Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Further Discussion on the India Pisa Results
Someone has posted a nice detailed comment in response to my recent post on PISA results for India. Because of the length of the comment rather than answer it in the comments section I figured I would reproduce it here:
The Indian results are unsurprising because it corroborates earlier studies all coming to a broadly similar conclusion. That Indian education is mediocre and overall level of human capital in India is very low. Please refer to the TIMMS test administered by Jishnu Das and Tristan Zajonc or the Wipro educational initiative results.
Your skepticism is unfortunately untempered by rationality. To expect high Indian results based from the selection of the highest scoring school in Qatar is the result of several cognitive biases. Chiefly there is the issue of selection bias, by comparing the most unrepresentative school in the nation with OECD averages. To apply your logic, I can pick the highest scoring school in the US or China in the PISA tests and it will make even the highest scoring Indian (Qatar) students, look like drooling idiots, relatively speaking.
For example Al Khur Interntational school only admits the children of the employees the state LNG monopoly. These aren't just the children of affluent Indians, these are the children of Indians that are, probably, greater than two standard deviations above the socio-economic mean of India. To be that selective in the US, you would have to administer such a test to only the children of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, MIT, etc alumni.
In fact, the Qatar results for Indian students, rather than showing the possibility of high Indian achievement actually comes to the opposite conclusion. That even a highly selected group of Indian students are just above the OECD mean (itself dragged down by relatively poor performing OECD nations). What does that say about the rest of India's human capital +/- one standard deviation from their mean? Nothing positive.
Thank you for the comment. I think you may be misinterpreting the background that led me to focus specifically on India and PISA. Throughout my life I've met many people from South Asia, either in Canada or here, and there always seemed to be a heavy focus by the families on education and there seemed to be more pressure on the children to study hard and do well in school than for most other kids. Documentaries on Indian education seemed to be about the competitive nature of the education system, typically focusing on teenagers spending long hours studying for various exams, or entrance tests to IIT, or whatever. Many South Asian schools here in Qatar did very well on the PISA tests compared to peers. The anecdotal evidence all pointed to India being able to post scores on PISA significantly higher than would be expected given its poorer economic situation than the OECD nations (on a per capita basis).
The problem was that the evidence was by and large anecdotal so could not be used to definitively make conclusions and I have never traveled in South Asia to see things for myself. That's why I was posting about how I wished South Asian countries would participate in PISA -- to see if a study on a large representative sample would support the conclusions that the anecdotal evidence indicated. It turns out it did not, but given all I had before was the anecdotal evidence that is why the PISA results for India were “below my expectations”.
I never stated that Al Khur Interntational achieving good results must mean that India has an amazing educational system, more akin to “Al Khur Interntational got good results, I’m curious as to how India would score generally on PISA”.
As it stands, what are the weaknesses in the Indian system: that society is not as education-focused as the anecdotal evidence led me to believe? Severe underfunding by the various levels of government? Too many children overwhelming the current educational resources? Poor pay for teachers compared to other fields? I was just curious as to what people from South Asia think the issues are.