Governments around the world are waiting – some eagerly, but most rather anxiously – for the latest results of the PISA survey, due on 3rd December. Carried out every three years since 2000 by the powerful Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, it assesses the performance of school-children in 70 countries, comprising 90% of the global economy. The OECD processes the results to rank countries’ education systems and the rankings are used to justify major changes in the way many of those children are taught and tested.
In Britain, and particularly in England, the results are given huge publicity, with politicians and commentators from across the spectrum falling on them to justify their own views of how children should be educated.
But is it appropriate to use the statistics at the heart of PISA in this way? Can education systems be compared across widely differing cultures to produced meaningful ‘league tables’?
Cambridge University professor David Spiegelhalter investigates, talking to leading academics in the world of education including Svend Kreiner in Copenhagen, Harvey Goldstein at Bristol and Oxford’s Jenny Ozga. He discusses the issues with staff at the National Foundation for Educational Research who administer the PISA tests in the UK and puts the criticisms to the OECD’s Andreas Schleicher, the man that Education Secretary Michael Gove once called ‘the most important man in British education’ because his work on PISA.
There is so much we can take from this – how we can use toys and day to day objects to inspire conversation and writing; how we can engage children by surprising and delighting them and as Refe Tuma says ‘childhood is fleeting, so let’s make sure its fun while it lasts!’
Over the last few years the importance of giving children learning opportunities outside has become increasingly highlighted. There is a post on this blog made in July that refers to this aspect of learning. In Northamptonshire there are a number of places and organisations seeking to provide learning that focuses on being outside.
The blog for Children and Nature Network Northampton shares activities and ideas – you can follow and subscribe to this blog to receive regular updates of ideas and share your own ideas and photographs.
Eco Kids also organise and promote opportunities for learning – the Abington Park Outdoor Classroom Project has been developing a wide range of activities for families and schools such as a Wild Food Survey, tree identification trails using QR codes, nature workshops for children and supporting resources to use. You can explore their website for other information, projects and resources based around the environment and nature.
Delapre Abbey is another great Northampton location where the outdoors is used to learn and play. You can explore the various activities offered here – Friends of Delapre Abbey
Further afield Newton Field Centre is often used for visits to explore science, geography, art and other areas of the school curriculum as well as a base for family learning and other activities. The website for Newton Field Centre gives you contact details and other information.
Finally you may be aware of the recent report published by the RSPB ‘State of Nature’ that explored the significance of the education of children and young people for the future of conservation and nature.
Many of you will be visiting outdoor locations and participating or leading activities and events with your schools and families – my examples are from Northamptonshire but you will be aware of places around Leciester and MK. Let me know about these places and events so I can share them with the group.