that are not met in Spain, ”he says. These five achievements are summarized in: solving problems, managing mathematical logic, learning to communicate the results, connecting mathematics with scientific and social disciplines and knowing how to represent them (for example, a table in a graph). "Mind you, there are many teachers who try to change the way they teach, but they are required to give a subject every 15 days, there is no time to deepen."
PISA obliges in its test to "explain phenomena, design experiments, investigate or identify evidence, something unusual in Spanish classrooms," says Ángel Blanco, Professor of Experimental Sciences Teaching at the University of Malaga. He explains that with the crisis they stopped making doubles for classes in the laboratory. “It is not the same to do it with 15 students than with 30”, laments Blanco, who believes that in the medium term it is necessary to improve the permanent training of the professors and in the medium term their initial training in the University.
All editions of PISA indicate that socioeconomic status is a strong predictor of academic results. In OECD measurements, Spain appears below the average in equity, with a score of -0.12, compared to countries such as Iceland (0.55), Norway (0.54) or Denmark (0.52) , which are the ones leading the ranking. In the Spanish case, that -0.12 means that in mathematics, only 12% of the differences in student performance are due to their environment and the economic capacity of families (in 2015 it was 16%). In the case of science, it has gone from 13.4% to 10%. The average of the ODCE is -0.03, every country that is above, has an educational system with less inequality among students.
The repetition rate and early school leaving are other key elements in measuring inequality. “With equal performance, disadvantaged students repeat more because teachers not only value the test results, but also the behavior and motivation of the students, which may be lower in these cases, explains Álvaro Ferrer, co-author of the study From socioeconomic segregation to inclusive education, from the NGO Save the Children. Spain is one of the countries with the highest repetition rate: 28.7% of students say they have repeated, at least once, compared to 11.4% on average in the OECD.
On the other hand, in 31 of the 79 countries analyzed, institute directors located in more disadvantaged areas, reported a greater shortage of materials (books, technology, libraries, laboratories …) and fewer teachers than centers in other neighborhoods more privileged, which "hinders" excellence in teaching. In the case of Spain, 53% of the centers with fewer resources gave part of that situation, compared to 22.6% of the best positioned institutes. A 30% difference between both types of centers, only surpassed by Malta with 39.9% and Cyprus, with 53.4% (of 38 countries that answered that question).
Regarding the lack of teachers, 49% of the most needy centers (34% on average in the OECD) and 31% (18% in the OECD) accused him, according to the directors. In these centers, students face a double disadvantage, says the OECD, one due to family circumstances and another created by the education system itself.
In PISA, countries with high rates of school segregation are criticized (concentrating students with fewer resources in the same centers), a model that reduces children's chances of communicating with peers from different social strata, undermining their social cohesion in the future. When students with fewer resources are grouped in a limited number of schools, they tend to be exposed to less favorable learning conditions.
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