International testing: Measuring global standards or reinforcing inequalities

Marilyn KELL, Peter Michael KELL

Research output: Contribution to journalArticles

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

This paper provides an overview of three international literacy testing programs and discusses some of the issues emerging from the growing influence of these testing programs have on constructions of literacy and numeracy. The three testing programs include the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Survey (PIRLS). The paper documents the origins and objectives of the testing programs, participating groups and countries, timing and sequencing of testing, the construction of the tests and the way in which they are reported and interpreted. It explores the way in which these tests have been utilized as proxy indicators for the quality of literacy and numeracy teaching and the way in which countries and school systems have been ranked and responded to those rankings. By scanning literature and commentaries the paper discusses the implications of "high stakes" testing for students, teachers and curriculum, documenting subsequent government policy developments in Australia, England, Germany, Finland and South Africa in response to test results. The authors also explore how the use of "league tables" has resulted in some generic policy responses promoting further testing, centralized curriculum and a return to traditional "back to basics" teaching methodologies in the west. The paper will also discuss the performance of East Asian countries such as Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore and moves to implement more locally based curriculum reform in the context of international testing. By exploring some of the critiques of international literacy testing the paper argues that existing inequalities across and within nations are highlighted but often remain unchanged as a consequence of testing. The authors acknowledge the potential for such testing programs to both highlight inequalities and facilitate evidence driven approaches to policy. They conclude that policy reconceptualised as a result of these tests needs to re-direct resources to meeting the challenges of global and local educational inequalities and modernizing curriculum and teacher professional development. Copyright © 2010 Common Ground, Marilyn Kell, Peter Kell.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)485-502
JournalThe International Journal of Learning
Volume17
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Citation

Kell, M., & Kell, P. (2010). International testing: Measuring global standards or reinforcing inequalities. The International Journal of Learning, 17(9), 485-502.

Keywords

  • High stakes testing
  • International literacy tests
  • Progress in International Reading Literacy Survey (PIRLS)
  • Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA)
  • Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

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