Andreas Schleicher – What is the Point of PISA?

andreas-schleicher-wp-1It seems that OECD’s PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) provokes strong emotions from educators the world over. Intended as a diagnostic tool to bring together policy makers into a dialogue about education and improvement it has become widely criticised as a league table that the very same policy makers use to beat up their respective educators in a kind of “must do better” end of term report.


Sir Ken Robinson recently criticised PISA for “squeezing out” other more creative subjects and creating an anxiety around education that was “grotesque”.


The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development was the fruit of the US-funded Marshall Plan, intended to reconstruct European economies after World War II to prevent the spread of Soviet Communism. The objectives of the United States were to rebuild war-devastated regions, remove trade barriers, modernise industry, and make Europe prosperous again. Today, the OECD has 34 member countries that consult one another to identify challenges, discuss and analyse them, and promote policies to solve them. The US has seen its national wealth almost triple in the five decades since the OECD was created, calculated in terms of GDP per head of population. Other OECD countries have seen similar, and in some cases even more spectacular, economic growth.


I met with Andreas Schleicher, a German statistician and researcher in the field of education, in Paris to learn more about PISA. Schleicher is the Director for the Directorate of Education and Skills at OECD and the co-ordinator of PISA. I found my conversation with Andreas quite illuminating and whilst I have my reservations around standardised testing I was left without any doubt that Schleicher is one of the good guys. My full interview with Schleicher will be included in the Learning {RE}imagined book coming out this autumn but in the meantime I thought that readers of this blog would enjoy this short extract.



gbm-faceGraham Brown-Martin is the founder of Learning Without Frontiers (LWF), a global think tank that brought together renowned educators, technologists and creatives to share provocative and challenging ideas about the future of learning. He left LWF in 2013 to pursue new programmes and ideas to transform the way we learn, teach and live. His book, Learning {Re}imagined was recently published by Bloomsbury/WISE and is available now.