【英语中国】别被上海“超级学生”吓倒

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2013-12-11 08:56

小艾摘要: You may never have heard of Andreas Schleicher, a placid German who wouldn’t look out of place as the reliable engineer in an Audi advert, but he is the most powerful man in global education. An empl ...
You may never have heard of Andreas Schleicher, a placid German who wouldn’t look out of place as the reliable engineer in an Audi advert, but he is the most powerful man in global education. An employee of the OECD, he is the man in charge of Pisa, a triennial assessment that measures the performance of children across 65 countries and regions.

Despite OECD warnings that the results are not reliable enough to present as league tables, they always are. And a country’s placing can inflict trauma on national psyches. When Pisa was first released, the Germans were so astonished at their relatively poor results that they invented a new word: Pisa-Schock.

More recently, US officials, finding their pupils in the bottom half of the table, have talked of a “Sputnik moment”. When the latest results were published last week, England’s education secretary Michael Gove and his Labour counterpart Tristram Hunt immediately launched into battle over which party was most to blame for the country’s average performance. Much of Pisa’s power, in the west at least, comes from a sense that it represents a new and frightening geopolitical reality. Last week’s results saw east Asian countries move even further ahead and emerging economies such as Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey on the rise. Meanwhile, the US and western Europe have not improved at all – with the notable exception of Germany. In our nightmares this is what the balance of power looks like 10 or 20 years down the line.

There are, though, reasons to question this narrative. Pisa tests a quite specific set of skills. Timss, another international test that looks more closely at the type of content we have in our curriculums, finds the UK and US up in the top 10, not so far off the far east.

Moreover the seemingly intuitive relationship between education and economic success is not that clear. In the first international mathematics test, in the early 1960s, the US came last, yet has remained an economic superpower. The researcher Keith Baker actually found a negative correlation between scores in this test and future growth. Similarly, the US-based Chinese academic Yong Zhao found a negative correlation between Pisa scores and a global survey of entrepreneurial aspirations.

That said, it would require some complacency to think we should pay no attention to Pisa at all. The risk of our current approach to Pisa analysis is that educators, fed up with being blamed for failure, simply dismiss it all as meaningless political theatre. That would be a shame since, for all its complexity, the results do raise important questions.

Particularly: how do poor children in Asian countries do so well? Only 6 per cent of the UK’s poorest quartile of pupils appear in the highest quarter of maths performers globally. In Japan and South Korea the figure is twice as high. In Shanghai and Hong Kong it is four times higher. The poorest quartile of students in Shanghai do better in maths than the richest in the UK.

It is tempting to put this down to “culture”. And it is true; the level of expectation in Chinese, Korean and Japanese schools, from both parents and teachers, is higher. The west’s obsession with innate ability means we tend to assume than a certain percentage of young people are not “suited” to academic pursuits.

Far Eastern students spend more time in school, more time in after-school lessons and more time on homework. And the work they are doing is harder and more complex. When a pupil falls behind, it is assumed they will be able to catch up with the right intervention rather than that they are “low ability”.

Yet policy has played a part too. Shanghai has seen big improvements over recent years through a series of reforms to get good teachers and headteachers into the weakest performing schools – something that was also behind much of the recent improvement in London’s schools.

Moreover, there has been huge focus on professional development; with teachers spending less time in the classroom and more time planning and researching (the cost has been bigger classes). Singapore has also invested in workforce development; headteachers there now get academic-style sabbaticals.

Some less-heralded high performers, such as Poland and Estonia, have also been investing in teachers, as well as toughening up their curriculums. Estonia in particular has managed to combine impressive rigour with modernity, recently introducing computer coding for all first-year primary students.

We do, though, need to be careful about cherry-picking things that seem to work abroad. As Professor Robert Coe of Durham university has said, almost any policy invoked as the recipe for a given country’s success can also be found in a low- performing country. Implementation is key. Whatever reforms are undertaken need clear objectives and widespread buy-in. Assigning blame for “failures”, whether to politicians or to teachers, does not help. It might be that our Sturm und Drang approach to the education debate is the first thing we need to change.

The writer is a former adviser to the British education secretary and director of research at Teach First

你或许从来没有听说过安德烈亚斯?施莱歇(Andreas Schleicher),这位性格温和的德国人即便在奥迪(Audi)的广告中扮演一位可靠的工程师也不会显得不搭调,但他是全球教育领域最具影响力的人物。作为经合组织(OECD)的一名职员,他负责掌管“国际学生评估项目”(简称PISA),这是一个每三年举办一次的测试项目,考察65个国家和地区学生的能力表现。

虽然经合组织警告称,从评估结果的可靠程度来说,这个项目并不适合用排行榜的形式发布出来,但排行榜每次都有。而且一个国家的排名可能对该国民众的心理造成重大打击。当PISA项目的测试结果第一次发布时,德国人对本国相对较差的成绩大吃一惊,以至于他们发明了一个新词:“Pisa冲击”(Pisa-Schock)。

近年来,美国官员在看到本国学生的成绩在排行榜中位居后列时,就用“斯普特尼克时刻”(Sputnik moment)来形容他们所感受到的震撼(斯普特尼克一号是苏联发射的第一颗人造卫星,在当时给美国带来巨大危机感——译者注)。当最近一次测试结果于上周发布时,身为保守党成员的英国教育大臣迈克尔?戈夫(Michael Gove)与工党的特里斯特拉姆?亨特(Tristram Hunt)立即展开舌战,争论哪个党派应为英国学生的平庸表现负主要责任。

PISA的影响力,至少就西方而言,部分源于一种认为其代表了令人恐惧的地缘政治新现实的观念。上周公布的结果显示,东亚国家的排名进一步提升,巴西、印度尼西亚以及土耳其等新兴经济体的排名也在上升当中。而美国和西欧国家的排名则完全没有进步——只有德国是个明显的例外。这正是我们噩梦中未来一、二十年世界实力的分布态势。

但有理由对这种观念提出质疑。PISA考察的是一组非常具体的技能。另一项全球性测试“国际数学和科学趋势研究”(简称TIMSS)更贴近西方的学校教学内容,英国和美国在该项考试中的排名处于前十名以内,并没有远远落后于远东国家。

更重要的是,教育与经济成就之间感觉上理所当然的关系其实并不明确。二十世纪六十年代初,美国在首个全球性数学测试中排名垫底,但仍是一个经济超级大国。研究员基斯?贝克(Keith Baker)甚至发现,一国学生在这项测试中取得的成绩与该国未来经济增速之间存在负相关。与之类似,目前在美国工作的中国学者赵勇(音译)发现,PISA成绩与一项有关企业家抱负的全球调查结果之间存在负相关。

尽管如此,需要很有一点自负才会认为我们完全不用在意PISA测试结果。当前我们对待PISA的态度存在的风险是:教育者们受够了因为PISA结果不理想而备受指责,可能转而单纯将其看做是毫无意义的政治做戏。这将是很遗憾的结果,因为PISA测试尽管存在复杂性,但从其结果中确实可以看出一些重要问题。

最重要的一点是:为什么亚洲低收入家庭的孩子在测试中能够取得好成绩?在英国,来自收入排行后25%家庭的学生中,只有6%的人能跻身全球数学成绩排名前25%的行列。而在日本和韩国,该比例是英国的两倍。在上海和香港,该比例是英国的四倍。上海来自收入最低的四分之一家庭的学生比英国最富裕家庭孩子的数学成绩更好。

人们难免会把这种现象归结于“文化差异”。确实,中国、韩国以及日本对学生的期望很高,这种期望既来自学生家长,也来自学校老师。而西方对天赋的过分强调意味着我们倾向于假定有一定比例的青少年“不适合”走上学术道路。

远东地区的学生花在学校、课外课程以及家庭作业上的时间比西方学生多。而且他们的课业难度更大、更加复杂。当一个学生成绩落后时,他们通常会被认为在有效干预手段的帮助下有能力追赶上来,而非天生“能力低下”。

然而政府政策也发挥了一定作用。近年来上海推行了一系列改革措施,将优秀师资和校长资源注入教学表现最差的学校,取得了显著效果——伦敦学校近年取得的进步部分也归功于类似措施。

此外,东亚地区对教师的职业发展也高度重视:老师花在课堂教学上的时间减少,而花在规划和研究方面的时间增加(由此导致的成本是每班人数的增加)。新加坡还在教师队伍培养方面投入大量资金,当地的中小学校长现在能休学术假。

波兰、爱沙尼亚等一些排名意外靠前的国家也在师资建设方面持续投资,并提高了教学内容的难度。特别是爱沙尼亚,该国将令人印象深刻的严格要求与教学内容的现代性成功结合起来,近期还面向所有小学一年级学生开设了计算机编程课程。

但我们在选择性借鉴其他国家的成功经验时还应慎重。英国杜伦大学(Durham University)教授罗伯特?科(Robert Coe)曾经说过,几乎任何被认为促成了某国成功的政策都能在另一个表现糟糕的国家找到。政策的执行才是关键。不论实施什么改革,都需要明确目标,并争取广泛的支持。追究“失败”的责任,不管是归咎于政客还是教师都与事无补。或许我们在教育讨论中所采取的“狂飙突进”方法是我们应当改变的第一件事。

本文作者曾任英国教育大臣的顾问,目前在Teach First担任研究主管

译者/马拉

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