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How to assess educational reform (Taipei Times, Editorial, 2007.12.14)

<font color=black>How to assess educational reform (Taipei Times, Editorial, 2007.12.14)How to assess educational reformBy Tu Jenn-Hwa 杜震華Friday, Dec 14, 2007, Page 8 PARTICIPATING FOR THE first time in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) -- held last year by the Organization for Economic Cooperation in competition with 56 other countries -- Taiwan took first place in mathematics, fourth place in science and 16th place in reading performance. This excellent <a href="http://www.deovos.com.tw/"><font color="FF0033">節能燈具</font></a>performance demonstrates that the nation&#39;s educational standard is above the international average, which I believe the public was rather gratified to see. However, the project host in Taiwan, who is also president of National Hualien University of Education, indicated that as the participants have all completed their nine-year compulsory education, it "demonstrates that the educational reform works and that the results can be a useful reference for the Ministry <a href="http://www.bibc.com.tw/"><font color="FF0033">辦公室出租</font></a>of Education in policymaking." Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) chimed in and said that it "proved the effectiveness of educational reform and the effects are becoming clearer and clearer." Of course we hope that educational reform really works, but if the educational authorities think good performance in the PISA assessment means that reform is a success, then their reasoning ability needs improving. The fact that such people are leading educational <a href="http://www.hbhousing.com.tw"><font color="FF0033">賣屋</font></a>reform is enough to make one break out in a cold sweat. Anyone with a basic understanding of logic knows that to examine the effects of an experiment or a policy there must be an experimental group and a control group operating in identical conditions except for controlled variables. Therefore, if we wish to use the results of the assessment to conclude that Taiwan&#39;s educational reform has made "significant achievements," there should be assessment results from a <a href="http://www.mrmasuit.com.tw/design.html"><font color="FF0033">ARMANI</font></a>control group before the educational reform that can be compared with the experimental group to see if there is any significant statistical progress. After all, it was the first time Taiwan participated in the PISA assessment, so there is no benchmark to tell us whether the results are good or bad. It is unclear as to how they could jump to the conclusion that educational reform has been "effective." Using these results as a reference for ministry policy could lead <a href="http://www.mrmasuit.com.tw/story.html"><font color="FF0033">襯衫</font></a>to disastrous results. In fact, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea all achieved outstanding performances on the assessment. Does this mean that education or educational reform in all these three regions has been successful? My instincts say no. In reality, these regions are deeply influenced by Confucianism and the resultant educational competition. It is also very common for students to go to "cram schools." Ten years of educational reform has made cram schools in Taiwan <a href="http://www.young520.com.tw/"><font color="FF0033">開幕活動</font></a>increase in number from about 2,600 to more than 14,000. The most common subjects in cram schools are mathematics, followed by English, physics and chemistry. This sequence accords with Taiwan&#39;s ranking on the PISA assessment, where Taiwan ranked highest in mathematics, followed by science and reading. Therefore, the achievements could be the result of cram schools rather than educational reform. If this reasoning is correct, then we might see Taiwan make huge <a href="http://www.young520.com.tw/"><font color="FF0033">開幕活動</font></a>progress in reading comprehension three years from now since composition now is part of examinations and students have started to go to cram schools for Chinese classes. If so, the consequences would be highly ironic, and have little to do with educational reform. Many parents and experts question whether constructive mathematics decreases students&#39; proficiency in math. Though many studies have been conducted, most failed to consider the cram school variable and <a href="http://www.chrb.com.tw/"><font color="FF0033">租辦公室</font></a>as a result there are no conclusive findings. If parents send their kids to cram schools or home tutor them if their math proficiency declines, how could that be used to examine the effects of educational reform? Why such competitive countries as the US and Israel, with a wealth of scientists, did rather poorly on the assessment -- the US ranked 29 in science and 35 in mathematics, with Israel taking the 39th and 40th spots, respectively -- is worth pondering. What <a href="http://www.gotorent.com.tw"><font color="FF0033">租屋網</font></a>significance for the future would these results have even if Taiwan continues to rank at the top but we lack the ability to tell cause from effect, believe whatever politicians tell us, and spend our days fighting amongst ourselves? Tu Jenn-hwa is an associate professor at National Taiwan University&#39;s Graduate Institute of National Development. Translated by Ted Yang

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