Mexico Abandons Crucial International Education Testing

Photo: Latina Lista


Three years after Mexican students were ranked last among 38 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries in math, science and reading by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the country has apparently suspended the tests altogether.

Tue Halgreen, a senior analyst at PISA headquarters in France, confirmed the suspension of field tests in Mexico for the 2022 assessment.

Mexico is the first country to withdraw from the PISA platform, according to the nonprofit organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI).

“We understand that Mexico’s involvement in PISA is suspended,” Halgreen said. “We have not had any new details on the matter in the last couple of months.”

The OECD, which is in charge of the test that compares basic academic skills of 15-year-olds around the globe, also said that it has not received information that the initial phase of the 2022 edition is being applied in Mexico.

The PISA test, which is administered every three years, assesses the ability of secondary school students to measure what they are learning in reading, math and science, comparing students among participating countries.

More importantly, unlike other assessment tests, the PISA exam measures the capacities of 15-year-olds to continue learning.

In theory, based on the results of this test, public policy decisions can be made to improve the performance of students and schools across the nation.

According to the last PISA test results, 35 percent of Mexican students did not achieve the minimum level of proficiency in all three subjects, compared to the average among OECD countries, which was 13 percent.

Only 1 percent of Mexican students performed at the highest level of proficiency in at least one subject, whereas the OECD average was 16 percent.

According to the MCCI, it is not clear if this suspension implies the exit of the OECD program, in which Mexico has participated since 2000, but PISA headquarters reported that the tests are not being applied according to schedule.

The last evaluation was carried out in 2018 and the next one was slated for 2021, but due to the covid-19 pandemic, it was postponed until 2022, with the application of field tests programmed for 2021.

Alma Maldonado, an education specialist at both the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the Center for Research and Advanced Studies at the National Polytechnical University (Cinvestav), called the suspension of the tests in Mexico “a grave error.”

“The objective of the PISA exam has always been to determine what you are going to do (based on the results to improve public education), and Mexico has always fallen short,” she said.

“PISA is used to outline the education reform implemented by (former Mexican President Enrique). There, too, it fell short.”

Maldonado said that now, without the test, there is not even a roadmap to try to improve education quality in Mexico.

If Mexico has indeed abandoned the PISA testing program permanently, this would not not be the first academic evaluation test that the administration of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has canceled.

In 2019, the UNESCO’s Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (ERCE) test, which is applied to third- and sixth-grade students, was implements, but the AMLO government dropped out of the program once he took office in December 2018.

And in 2019, the administration abolished the National Institute for Educational Evaluation (INEE), an autonomous body, and replaced it with Mejoredu, which depends directly on the government.

If PISA is not applied, only Planea, the evaluation carried out by Mexico’s own Public Education Secretariat, would remain.

AMLO has made no secret of his disdain for international academic testing institutions.

“There is no evaluation anymore; the evaluation institute is going to disappear because it was an imposition,” he said when his eliminated the INEE.

But even AMLO’s then-Secretary of Education Esteban Moctezuma Barragán said that Mexico should continue the application of the PISA test.

“The results of the PISA 2018 test, which revealed that around 50 percent of Mexican students do not have the necessary skills to develop in society, will serve as an input to make decisions in educational policy,” Moctezuma Barragán said at the time.


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