Measuring social skills

In the current century-indeed, the current decade-the concern of many educators is with the assessment of ‘soft skills’ or competencies, beyond the usual academic skills. Many national curriculum statements and documents (such as The New Zealand Curriculum) are now as likely to refer to some kind of soft skill or competency development as they are to academic development.

Schools (and universities) have developed a range of methods to assess academic progress. Measuring though, whether a student or child is learning ‘self-management’ or is an effective participator, or has developed empathy, is a quite different issue. Many of these skills are regarded as important for their potential to add to a school-leavers’s job adult performance.

It may thus be of some interest to those who are calling for greater emphasis on assessing competencies that Andreas Schleicher, the  education director of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has made an important announcement commenting on this very issue. The much-vaunted (and much-despised by many educators)  PISA (Programme International Student Assessment) testing regime will now assess collaborative problem-solving.

Whether this new slant on PISA testing is going to have any benefit to schools, teachers or students in OECD states remains to be seen. Given, however, the track record of the OECD global governance and the mania surrounding its league tables, it may soon be noted that some states ‘could do better’ at collaborating, leading to fresh rounds of anxious navel-gazing.

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