Secondary school students can read, not count

Assessments of teenage Polish students in 2006 showed that they performed best in reading tasks, while they had difficulty applying their mathematical and scientific knowledge to practical problems outside of school. The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) recently published the results of tests taken by more than 400,000 15-year-olds from 58 countries around the world. The research has been carried out by PISA since 2000.

It gathers information useful for projects to improve the quality of educational systems.

The tests, conducted every three years, are aimed at assessing the practical skills of secondary school students in three main areas: reading comprehension, mathematical skills and scientific literacy.

“In reading, Polish teenagers are above average, which is a significant improvement within the last couple of years,” Michal Fedorowicz, the manager of the PISA 2006 research team in Poland, told the daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza. Polish students ranked 8th overall among the 58 countries.

In the remaining two categories, however, the Polish did not do as well. Independent thinking by means of theoretical knowledge both in science and mathematics are their weakest points, as reflected by the 23rd and 25th-place rankings, respectively.

“Our students have considerable knowledge, but they fail to use it in their own reasoning or experiment planning,” Ewa Bartnik of the PISA 2006 team told the newspaper Rzeczpospolita.
She said the Polish educational system might be to blame.

Practical skills in science are hardly ever required at schools, and most students don’t even have the opportunity to carry out experiments during lessons. A similar problem concerns mathematics.

“Polish teenagers perform excellently as long as the task is imitative,” Fedorowicz said. The conclusion is that Polish schools fail to teach problem solving, which might cause problems when the students have to adjust to the job market in the future.

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