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Education

International tests of pupils results questioned

Published tisdag 12 april 2011 kl 12.37
Swedish pupils were ranked at 11th place in the last PISA-study - but could have come in at 4th or 31st place, depending on how the results were analysed, says professor Kreiner. Photo: Jessica Gow/Scanpix

The international PISA-studies, that assess the school results of 15-year-olds around the world, have come in for criticism. The way the results are evaluated say nothing about how the school systems in various countries should be ranked, according to Svend Kreiner professor of statistics at Copenhagen University.

"According to my analysis, it is not possible to say anything about the ranking. Denmark could end up just about anywhere on the PISA-list," he says.

PISA stands for Programme for International Student Assessment, and it is a OECD-sponsored project which every three years ranks school results among 15-year-olds in 65 countries and regions.

The ranking is often used by politicians and others who want to point to advantages and disadvantages of different school systems.

Now, professor Svend Kreiner - who has long been critical of how PISA evaluates its test results - has reviewed all the organisation's literacy-tests from 2006. All together that amounts to 380,000 tests.

His conclusion is that they say nothing about how the countries' should be ranked.

In the 2006 report, Sweden comes in as number 11 when it comes to literacy, while Denmark ends up on 19th place. But when Svend Kreiner tested PISA's own models for analysis, almost all countries could be ranked completely differently, depending on which questions he chose to analyse.

"At best," he says, "I could get Denmark into 3rd place, and at worst at 41. Sweden could at best end up fourth, and at worst on 31st place."

Svend Kreiner's report has been sent to the Swedish National Agency for Education, where Anita Wester, who is responsible for the PISA studies in Sweden, tells Swedish Radio news she is concerned what it would mean, if you cannot trust the PISA results.

"If Kreiner is correct, it would be very very serious," she says. "If it shows that that the analysis models and methods used by PISA cannot be relied on, then these kinds of studies would be pointless."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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