PISA in Romanian Context

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Since the focus in orientation 3 was put on regulatory instruments, our team conducted research on the diffusion and use of PISA in the romanian education. Central research questions were put on the knowledge producing and knowledge circulating role of this instrument, the team had tried to explore - next to the context of PISA - the process of implementation, the information transmited by the PISA results and the use of these results, the characteristics of dissemination and social discussions, debates, respectively the impact of PISA and the use of the tool in education policies. The empirical research on PISA encountered some difficulties therefore we could only partially rely on interviews (semi-structured interviews and informal discussions were conducted), but could use the available documents for analysis.

The report structured in four sections starts with introductory remarks on education policy context (emphasizing the internal changes in education, and the external expectations to which there are typical intentions of adaptation), and educational research in Romania (tracing the place of PISA within national assessments and noting that there is no authentic correlation among educational research and political decision making, policy decisions).

The ’PISA national social networks and structures’ part discusses first the mechanisms of national PISA entry. This process certainly has been a learning process, but only for a smaller group that was more involved into it, at national level the larger number of stakeholders (teachers, inspectors, student, parents) and the society still knows little about PISA (their knowledge is limited to the poor national results, often associated with false information). The research also revealed that romanian trends to follow international models, the educational reforms already started in the country and the EU pre-accession projects also contributed to the decision on PISA participation. As a result of participation the three PISA cycles Romania was involved meant a continuous improvement and knowledge enhancement, but the implementation is still rigid and focusing quite strongly on rule-keeping, respecting the standards, corresponding documentation, formal mechanisms. This might be a barrier in knowledge production and circulation. But nevertheless PISA due it’s structure, content, trainings and meetings brought in and put into action a set of international knowledge. Furthermore the report also notes that the use of PISA results – that was limited in educational policy-making – has changed over the last years, it is now clear that improvements can be observed in the way how at national level, particularly in decision-making actors take into account the results and formulate strategic plans in order to develop education. Considering the knowledge production and circulation of PISA actors often mention some deficiencies, noticing the lack of a type of knowledge related to the use this knowledge regulation tool: the utilization of information, databases in scientific works and in practice or in policy-decisions is mainly at elementary level.

The section on ’Social debate around PISA’ deals with the results of document analysis, that was extended to the PISA products, policy documents, media materials and scientific papers. The report summarizes that PISA related products connected to the three cycles can be found in adequate number, while these (national reports, PISA documentations, brochures, etc.) have an informative role, they transmit the official context and methods of PISA. There are less policy documents using the information provided by PISA, so the authors concluded that basically there is no detectable relationship between PISA results and the renewable reform processes neither in the meaning of content, nor in reference. Media analysis supplements the previous results, accordingly to this the PISA survey and its results did not receive considerable social and media response. The press is often superficial and focuses on sensations (accentuating tha bad national results), but neither this could generate meaningful reactions or debates. There are articles where important questions are put, but neither in these cases could relevant discussions emerge. As the report says the opinion of the public (as a manifestation of knowledge, of the local knowledge culture) seeks to counter the shock, is looking for a scapegoats or shows lethargy related to PISA results. Scientific approaches or critical thinking is almost missing, it seems that PISA means a sensitive point in the romanian education.

The final part of the report summarizes the most important research result in points. It concludes that the education policy context influences knowledge mobilization in the national implementation of PISA. Because implementation is formal (simplified operational group of tasks) and coming from an upper level (the two prominent representatives – the government and the ministry – undertake the tasks) PISA has no real social roots, consequently has no measurable impacts and does not generate significant progress. As the report notes PISA couldn’t become neither a public nor a professional concern. Undoubtedly PISA has generated knowledge by its national implementation, but this happened only within certain limits. PISA thematizations and the way of handling it at national level shows that the utilization of this tool is not sufficiently far-reaching. Consequently there are no detectable relationship between the knowledge produced by PISA and the educational policy decisions.

Unfortunatly the report does not cover proposals or recommendations for a more intense knowledge production and for the utilization of results in a more effective manner in policy decisions and evaluation.

ROSTÁS Zoltán, KÓSA István, BODÓ Julianna, KISS Adél & FEJES Ildikó (2009),Use and Circulation of PISA in a Romanian CONTEXT, KNOWandPOL Report.

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