International exams: Why do we think they are so important? And are we right?
Author: Nachum Blass Policy Research

The international exams administered by Israel’s education system, and the international rankings of pupil performance on these exams, have attracted considerable attention in Israel, particularly in recent years.

The international exams administered by Israel’s education system, and the international rankings of pupil performance on these exams, have attracted considerable attention in Israel, particularly in recent years. This policy paper addresses two main questions: why do education policy makers and opinion-shapers (in Israel and elsewhere) attach such importance to the international exams, and especially to their country’s place in the average score rankings? And: is this attributed importance justified? A comprehensive, multi-variable comparison between Israel and the OECD countries indicates that, given Israel’s relatively low level of investment in education, there is no reason to expect higher achievements on the international exams. The paper also presents a variety of data attesting to the fact that high scores on international exams do not necessarily predict a better economic future for the country in question. The findings indicate that the importance attached to the exam results is excessive and stems from causes that are actually of little practical relevance; greater weight should be given to other measures for assessing the education system.

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