PISA tests show the quality of our future labor force

PISA tests show the quality of our future labor force

Politicians and business leaders who look for solutions to Turkey’s problems in the exchange rate/interest rate balance, will, in a couple of weeks, start speaking at “economy summits.” They will say Turkey should have value added production. They will also say our equivalent per kilogram of exports should be so many dollars.

 But the aspect that will enable this is productivity and a qualified labor force. The most important feature of the labor force is based on education, scientific information and technology, measuring, testing, know-how, problem-solving and discovery. 

The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) test that takes place every three years “measures” precisely this “infrastructure” by testing 15-year-olds in 70 countries on their knowledge of science, mathematics and reading.  

The results of the 2015 test were released Dec. 6. As a document that should always be referred to with the question “What can we do about it?” the 500-page PISA report should first go to the tables of economy ministers, not just the Education Ministry. 

The PISA 2015 results were not particularly pleasant. We are second from last among OECD countries. The average points for our children in PISA 2015 dropped drastically over the numbers from 2012: 38 points in science, 47 points in reading and 28 points in mathematics compared.

In 2015, we dropped to our 2006 level in science and math; in reading, we dropped below the 2006 level. However, only 36 percent of 15-year-old kids were tested in 2003; this went up to 70 percent in 2015. In other words, the situation is not getting worse compared to previous years; as more poor and disadvantaged kids are included on the test, the general average has dropped. 

Our international rating is very bad; we should abandon education policies that are regarded as a mill to produce “the desired quality” people. 

The details give the projection of a social map. In the three fields, our worst position is in science. Our children’s scientific knowledge and their perception of nature have very bad ratings. While the OECD average was 33, Turkey is 18. With this score, Turkey is 64th among 70 countries. The 15-year-old kids who are discovering life and who spend most of their days in formal education institutions do not attribute any significance to scientific knowledge, but, on the other hand, nearly 30 percent expect a career related to science. 

Turkey was able to increase the number of 15-year-olds who attend seventh grade between the years 2003 and 2015 by 375,000 students, in other words, 52 percent. 

The rate that explains the scientific achievements to students’ social economic situation in Turkey is near the OECD average of 12 percent at 9 percent. There is a direct relation between socioeconomic level and the points received in science. For this reason, equal opportunities have a major effect on PISA values. 

In Turkey, the rate of those who fall into the lowest 20 percent segment in the PISA Index of the Social Economic and Cultural Status is 58.6 percent; the rate of those who fall into the top 20 percent is 4.4 percent. Between these highest and lowest segments, the difference on PISA science points is 103 points.

 This is the same difference of points between the “advantageous” schools and “disadvantageous” schools that students of average social status attend. 

While the science point did not particularly change between 2006 and 2015, there was a 6 percent improvement in terms of equal opportunities. 

A striking picture is in the test achievements of migrant children. The points of second-generation children from Turkey who live in countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland are, despite being below the OECD average, so much higher than their peers in Turkey.