How did Europe measure up in Pisa study?
The publication of the Pisa study results for 2016 has triggered discussion across Europe about how to improve school systems. Some commentators see social inequality as partially responsible for poor results. Only one country is happy with its performance.
Great results for Estonian pupils
Estonian schoolchildren came in third overall in the Pisa study and had the best results in Europe. Eesti Päevaleht is delighted but says there is still room for improvement:
“The key advantages of the Estonian school system could become export articles. But despite our elation we shouldn't lose sight of the reality. Why is there such a high level of stress and dissatisfaction among our schoolchildren? Is this the inevitable consequence of success? If so, we must ask ourselves what is more important and how to find a balance. ... And finally: shouldn't a good education system have a stronger impact on economic growth?”
Widely differing results within Finland
The results of Finnish pupils reflect the children's place of residence and family background even more than in the past. Karjalainen fears the country is becoming increasingly divided:
“Regional differences have increased. The results in the Helsinki area were clearly better than in the rest of the country. Girls also did much better than boys. Thanks to them Finland's overall score was once again good this year. The boys now seem to be lagging even farther behind the girls, however. Family background also plays a bigger role than in the past. For some reason schools are no longer able to compensate for socio-economic differences, as they did in the past. The most recent Pisa study shows a disunited Finland. If this trend continues Finland will soon be a regionally and socio-economically divided country, far removed from today's ideal state.”
Wallonia's schools too segregated
The Pisa study results of schoolchildren in Belgium's Walloon region were significantly poorer than those of their Flemish counterparts. Le Soir explains why:
“In our region there is an ever-widening gap. On the one side you have the elite, where the television is switched off in the evening. On the other there is an increasingly large section of the population for whom life is hard, very hard even. ... Families where money is lacking. Where books are non-existent. Where information has made way for entertainment. If we have poor results it's because our school system is at least good at one thing: separating. The strong stay with the strong. The weak with the weak. The former spur each other on, the others sink together. Weak pupils are lumped together in the same schools and offered no other models than themselves. There are no strong pupils to help the weak ones improve.”
Bulgaria's schools bogged down in theory
Bulgaria's pupils came 45th in the Pisa Study ranking, bringing up the rear among EU countries.
“The daily 24 Chasa defends the schoolchildren and points to the deficits of the school system: First, our pupils are not adequately prepared for such tests. To do well in the Pisa test you need to prepare, because good results don't just pop up from nowhere. Second, the Pisa test evaluates the pupils' ability to put what they learn in class into practice in everyday life, but precisely this aspect has been neglected for years in Bulgaria. The Bulgarian school system relies mainly on theory, and this is why most pupils can't even manage the most basic practical exercises.”
France's education policy a failure
France, the world's fifth-largest economy, once again attained only average scores in the Pisa study. This is proof that the Socialist government's education policy is a failure, Le Figaro believes:
“In this global ranking France has distinguished itself by its ability to reproduce social inequalities! A fine performance! International researchers have now established black on white that the countries that encourage excellence also do most to help students experiencing difficulties. They have also listed certain characteristics the best educational systems have in common, like respect for schoolwork and teachers. So it appears that abolishing grades [in elementary schools], repeated years, bilingual classes and Latin does nothing to counter underachievement or to re-establish equal opportunities? Did we really need a global study to convince us of that?”
Germany needs more and better teachers
The performance of German schoolchildren in this year's Pisa study has not improved compared to previous years. After six editions of the test it's time to reform the country's education system, Deutschlandfunk demands:
“International comparisons are interesting and important, there can be no doubt about that. But comparisons alone are no help, that much is now clear. Anyone who wants to see an improvement must also - even if it means higher costs and more effort - ensure that there are tangible results in classrooms and at schools. ... The system is suffering from a lack of specialist subject teachers, cancelled classes, the grouping of science subjects and dwindling interest in scientific and technical subjects among pupils. And subject didactics is still in its very early stages in teacher training programmes. It urgently needs to be strengthened. Without good teachers with a knack for conveying knowledge in their subject there is no way the quality of education can improve.”
Still no cause for Sweden to rejoice
Although Sweden scored higher than average among OECD states in the Pisa study it's too early to let the corks pop, Aftonbladet admonishes:
“The results are not entirely positive. The differences within the Swedish school system have deepened. A good 15 years ago Sweden was proud of its school system, which excelled in terms of offering equal opportunities. Children received the same education regardless of their social background. That is no longer the case, now we're merely in the middle of the pack in this respect. And the differences between Swedish children and children with a foreign background are also more pronounced than in other countries. ... Chile has just voted to ban for-profit schools on the grounds that profit-making schools harm society in the long run. Building cars isn't the same as educating citizens. ... We're the only country in the world with such market-driven schools.”