International Literacy and Numeracy Testing: Recent Developments, Issues and Emerging Dilemmas

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This presentation provides an overview of three of the international literacy testing programs and discussion on some of the issues emerging from the growing influence of these testing programs have on discussions on literacy and numeracy.

These testing programs include the Programme for International Student Achievement (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics Studies (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Survey (PIRLS). The presentation documents the participating groups and countries, timing and sequencing of testing, the objectives and construction of these international tests and the way in which they are reported and interpreted.

The presentation will explore the way in which these tests have been utilized as a proxy indictor for the quality of literacy and numeracy teaching and the way in which countries and systems have been ranked. The presentation explores literature and commentaries and discusses the implications of “high stakes” testing for students, teachers and curriculum. The authors also explore how testing and the use of “league tables” may reinforce existing inequalities across nations and within nations and also have emboldened arguments for return to traditional “back to basics teaching and curriculum.

The authors argue that these interpretations undermine the potential for such testing programs to highlight inequalities and facilitate evidence driven approaches to re-direct resources to meeting the challenges of global and local educational inequalities.


Keywords: PIRLS, TIMMS, PISA, international Literacy Tests, Reading, Maths Literacy, Science Literacy
Stream: Literacy, Language, Multiliteracies; Languages Education and Second Language Learning
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: International Literacy and Numeracy Testing


Dr. Peter Kell

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Wollongong
Wollongong, NSW, Australia

Peter Kell is an Associate Professor in adult and vocational education in the Faculty of Education at the University of Wollongong, NSW, Australia. He is also a member of the Centre for Asia Pacific Social Transformational Studies at the University of Wollongong. Peter Kell was formerly the head of the department of industry, professional and adult education at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.

Dr. Marilyn Kell

Lecturer, School of Education, University of Western Sydney
Penrith, NSW, Australia

Marilyn Kell lectures in Special Education at the University of Western Sydney. Her main research interest is in individuals who struggle with literacy. This includes an interest in: Vygostkian-based pedagogies, international literacy tests, student academic writing and the literacy of marginalised groups. She is currently investigating university preparation programs for students deemed “at risk” and the effects of one-on-one computer learning on literacy acquisition. Marilyn has published in the areas of international students and literacy, Vygotskian approaches to adolescent and adult literacy, aspects of research methodology and the ethics of academic writing.

Ref: L09P1156