Poor PISA ranks: HRD seeks reason

Rattled over the dismal performance of Indian schools on a reputed international ranking system, the Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry has asked the National Council of Education Research & Training (NCERT) to probe reasons for this poor show and submit a report to Minister Kapil Sibal.

As many as 16,000 students from across 400 schools in Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), marking India's debut. They fared below average overall with the two states ending near the bottom of the heap with mean scores of 337 and 325 respectively. In contrast, while it is the school-goers of South Korea and Finland who have the top slots on the rankings, China surprised everyone with their debut on the 2009 PISA ratings with its Shanghai province schools topping the maths and science rankings with a mean score of 556.

The NCERT's Department of Evaluation and Measurement was the nodal authority for helping conduct PISA for Indian students.

The ministry has asked the NCERT to examine the issue and bring before the minister a report and presentation on it. "The need for improving quality of education is definitely there and all efforts will be made to ensure that it is done," said a highly placed source.

There was a random selection of schools from the two states for PISA with a large number of government and rural area schools in the sample size, sources said. This was also a factor to be considered in view of the nature of PISA questions, officials pointed out.

"It is important for you to know that the schools who participated in the PISA 2009+ were randomly selected by the PISA consortium and were selected from all eligible educational institutions of the two states where 15-year-old students were studying," said Dr Ratna Dhamija, manager India, Australian Council for Educational Research (India) that helped in conducting PISA for India, in an emailed response to this newspaper.

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