Thursday, January 10, 2013

Test scores and future economic success

Last year's first post was called "India's crisis in learning" and cited the country's poor performance in the international education-comparison tests PISA.

Now, writing in New Scientist MacGregor Campbell tells us that "the common-sense connection between test scores and future economic success doesn't necessarily hold up. For developed nations, there is scant evidence that TIMSS rankings correlate with measures of prosperity or future success. The same holds for a similar test, the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA)."

Worse, "[i]n many cases, high test scores correlate with economic failure"! Summarizing a 2007 study, he says,
Baker found negative relationships between mathematics rankings and numerous measures of prosperity and well-being: 2002 per-capita wealth, economic growth from 1992 to 2002 and the UN's Quality of Life Index. Countries scoring well on the tests were also less democratic. Baker concluded that league tables of international success are "worthless".
Which is not to say that math, science and language skills are not important. But perhaps we should stop fixating on performance in these tests. For, as Cambell notes:
in a global economy, where the answers to almost any standard question are a few smartphone taps away, skills like creativity and initiative will be the true drivers of prosperity. None of these traits can be measured easily by tests. When testing consumes precious educational time, focus and money, they get squeezed out.
Of course, none of this is grounds for any complacency about the education system in India! Let us see what this January's ASER report brings.