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Posts Tagged ‘oecd

Late last year, the OECD released a report that declared that using educational technology did not guarantee good results.

The press had a field day with it, nay-sayers gleefully taunted “I told you so!”, and anyone associated with enabling change with ICT questioned their lot in life.

Well, this was not quite true for the last group of people.

While some suffered a dent in confidence, other educators moved beyond this argument and focused on what was and still is important: Enabling powerful and meaningful learning by students regardless of results measured only by narrow-beam tests.

The argument that technology does not help is old and invalid.

The press and nay-sayers focused on the negative and forgot to point out that the ineffectiveness could be due to teachers who do not know how to marry new tools with new strategies.
 

 
Consider a person with a hammer (old tool) and who is an expert at hammering (old strategy). Now give them a Swiss Army Knife (new set of tools). They might struggle to use the tools (poor strategy) or resort to hammering (using the old strategy regardless of tool affordances).

The argument is old because we already know that for something like a wide range of ICTs to be effective, there must be broad acceptance, regular use, and rigorous professional development. There must be changes in teaching behaviours before we try measuring the effectiveness of ICT.

How you measure effectiveness is also important. Schools and the OECD used tests. Do these test for knowledge, attitudes, and skills that are a result of ICT-enabled learning? For example, are the tests open, collaborative, and Google-enabled?

No, they are not. It is like the tests are designed to measure how someone can run in a straight line when you actually need to determine how well they can climb up a tree. The body motions look similar when the person is miming the actions, but climbing is very different from running. The tests are simply invalid.

Say no to the nay-sayers because they do not know what they are talking about. I have told you do. Now you tell them so!

I appreciated having access to the official transcript of the speech that Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), gave at the Opening of the OECD-Singapore Conference on Higher Education Futures on 14 October 2015.

The speech ticked all the right rhetorical boxes. I took comfort from the words of one of our two new Ministers for Education. To move from comfort to confidence, I await action.

Some of the action might have to start right at his doorstep. This is a screenshot I took and underlined from the TODAY copy of the transcript.

I got the message of diversifying our educational system to meet to varied needs. Everything he mentioned in the latter paragraph showed thought leadership.

But does our minister have the support of people who think similarly and are able to put excellent rhetoric into play? If they are beginning presentations with similar templates, are they not reliant on cookie-cutters?

Some might point out that the same start does not mean the same path or the same end. They might also say that a common template shows shared values and unity of purpose.

However, the disruption and change described by the minister require different starts, culling of sacred cows, and striving for uncertain ends. If the situation could be likened to a biological one, then what we do not need is a small and shallow gene pool. Quite the opposite.

Are we diverse enough? Do we listen to voices in our deserts? Do we embrace our outliers?

I found this photo on Twitter taken by @garystager.

I do not have to guess that he took the photo here in Singapore because the Twitter geo tag tells me it was taken in the eastern part of our main island.

Signs like these are very common at fast food joints and upmarket coffee shops because students frequent these spots and deny customers seating by spending long hours there.

Locals do not bat any eyelid because such signs are the norm. It takes outsiders to find them unusual or funny. When they do this, they hold up a mirror with which we should examine ourselves.

Why is it not just socially acceptable but even expected that kids study in places meant for relaxation, entertainment, or a quick meal? You might even spot mothers or tuition teachers drilling and grilling their charges at fast food restaurants.

This is almost unique to Singapore. I suspect it happens (or will happen) elsewhere. Where? Any place that has high PISA scores.

So here is a tongue-in-cheek proposition for OECD. Why not investigate the relationship between studying at places like Pizza Hut and performance in PISA tests?

Policymakers worldwide might not be aware or care for the effect that the tuition industry might have on Singapore’s PISA test scores. But McDonald’s is everywhere. It might be an untapped solution to cure test score ills.


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