OBSERVER: THE students who will sit the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2021 as part of Jamaica’s first-ever participation in the worldwide survey should be prepared, having already been exposed to the testing approach of Primary Exit Profile (PEP).
That’s because the skills tested under PISA ring similar to those of PEP — among them the acclaimed 21st-century skills of critical thinking, collaboration, and problem solving.
Secondly, the PISA questions aren’t drawn from any particular curriculum, but similar to PEP, they are designed to have students apply classroom knowledge to real-world situations.
“Our education system is not just preparing students for the local context; Jamaica has to compete globally,” national mathematics coordinator and member of Jamaica’s PISA management team Dr Tamika Benjamin told the Jamaica Observer last week.
PISA is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development intended to evaluate educational systems by measuring scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading among 15-year-olds. Additional components at previous sittings have included financial literacy, innovative thinking and collaborative problem-solving.
PEP, meanwhile, replaced Grade Six Achievement Test as the high-school placement mechanism in Jamaica in the 2018-2019 school year. It is a series of assessments based in the National Standards Curriculum (NSC) and comprising a Performance Task (consisting of real-world scenarios that require students to apply knowledge and skills from subjects taught in the classroom), an Ability Test (requiring students to read analytically and use quantitative reasoning skills to respond to items), and a Curriculum-Based Test which assesses content learned in grade 6 across the major subject areas.
The 6,000-plus students who will sit PISA in 2021 will be drawn from the first PEP cohort.
The Ministry of Education insists that PEP was not designed to facilitate Jamaica’s scheduled participation in PISA, but asserts that the alignment of the two is in tandem with worldwide trends in education.
“Across the world right now, in general, when you look at curriculum reform, the 21st-century skills feature heavily. So, creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. So because those are what are being identified as the global need in the workforce, you find that lots of education systems have reformed the curricula to make sure that students develop those skills and competencies. Hence, it’s not surprising that that’s also the perspective that PISA is going to look at in terms of how they design the test,” Benjamin said when asked about similarities in the two tests.
“It just so happens that the students who will sit PISA will have exposure to the National Standards Curriculum, which is what is delivered and assessed by PEP and content for which [goes up to] grade nine. And so they would have been exposed to the curriculum and methodology built into their secondary education,” Benjamin added.
She was part of the trio of PISA project team lead Marjorianna Clarke and team member Nadine Simms who were guests at Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange last week.
The PISA assessment uses multiple-choice testing, open-ended questions, and a background questionnaire which seeks to ascertain information about students, their attitudes towards school, their approaches to learning, and their home environment.
School principals and parents/guardians also participate in the process through questionnaires.
PISA was introduced in 2000 and is administered triennially. The Ministry of Education said it can’t say at this point if the country will participate beyond 2021
CAPTION: National mathematics coordinator and member of the Ministry of Education’s PISA management team Dr Tamika Benjamin