ERG SES D 06, Policies and Education
The improvement of Poland's PISA results showed a promising picture about the Polish Education system from an external viewpoint as the average polish scores moved from bellow to above the OECD average. Thanks to this success Poland appeared as a positive example internationally (Mourshed, Chijioke, & Barber, 2010; Malone, 2013, Le Donné, 2014). We can find various answers in the literature behind the Polish PISA success, among them prominent are the extension of compulsory general education to nine years in 1999 (Jakubowski, Patrinos, Porta, & Wiśniewski, 2016) the curriculum reform and changes in the external exam system (Białecki, Jakubowski, & Wiśniewski, 2017; Zawistowska, 2014). The goal of these papers is to identify the most important reasons behind the improvement. However, this kind of reasoning – looking for a single reform as the cause of the improvement - could easily lead to oversimplification. Loveless (2012) points out how the delayed tracking was highlighted in several international reports as the reason behind Poland’s PISA success, when it was part of a more complex reform initiative.
The Polish results of the PISA 2015 edition were significantly lower than in 2012, similar to the 2009 results. The Polish national reports and analysis see the change to computer based testing behind the this decline (Instytut Badań Edukacyjnych, 2017; Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowej, 2016).
Several other factors also query the Polish success. Despite the international recognition the Polish education system has been recently changed back alike to the old system functioning before 1999. Moreover, the analysis of the school leaving exams doesn’t confirm the Polish PISA success and shows opposing trends in math, reading and science (Szaleniec et al., 2013; Szaleniec et al., 2015).
The above menioned uncertainties show that further study of the Polish PISA results and policy changes is needed. Due to these recent changes the 1999 school reform cannot really be considered a success, but the question remains how Poland’s PISA improvement between 2000 and 2012 can be explained. A closer look at the Polish policy changes between 1999 and 2015 also provides a possibility to learn from the Polish case: why a seemingly successful system reform could end with failure.
The main goal of the research is to examine the nature of connection between the changes in a country’s PISA results and its educational policy decisions through the case of Poland.
According to Fullan, a successful school reform is characterized by the interplay of several factors (Fullan, 2009). Mason and Snyder come into similar conclusions starting from a complexity perspective: Significant and permanent change is not the result of one-time education reforms, rather the effect of interconnected initiatives that reinforce each other and change the system on several levels simultaneously (Mason, 2016; Snyder, 2013).
Complexity, which is used as a metaphor for understanding the way the system functions (Mason, 2016) implies that an ambivalent and necessary complex picture will arise where there are no obvious cause-and-effect relationships and the improvement of the PISA results is the result of the interplay of several factors. That approach forms the design of the research, as the goal is not to find the ultimate cause for the improvement, rather to understand the effects of reforms and the various processes behind it and identify those among them, whose synergy could have an impact on the PISA results.
A qualitative case study approach is used to understand this phenomenon from a complexity perspective (Cohen, Marion and Morrison, 2007; Hetherington, 2017). To gain and present a comprehensive overview about the changes in the Polish education system the data collection focuses on the following three areas: 1) to map the various changes and reforms, expert interviews are conducted with educational researchers and professors, 2) to analyze the policy changes focused interviews are conducted with key-actors (policy-experts and educational professionals) involved in the preparation and implementation of the reform directives, and 3) to analyze the school level processes and the impact of policy changes case studies are conducted on the lower-secondary school level.
During the presentation the focus will be on the applied theoretical approach and on the preliminary analysis of the first area of data collection. Based on the results of the literature review and the analysis of the expert interviews I intend to present a comprehensive overview of policy changes and processes in the Polish education system between 1999 (the implementation of the new school structure) and 2015 (the return to the education structure preceding 1999) focusing on the big picture. The complexity approach applied in this study implies that the interplay of a set of different reform initiatives could be behind the Polish PISA success which was also influenced by the specific social and historical context, within which these changes took place. The thick description of the reforms is the first step in identifying these possible factors behind the improvement.
Białecki, I., Jakubowski, M., & Wiśniewski, J. (2017). Education policy in Poland : The impact of PISA ( and other international studies ). European Journal of Education, 52(2), 167–174. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2007). Research Methods in Education Sixth Edition. London and New York: Routledge. Hetherington, L. (2013). Complexity Thinking and Methodology: The Potential of “Complex Case Study” for Educational Research. Complicity: An International Journal of Complexity and Education, 10(12), 71–85. Instytut Badań Edukacyjnych. (2017). Wyniki badania PISA 2015 w Polsce. Warszawa: Instytut Badań Edukacyjnych. Jakubowski, M., Patrinos, H. A., Porta, E. E., & Wiśniewski, J. (2016). The effects of delaying tracking in secondary school: evidence from the 1999 education reform in Poland. Education Economics, 24(6), 557–572. Le Donné, N. (2014). La réforme de 1999 du système éducatif polonais Effets sur les inégalités sociales de compétences scolaires. Revue française de sociologie Vol. 55. Loveless, T. (2012). How well are American students learning? 2012 Brown Center Report on American Education (Vol. 3). Washington, D.C. Mason, M. (2016). Complexity theory and systemic change in education governance. In Governing Education in a Complex World. Paris: OECD Publishing. Malone, H. J. (2013). Leading Educational Change : Global Issues, Challenges, and Lessons on Whole-system Reform. New York: Teachers College Press. Ministerstwo Edukacji Narodowej. (2016). Wyniki Badania PISA 2015 w Polsce. Morrison, K. (2008). Educational Philosophy and the Challenge of Complexity Theory. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 40(1), 19–34. Mourshed, M., Chijioke, C., & Barber, M. (2010). How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better. McKinsey&Company. Snyder, S. (2013). The Simple, the Complicated, and the Complex: Educational Reform Through the Lens of Complexity Theory OECD Education Working Papers No. 96. OECD Publishing. Szaleniec, H., Grudniewska, M., Kondratek, B., Kulon, F., & Pokropek, A. (2013). Results of the 2002-2010 lower secondary school leaving exams on a common scale. Edukacja, (1), 5–24. Szaleniec, H., Kondratek, B., Kulon, F., Pokropek, A., Skórska, P., Świst, K., Wołodźko, T. & Żółtak, M. (2015). Porównywalne wyniki egzaminacyjne. Warszawa: Instytut Badań Edukacyjnych. Zawistowska, A. (2014). The Black Box of the Educational Reforms in Poland: What Caused the Improvement in the PISA Scores of Polish Students? Polish Sociological review, 3, 333–350.
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