The Educational Tower of PISA is leaning—dangerously!

By Shlomo Maital

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

   PISA 2018 (Programme for International Student Assessment) is a report on the educational attainments of 15-year-olds globally. As expected, China leads, followed by Singapore, in math, reading and other skills. Overall, scores declined. Israel especially did poorly, leading the world in the spread between top and bottom in schooling achievements.

     But one key point emerged, that is especially disturbing. A British educator, Kevin Courtney, made this observation:

       “…globally fewer than 1 in 10 students were able to distinguish between fact and opinion…[this] is extremely worrying in an era of fake news.”

        Fewer than one in 10 know the difference between fact and opinion. This means that more than 9 in 10 15-year-olds believe that when someone states, “I think that…”, that is indistinguishable from when someone says, “it is a fact that…”.  

         Fact and opinion.   This implies the death of truth, globally. And it indicates we are failing to teach our kids how to engage in critical thinking, which is simply the skill at knowing what is fact and what is not and hence needs checking and verification.

       We should not be surprised, then, when wild unsubstantiated rumors take on a life of their own, and fanciful conspiracy theories, once stated, are widely believed.

         Learning math, reading, science, these are all important. Telling fact from fiction is more important. It is time we taught this to our kids. If they don’t get it in school, perhaps we can give it to them at home?