Covid and PISA

The parallels between the response to the Covid pandemic and PISA scores are striking. In both situations, observers, often ideologues, cranks or “influencers” trying to make a quick buck, seize on a single idea, or two, and perform extraordinarily mental contortions to justify their motivated reasoning.

Most people involved in education will be familiar with the argument, “Finland does X, we need to do something, let’s do X”. The fact that Finland’s PISA scores (On which its reputation is based) are in decline, and have been for some time, doesn’t seem to matter.

With Covid, the argument is often, “Sweden didn’t do Y, we need to do something, let’s not do Y”. The fact that Sweden is experiencing a massive surge of Covid doesn’t seem to matter either.

The “teaching moment” for me in 2020 has been this: it’s ok to admit you don’t know.

We need to reclaim that idea that science is about seeking “truth”; it’s not about proving you’re right and everyone else is wrong.

Although we cannot change human nature, we can at least make sure our students think about the nature of science itself. Instead of relying on osmosis, we need to actively teach students about the sociology, and the psychology, of science. A little bit of self-awareness is good for us all.

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