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Posted by 43443 Sep 9, 2011

OECD’s educationtoday blog on global perspectives on education has moved to:


We will continue to blog about hot topics in education around the globe and at OECD, bringing you an insider look at new findings in international student performance, skills, early childhood education, education innovation and more. Guest bloggers from within the OECD (including experts in the field) and from around the world (education ministers and education movers and shakers).


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It is a virtuous cycle if there ever was one: when students enjoy reading, they tend to read better, which makes reading easier and more enjoyable, so they read more, and so on. Better readers not only perform well in school, they grow up to become adults who use their reading skills to make sense of the world around them and continue learning throughout their lives.


But for many students around the world, that cycle appears to have broken. Even though better reading performance in PISA is more associated with reading for pleasure every day than with how many hours a student spends reading, the latest issue of PISA in Focus reports that, in 2009, only around two-thirds of students in OECD countries said that they read for pleasure daily; and in most OECD countries, the proportion of students who said they read for enjoyment was smaller in 2009 than it was in 2000.


Reading for pleasure is also associated with girls – there’s a 20 percentage-point gender gap among 15-year-olds who read for enjoyment – and with socio-economic advantage – on average across OECD countries, 72% of advantaged students read for pleasure while only 56% of disadvantaged students do. And in as many as ten OECD countries, that latter gap is more than 20 percentage points wide.


It’s troubling enough that in 2009 fewer boys and girls reported that they read for pleasure than their counterparts did in 2000; but PISA results also show that the decline is steeper among boys in nearly all countries.


There’s much more at stake, here, than performance on PISA reading tests. To have the habit of reading, which is much easier to develop when one actually enjoys reading, is to have the key to the store of knowledge acquired through the millennia, the tools to interpret and apply that knowledge, and the foundation on which to build a lifetime of learning. Parents and educators can instil and feed this invaluable habit by having books available at home, reading to and in front of their children, and suggesting reading material that students find interesting and relevant. The late American psychologist B. F. Skinner had a point: “We shouldn’t teach great books; we should teach a love of reading.”

The OECD review of Australia’s system of evaluation and assessment gains extensive press coverage and provides wider relevance for the education world


The OECD’s recent review of Australia’s system of evaluation and assessment has identified major strengths in what Australia has already been doing while providing a road map for improvements moving forward. But even if you’re not an Aussie, the review contains valuable lessons about evaluation and assessment frameworks that go beyond the country-specific context. The report provides comprehensive recommendations on how to balance national requirements with local needs, align teaching standards to career advancement, and use student assessment data to make meaningful improvements to schools.


On a national level, Australia is doing well overall. The review praises the introduction of national teaching standards, performance goals, and the system’s strong focus on students’ results. It also credits the school system with a commitment to transparency.

Nevertheless, striking the right balance between national policies and meeting local needs continues to be a challenge. Furthermore, the report cited some rooms for improvement, including the alignment of teaching standards with competency-based career advancement. 

Almost as interesting as the review itself are the reactions from the press and policymakers. Was the review a strong validation of the government’s reforms or a critique of the way teachers are paid and tests are used? The answer seems to be: a little bit of both, with spin on each side. With press reports framing the story as both positive “International Report Validates Reforms” and slightly negative, “Pay teachers on merit, OECD tells Gillard government” policymakers are forced to answer the all important question: now what?


School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the report was “a big tick of approval” and emphasized that the government was already implementing many of the recommendations from the review as part of the new reforms. He also highlighted the fact that the OECD believed introducing teacher standards was a “major development.”


Read more:


The OECD Review of Evaluation and Assessment in Australia report, main conclusions and two-page summary are available on the “Country Reviews” page of the project’s website.


The press release by the Australian Department of Education (DEEWR) can be found here.


More articles on the report from education and local Australian news outlets:

  • The Australian: “Pay teachers on merit, OECD tells Gillard government”
  • Education Review: “International report validates reforms: Garrett”
  • ninemsn “Pay Teachers for Skills: OECD”
  • PS News: School Reforms Pass OECD Test”
  • ABC News:  OECD concerns on education revolution

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