Question only 1 percent of our kids could answer correctly
İSMET BERKAN email@example.comThe results of the PISA test were out last week, which the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conducts among its member and other participating countries or cities to test their 15 year old students’ skills and knowledge.
If you are interested in the subject, you may have seen tiny stories and some articles. You have not seen a comprehensive debate; whereas, the topic of education is a matter that closely concerns almost every family in Turkey, where there are 17.3 million students.
Most probably you have read that Turkey was again failing in PISA. We love to beat and criticize ourselves mercilessly. The PISA results once again made us do that and maybe some were quite satisfied with this.
Well, what kind of a test is this PISA that it can test and compare with each other the skills and knowledge of students in Turkey, Finland, the US, Mexico and Korea simultaneously?
Do the aim, target and curriculum of education in all these countries match each other that we have such a means of comparison?
The PISA test which has an incredible accumulation of knowledge and designing behind it is based on one essential assumption: The aim of education is to equip the student with “critical thinking” skills.
This what the PISA essentially tests. In other words, there is no point in looking at the PISA results and say, “How sad; we have scored 448 in the math test.” What we need to say is this sentence: “Our critical thinking skill is only 448 points while Shanghai has 613 points.”
Well, is the aim of our education to teach critical thinking to students in light of the knowledge they learn in school and from other sources?
The questions of the PISA test were secret previously, but this year questions were disclosed for the first time.
This is one of the “6th level” questions in math that determine the highest level of skill:
“Helen went to the river 4 kilometers away from her house with her bicycle in 9 minutes. On her return she used a 3-kilometer short cut and her ride took 6 minutes. What was Helen’s average speed of the whole journey?”
The 15-year-old students from China’s Shanghai city were the most successful in this question with 31 percent of them answering this question and other questions on the same level correctly.
Only 1 percent of the 15-year-old students taking the same test from Turkey have correctly answered the level 6 questions, which also included this question.
I am sure our 15-year-old kids are able to answer much tougher questions in the math field in all those kinds of central exams they sit. But when it comes to reading, interpreting and forming simple connections, obviously we stumble.
Actually if we can find why our children are having difficulty in reaching the correct answer, that is 28 kilometers per hour after two simple additions and a multiplication, we will then be able to find our huge system problem in education.
Dare to criticize false information!
My son is 10 years old and he is a 4th grade elementary school students. I looked at his class notes the other day and I saw that after World War I, it seems that Armenians had invaded the east of Turkey and we, during the Liberation War, not only fought against the Greeks in the west but had also fought against the Armenian invasion in the east.
Is it possible to reach critical thinking with this utterly false information? If my son told his teacher in class, “No dear teacher, it was the Russians not the Armenians who invaded the east of Turkey but even before the World War I ended, Turkey had taken back the entire east from the Russian army, including Kars and Ardahan it had lost much before; we have actually never fought with Armenia,” I wonder how my son’s school life would be from that point onwards?
We are trying to teach our son critical thinking at home; we are encouraging him but look, our son is encountering “national lies” at school. And he is taking serious lessons while is only 10 on living his life with these lies and spending his life in this hypocrisy.
*İsmet Berkan is a columnist for daily Hürriyet in which this piece was published Dec 10. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.