PISA creator: teacher autonomy key during lockdown

By Ángel Calvo

Paris, Jun 17 (efe-epa).- Teachers’ autonomy to organize along with their ability to use technology, has been key to adapting schooling during lockdown, according to Andreas Schleicher, director for education at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.Schleicher, head of the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment, warns in an interview with Efe of a growing gap between students who have access to technology and parental support and those who do not.

Question. Do you have an idea of what the consequences of these months are?

Answer. We have now our first data set on the lockdown in 36 countries. On the effects, on the perception for the future, on the strategies for reopening, I think we have now quite good data. I think the conclusions are several, first of all a lot of learning has been lost on average about 46 days which is quite a lot of time and in some countries like Spain a lot more. The second is that the substitution through digital technology, online learning, television, radio has been effective for some student groups, students who have greater access to technology or have very supportive parents, who have the motivation and the capacity to learn on their own they have actually done quite well in the crisis. But students without access, students without parental support, students who used to be spoon-fed by their teachers rather than learn on their own, they have suffered very badly. So I think we can see growing disparities in outcomes, growing disparities in access so that’s the other side of this.

Q. Have you seen many differences between the countries?

A. Absolutely, countries like Estonia, like China, like Singapore, like Korea that were very quick to put in alternatives in place and also often good alternatives that also had very nuanced responses. I think one of the things that we have done in Europe was shut down all schools at the beginning and some of those countries they were more nuanced they shut down schools where there was a problem but not everywhere so there was a very fine-grained response whereas in Europe there has been a quite radical response so you can see big differences across countries.

Q. Were these differences because some countries were more prepared in new technologies than others?

A. In technology but also in teacher capacity and I think that’s a big part of the equation. If you have an education system where a lot of responsibility is at the front line, you go to the Netherlands, you go to Finland, you go to Estonia, even in normal days teachers and schools are managing their affairs quite well and it has been much easier to adapt. Whereas in education systems where everything is highly centralized there is not a lot of frontline capacities, teachers and schools had a harder time to adapt to a very different kind of world now. So I think it’s not just technology I think it’s also very much about capacity and if you look at why could Asia do so well, well because teachers in those countries do not just teach but they are usually doing a lot of things beyond teaching, they have very good contact with their students, they have time with their students outside the classroom, they spend a lot of time together to evaluate lessons, design lessons, there’s a very strong collaborative culture in the schools and teachers spend more time working outside the classroom than in Europe. So again that is an advantage in a crisis like this where teachers cannot just implement orders but have to reinvent education.

Q. In the case of China, some territories of China have very good PISA grades?

A. Yes but also in the crisis they were very quick, if you think about it within one month China had 50 million students to online that is very, very impressive. In a way, in Europe we struggled with this. And it was not so much just the technology, the platform, it was very much also a matter of teachers actively choosing, developing and innovating technology base. So they didn’t wait for someone to tell them what to do, they actually were very active in the development of new lessons and technologies.

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