Competency based testing is different from traditional assessments. To do well on such tests, students need to be able to extrapolate from what they know, think across the boundaries of subject-matter disciplines, and apply their knowledge creatively in novel situations.
Competency based tests usually contain some unfamiliar questions. This should be viewed as a positive since this approach to testing helps cultivate creativity and critical thinking in children and prepares them for a future where what counts will be the ability to apply knowledge to new situations, acquire new skills, collaborate, and become critical consumers of information.
With this background in 2018, the Government of India decided to participate in the 2021 cycle of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which is run by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development). Every three years, PISA tests 15-year-old students from around the world in reading, mathematics, and science. The tests are designed to gauge how well students have mastered key competencies required to successfully navigate adult life in the global economy. India first participated in the 2009-10 cycle of PISA, represented by the states of Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh. India’s performance at that time was quite low, but the experience provided valuable lessons about what it takes to do well on a competency-based assessment.
On January 28, 2019, India and the OECD formally agreed on India’s participation in PISA 2021. The agreement was signed in the presence of the Union HRD Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar and the Secretary, Department of School Education & Literacy, Government of India, Smt Rina Ray. The agreement was signed by Shri Maneesh Garg, Joint Secretary, MHRD and Mr Andreas Schleicher, Director (PISA) in the OECD.
India will be represented in PISA 2021 by the Union Territory of Chandigarh and by the Central Government run school systems of Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodya Vidyalayas. The reason for choosing Chandigarh UT was its superior performance on MHRD’s Performance Grading Index (PGI) for State and UT education systems. It also has a very diversified school system, with Government, Government Aided, and private schools providing a representative sample of socio-economic levels in India. The KVS and NVS schools have been chosen in order to better understand the quality of learning in these centrally run school systems, which are representative of the entire country across both rural and urban areas. The United States of America also uses this approach for the States of Massachusetts, North Carolina, and Puerto Rico. India hopes to gain from these insights and share best practices from around the world through its participation in this international level assessment.
The participation of Chandigarh, KVs, and NVs in PISA 2021 will provide insights into the health of these education systems and hopefully motivate other school systems and states to participate in subsequent cycles. It is expected that with increased exposure to PISA, the Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) of Indian students will improve.
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