Poor PISA score: Govt blames ‘disconnect’ with India


Just why did Indians perform so badly at the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as to stand at the bottom of the ladder? The government thinks it is not a reflection on the country's schooling. Advised by the NCERT, the HRD Ministry has concluded that India trailed in the international rankings because of the questions posed.

Terming these out of context, the government will take up the issue with organisers of PISA before deciding on full-scale participation in the test for 2012, with students from 10 of its states.

PISA — introduced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development — is an internationally standardised assessment that tests 15-year-olds in reading, mathematical science and science literacy. While PISA assessments first started in 2000, India participated in the "extended cycle" of the test for 2009 with 16,000 students from 400 schools across Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Against first-timer China that stormed into the 2009 ratings with Shanghai schools topping maths and science with a mean score of 556, the two Indian states stood near the bottom with 337 and 325, respectively — a performance that led to much discussion in India.

The ministry has concluded that there was a socio-cultural disconnect between the questions and Indian students. The ministry will write to the OECD and drive home the need to factor in India's "socio-cultural milieu". India's participation in the next PISA cycle will hinge on this.

Considering that over 70 nations participate in PISA, it is uncertain whether an exception would be made for India. Incidentally, the Ministry of External Affairs is not enthused about a pan-India participation in PISA as it is expected to throw up discouraging results. India is already close to missing the 2012 cycle and may have to wait for 2015.

Incidentally, PISA results were reaffirmed by NGO Pratham's annual ASER report on learning levels of schoolchildren.

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