I’m not really into writing open letters, but this time I just couldn’t help myself.

Dear Andreas Schleicher,

We’re getting close to the PISA 2015 release, and I’m really looking forward to it. I know there are many people who have problems with – the power of – PISA, but I do think that this data-collection has its merits as one of the possible sources to discuss educational policy. You tend to end your presentations with the same quote: without data you’re just another person with an opinion.

It’s this quote that makes me write this letter. You wrote a post for Google, and while you’re entitled to have an opinion, I was surprised that you would write something that’s just that.

Can I share some examples?

Today, schools need to prepare students for more rapid economic and social change than ever before, for jobs that haven’t been created, to use technologies that haven’t yet been invented, and to solve social problems that we can’t yet imagine.

Is this true? Do you have data to back this up? Sounds very popular indeed, but how compare the present evolutions with the social changes of the previous century? What about the previous industrial revolution?

Or take this:

In traditional school systems, teachers have been provided an exact prescription for what to teach and then left alone in classrooms. The past was about delivered wisdom, the future is about user-generated wisdom.

Wow, if I ever read a cliché. Maybe it’s a good idea to read Hannah Arendt about the conservative role education also has to make progression. And what does user-generated wisdom mean? Do we need to put kids under an apple tree so they can discover gravity themselves, I have big news for you: they won’t.

Let’s continue:

…you had teachers and content divided by subjects and student destinations; and the past was isolated: schools were designed to keep students inside, and the rest of the world outside. The future needs to be integrated, that means emphasising integration of subjects, integration of students and integration of learning contexts; and it needs to be connected: that means connected with real-world contexts, and also permeable to the rich resources in the community. Instruction in the past was subject-based, instruction in the future will be project based. The past was hierarchical, students were recipients and teachers the dominant resource, the future is co-created, and that means we need to recognise both students and adults as resources for the co-creation of communities, for the design of learning and for the success of students.

You like data, you said? You worry about the existing gap between rich and poor? Then read this new report please. The report is very careful in its conclusion about project based learning, but rather than the correlational data PISA has, it actually did a RTC. If you have read the report, and maybe some other sources on cognitive psychology, maybe you’ll want to rewrite your paragraph.

In the past, different students were taught in similar ways. Now we need to embrace diversity with differentiated pedagogical practices. The past was curriculum-centered, the future is learner centered. The goals of the past were standardisation and compliance, that is, students are educated in batches of age, following the same standard curriculum, all assessed at the same time.

You mean as in “a whole group of 15-year olds being tested in a similar way to compare countries?” But more important: did you notice that while you now propagate ‘differentiated pedagogical practices’ this is in stark contrast with what you wrote a couple of sentences before and immediately after this very sentence.

Oh and this:

The future is about personalising educational experiences, that is building instruction from student passions and capacities, helping students personalise their learning and assessment in ways that foster engagement and talents.

Does sound good, but I would suggest you also take a look at the work of Gert Biesta with the different roles education has. If education should only be this, then we’ll end up in an extreme neoliberal approach with everybody following their own passion but with no society left.

As said, I appreciate your work at OECD.


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