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How were the exercises of the PISA test of language and mathematics and what was the most difficult for the Argentinian children

2023-12-05T19:09:18.217Z

Highlights: Argentina was in 66th place out of 81 countries in the PISA 2022 tests. 12,000 15-year-old students who took the test throughout the country. The tests revealed a deterioration in average scores in most countries, says the Argentine government. The government highlights the digital version of the exam, a format that until now had not been tested in Argentina and that, as can be deduced, implied "great challenges" The official PISA website has not yet released models of language exercises taken last year.


A review of the type of exercise they took for the country's 15-year-old students. An expert analyzes where the main deficits go when solving problems or interpreting texts.


One way to measure the seriousness of Argentina being in 66th place out of 81 in the PISA 2022 tests (that is, in the worst third of the countries evaluated for their success in Education) is to look closely at the type of content that was taken and try to solve the exercises, specifically those of language and mathematics, the two "mother" areas.

"The tests revealed a deterioration in average scores in most countries," is the opening sentence of an Argentine government press release published on Tuesday. It's a lukewarm acknowledgment of the problem.

They detail that, "in reading, Argentina obtained 2022.400 points in 7 against 401.5 in 2018, which implies a drop of 0.8, while the deterioration in Latin America was 8 points between the two tests".

And for mathematics, the country "obtained 377.5 compared to 379.5 in 2018, which implies a drop of two points, while in Latin American countries the deterioration was 15 points."

Two issues also stand out. The first, that there was "an improvement of 2 points in Science, in relation to the PISA 2018, while in Latin America in that item the drop was 4 points".

The second is a not insignificant aspect: the 12,000 15-year-old students who took this test throughout the country had to face the digital version of the exam, a format that until now had not been tested in Argentina and that, as can be deduced, implied "great challenges".

It is not for nothing that the Government highlights it in its press release. There they say that "the implementation of the digital test implied a great challenge for the participating countries because they must have ICT resources and technical equipment to apply the instrument in the territory".

It is known now, but the "challenge" was clear during the pandemic, when the poor digitalization of classrooms was exposed (or, at some point, laid bare) by its notable delays, both in implementation and management as well as in teacher training.

The Challenges in Mathematics

It is worth going to the official website of the PISA 2022 tests and trying to solve the various problematic situations proposed there. All of them – except for the languages, which are not yet available – were recently released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the "gestation" body of the PISA tests.

The content is distributed in units. Each one with problematic situations that the children must answer, always linked to an initial proposal. It could be a car-buying situation where you need to use a cost calculator, a chart illustrating DVD sales in a certain country, or calculations tied to the capacity (volume) of a moving truck.

It is also asked to complete tables of distances in the solar system, the calculation of percentages from a figure with a pattern of triangles, the averages of the games won by a basketball team, and there are even questions of probability and statistics regarding a roulette wheel or the deduction of the area of a forest area.

The levels of difficulty are varied, but anyone who has seen teenagers trying to do their homework will know that what can sometimes complicate the most are the statements, sometimes cryptic for those who read little or not at all.

In addition, considering the uneven educational situation between jurisdictions and the fact that almost 60% of adolescents are below the poverty line, there may be a clear lack of practice in the use of digital calculation tools, no matter how simple they may be. In fact, the lack of approximation to the use of programs such as Excel is not only seen in the youngest...

According to Martín Nistal, data analyst at the Observatory of Argentines for Education, "for mathematics – but it also applies to language – it is not that children have to know exercises but to have some skills."

Several of them can be seen in the following "simulation activities" that the (still) Ministry of Education of the Nation uploaded for students in 2022.

According to Nistal, "it is measured if you can interpret two-dimensional graphs with different values, if you can analyze three-dimensional figures in two dimensions, if you are able to read two-input tables and, for example, solve simple equations."

Language, the challenge of reading comprehension

Although the official PISA website has not yet released models of language exercises taken last year in Argentina, the Ministry of Education offers the following "simulation activities" for students. It's worth gossiping with the kids in the leisure time of the school holidays.

They are almost all text comprehension queries, but with a particularity, and that is that evaluative analysis places less emphasis on the possibility of capturing "what has been said" than on understanding what is "not said".

In other words—and this is an interesting challenge of these tests, no matter how much they are criticized—the student's ability to deduce, interpret and even predict conditions that emerge from the text and its context is evaluated, that non-literal "intention" that fully overwhelms the narrator.

According to Nistal, "in language, the minimum requirements of these tests establish that the child must be able to extract information accurately, even when the information is not explicit."

That is, "I should be able to make inferences. To understand what a narrator wants to tell you when they don't say it explicitly but suggest it based on the way they say it."

On the other hand, he added, "the person has to be able to collect different parts of the same text in order to reach the conclusion: to understand the main idea even if this implies having to gather different passages and compose a main idea. That's a key point."

Language tests ask reading comprehension questions based on different genres, be it informative, descriptive, explanatory, scientific-technical and, of course, narrative. But there are also exercises based on a much broader theoretical notion of what a text really is.

And this is how there are questions in which the student must face an informative journalistic piece that illustrates concepts. For example, an infographic.

Attention, the capacity for abstraction and, of course, imagination are at stake. It's the closest thing to flipping through a magazine and finding a graph that, with drawings and exhaustive data, tells you which are the tallest buildings in the world.

Or simply, recognize multidirectional lines that, as a whole, diagram a space with subsections. Nothing less than the blueprint to be located inside a library. At the bottom of that "map," the text comprehension questions.

PS

Source: clarin

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