International Education Indicators
Many different subjects that are considered in international education indicators, such as the rates of literacy among 15 year old students throughout the world. Some of the most significant indicators are the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). One of the organizations responsible for collecting indicator data is the Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD). Challenges are inherent to international education indicators, since it is difficult to determine just how much knowledge a test can assess, and testing itself can detract from student learning.
Keywords Indicator; Literacy; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB); Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD); Primary education; Tertiary education; UNESCO; United Nations
International Perspectives: International Education Indicators
The word indicator essentially has to do with a monitoring process and a system for gauging a subject matter or an aspect of something such as the production rate of a corporation. Horsch (2006) states that indicators can evaluate four things:
• Outputs, and
For example, an indicator can measure how many care workers a particular charity maintains in Mongolia (input), how many computers a Japanese factory produced in a year (output), how many different venues a non-government organization is involved with in order to reduce poverty in the Appalachians (process), and how many children in Sub-Saharan graduated from high school in 2004 (outcome).
The Globalization of Education
In recent decades, indicators tracking trends and numbers in international education issues have multiplied and received an increasing amount of attention. The reasons for this increase are numerous. First, the past few decades have seen an explosion of interest in education, both at a national and international level. For example, the United Nations has the goal of seeing everyone in the world achieve a primary education by 2015. The United Nations is not the only organization focused on the global spread of education; many charities and non-government organizations understand that education is a fundamental step to helping people move themselves out of poverty and deprivation and improve their lives. Charity focus has increased educational opportunities for people around the globe, and the increase of globalization has also influenced education: in a globalized society, education is necessary for workers to find steady employment. Finally, technology has played a role in the spread of education because it allows for the rapid spread of educational opportunities, ideas, concepts, and innovations across the globe.
Around the world, more children and adults are finding their way into the classroom, and naturally there has been great interest in developing strong, effective educational programs and evaluating present programs to measure results and changes. The increased demand for education has brought about interest in the quality and effectiveness of education. International education indicators monitor not only broad, large-scale issues such as how many adults in Malaysia have at least a primary education; they also focus on smaller, more specific issues such as how education affects the earning potential of adults in a specific region.
Comparing U.S. Education with the World
International education indicators also focus on how U.S. students fare in comparison to their peers in other countries. The U.S has also seen an increased interest in education, particularly at the tertiary level: the National Institute for Education Statistics (2007) reported that in 2005, 69% of America's high school graduates were attending college following graduation compared to only 49% in 1972 ("Highlights from," 2007). U.S.-generated research about education and education models are found throughout the world, and in many ways, the U.S. has an admirable education system. However, in the past decade or so, international education indicators have traced a persistent trend in falling test scores and weakening math, science, and geography skills among U.S. students. In fact, it was these test scores that lead to creation of the No Child Left Behind policy. Thus, international education indicators are concerned with comparing U.S. students to students in other countries in order to measure both successes and failures of the U.S. educational system.
International education indicators track improvements and troublesome issues in education around the globe, allowing for greater awareness of problem areas. Additionally, they help educators judge how effective education is and determine what specific programs and ideas work well. Above all, the presence of international education indicators highlights the growing importance placed on education and gives credit to the numerous organizations and people seeking to improve it.
Education is affected by an almost limitless number of factors. International education indicators must therefore gauge these different factors to track changes in education around the world, and there are an abundance of indicators which do exactly that.
Types of Indicators
There are many different indicators around the globe that measure international education issues. Two of the best known indicators are Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). PISA is administered to 15 year old students across the world every three years. PISA measures literacy levels in math, reading, and science with a specific focus (science for example) each time the test is administered. TIMSS is another well-known test which focuses on how well 4th and 8th grade students measure up in math and science in comparison to their peers in other countries.
These two education indicator studies are carried out through the efforts of several organizations. One such organization is the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD is directly responsible for PISA and also maintains other organizations dedicated to tracking trends in education around the globe. OECD also maintains the Centre for Education Research and Innovation (CERI) in order to further educational research and monitoring.
IEA, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (2007) is another big stakeholder in providing international education indicators. Along with being the primary coordinating organization for TIMMS, it also spearheads many other studies such as:
• PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study)
• SISS (Second International Science Study) and
• TEDS (Teacher Education and Development Study) (IEA, 2007).
The Role of UNESCO
Many education indicator studies are promoted by UNESCO, the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, one of the largest and most influential education-focused organizations in the world. It is particularly interested in monitoring global trends in education and measuring successes and setbacks in education world wide. Another education indicator UNESCO is part of is the Word Education Indicators program (WEI). WEI is supported by both UNESCO and OECD and highlights the educational achievements of 19 middle-level nations. All together, these 19 nations represent 70% of the world's population (World Education Indicators, 2002). This report is a yearly analysis of the progress of all the countries involved, giving clear evidence about topics such as:
• Student enrollment,
• How much of a priority different countries give to education,
• The use of educational resources, and
• The growth of student enrollment.
UNESCO also provides a yearly Education for All Global Monitoring Report to show how education and literacy are improving in other countries. This very detailed and multi-dimensional report offers information about how much success the United Nations is having with its goal of giving everyone in the world access to a primary education by the year 2015. This report looks at issues such as how many school-age children have mothers who possess an education and how education is being furthered among specific marginalized groups, such as sex slaves (UNESCO, 2004).
Key Factors Monitored
What topics these education indicators study and what information they reveal can be vast. The recent report by Miller, Anindita, Malley, and Owen (2007) is a good example of what sort of factors international education indicators often look for. The authors observed the education programs of the G-8 countries (U.S., U.K, Japan, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, and the Russian Federation). In their report, they focused on five key aspects of education:
• Overall population size and how many students were enrolled in school. This is a common issue that international education indicators focus on, specifically as education has increased in importance.
• Academic performance of students in math, science, and reading; naturally student performance in these key areas is a vital...
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